My husband & I are intent on raising our children to live lives that are focused on God & others. We believe when Jesus said the greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul & mind and the the second greatest command is just like it - to love our neighbors as ourselves, He was giving us a parenting principle, too.
We live in a society where children have become the center of everything, where they command all the attention all the time. How many families do you know that it’s impossible to have a conversation with the parents because the children are either interrupting or misbehaving constantly? It’s frustrating for the adults and damaging for the kids who are sooner or later going to realize life isn’t about them.
These are a few things we try to do to teach our children to live by these two commands.
1. Rather than asking our girls what they did at school we ask them who they served. Of course we care what they did, but by asking who they served, we subtly let them know that serving is more important than learning.
2. Sharing is not an issue, because nothing belongs to us. Everything in our house belongs to God and is to be used for his glory. It’s fine to use what he’s given us but it’s not okay to take something from someone else just because you want it. It’s also not okay to horde something someone else could enjoy, too. Even though everything is God’s, my husband & I are the stewards of everything in our house. If our girls act selfishly with things, as good stewards we take them away.
3. Every time there is misbehavior, as part of the discipline we work in the question, “Were you thinking of others?” Even in the midst of discipline for misbehavior it puts the focus back on the real issue – the fact that all of us are me-centered instead of others-centered.
4. Our nightly bed-time routine includes a Bible story. From the content of the Bible story, we talk about something that our girls can pray about as they lie in bed, before they fall asleep. For instance after the story of the crucifixion we would have them thank Jesus for loving them so much that He was willing to die for them. It has become something the both look forward to and ask about each night.
I’d love to hear some other ideas for ways you teach train your children to think of others instead of themselves.