Feb 2, 2014

4 ways to teach your kids self-less-ness

Confession:  my kids fight.  They fight all the time.  They fight about EVERYTHING. They fight about what they are going to watch on television.  They fight about who gets to take first shower, who gets to sit in the front seat, who gets to make their lunch first on a school day.  They fight because my son loves to annoy my daughter.  They fight because everything my daughter wants, my son wants the opposite thing, and if my daughter changes her mind, so does my son.  
{I already wrote a post about how to deal with kid conflict LAST SUMMER, apparently I STILL need to figure it out}

I am exhausted by the fighting.  Exhausted by trying to stop them from fighting while simultaneously allowing them to work it out for themselves.  Exhausted by sitting in my 8 year old girl's room and listening to her cry about her hurt feelings and damaged relationship with her 10 year old brother who was once her "best brother" but now seems to hate her.  Exhausted by the threats, consequences and fall-out from each of these fights.

As I was leaving church this morning and listening to yet another fight in the back seat, I was contemplating why they were suddenly fighting so much.  {I know kids fight, I AM a little sister after all, it just seems like A LOT}.
I suddenly realized that my kids are suffering from chronic selfishness. 

All of their fights are about protecting their own wants at the expense of their sibling's wants.
It was a relief and an eye-opener at the same time.
They don't hate each other, they just love themselves a little too much.

So, now that I realized this, what should I do about it?  What CAN I do about it?
What do YOU do about it? 
 I decided I get intentional about teaching my kids to be a little MORE self-less, and a little LESS self-ish.

1. Model for them
Let's be honest, we are all a little selfish.  For some of us it's more of a struggle than others.  If your kids get to observe you being selfless in different ways every day, they are more likely to "catch" the behavior.  Rather than just the daily "selflessness" which is housework and cooking and cleaning, let them see what selflessness looks like in your relationships.  Maybe it's an act of service that you do for your husband, a friend, or even a stranger.

So many of our selfless behaviors are silent, because they are internal.  Take the time to verbalize the effort from time to time.  Explain how you wish you could sit and watch T.V., but instead, because you love your family, you are choosing to clean the kitchen (or giving your husband a backrub).

2. Pursue them
Sometimes I think kids are so obsessed with demanding attention because we don't willingly give it to them.  Not that we are intentionally neglectful, but when was the last time you asked your child if you could play with them?  More than half the time, it's my kids who are pursuing me, demanding or asking me to stop what I am doing to play or snuggle or focus on them.  We are so busy and so focused on "adult" issues that we don't take the time to slow down enough to pursue a relationship with our kids.  This could give them the extra confidence they need to practice selflessness.  

The other day my daughter told me that her favorite part of the day was when her daddy asked if she would play a board game with him, "It was SO nice that HE asked ME!" she said with a grin that split her face.  It was a good reminder how much we ALL like to be pursued.

3. Teach them to focus on Gratitude
Practicing the habit of gratitude  will go a long way in helping your child(ren) to get outside of themselves {check out this post about how to do that}.  There are studies that suggest that people who regularly talk about what they are thankful for, are actually more thankful.  Having a daily routine of sharing things they are grateful for will actually help your children become more grateful, which will in turn help them become more aware of the world (and people) around them.

4. Train them
I can tell them one hundred times what they should and shouldn't do, but unless I tell them WHY, they don't seem to change their behavior.  Part of training is explaining the "why" and then reminding and reminding and reminding again.

 As a believer, I use the Bible to train my kids {it is really full of good wisdom}.  After we got home from church (and the fight in the car) I had each of my children get their Bibles and copy 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 on a piece of binder paper.  When they were each finished, we sat on the couch and discussed what love really means {with a quick glance at Christ's commands in Mark 12:30-31}.  We spent a little extra time on "Love does not demand it's own way".  

By the end {I'm not joking} they were hugging each other and saying "I love you" to each other.  The rest of the day I called them out when they started practicing selfishness and praised them when they demonstrated selflessness. I am going to continue this for the next few weeks (I am hoping it will have a positive impact on the fighting).

{A quote from the Bible study my small group is studying}


How do you teach this concept to your kiddos?

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1 comment:

  1. Hi AJ,

    I've missed being here. :) Hi! Ahh, your focus on "Pursuing them" that highlights that some of their angst could just be missing us hits me most tonight. I agree, at least, for my youngest, Poor guy, we intentionally focus on giving him time, because otherwise high school and other activities fill up the day easily. Poor guy.

    And I agree. I think we need to model selflessness, and it's so counter-intuitive for me, for us, most days. Only with God;s help, huh?

    Have a great weekend,
    Jennifer Dougan


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