“I almost dread the holidays,” my friend told me with a heavy sigh.
“The kids turn into greedy little monsters and sit and look at toy catalogs for hours, circling all the stuff they want. I started throwing away all those catalogs before my kids even have a chance to see them.”
I totally empathize with my friends’ frustration. Very likely, so do you.
It’s a tall order to raise kids who aren’t selfish in a me-centered culture. Especially when you consider the fact that every single one of us is born selfish and egocentric.
The Christmas season is upon us, and as beautiful as this time of year is, it can also turn into a frenzy of gimme, gimme, gimme!
Today, I want to share three simple ways to help our children cultivate an others-centered heart, instead of a me-centered heart.
This is not an exhaustive list! Just a few ideas that my husband and I are seeking to implement in our own home.
Don’t Just Focus on the Negativity of Selfishness
My friend’s comment about taking away toy catalogs from her children at Christmas time prompted me to do some thinking.
Am I allowing my kids to be too selfish since I let them “shop” the toy catalogs for gifts they want, or stuff they like?
I thought about this for a while, and talked it over with my husband. The conclusion we arrived at, for our own family, is that teaching children to be others-centered is not just about stripping everything negative and selfish out of their lives.
It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict our children as they grow in the Lord.
It is our job, as Christian parents, to consistently cultivate an atmosphere of Christ-centeredness in our homes.
My husband and I do not feel like focusing on the negativity of selfishness is an effective antidote for greed. Instead, we are seeking to provide our children with opportunities to serve, to give, and to think about the needs of others (more on that in a minute!).
It’s natural, and even okay, to browse through a catalog or a department store aisle and notice pretty or fun stuff you’d like to own.
The part that isn’t okay is giving into a child’s every whim, or creating an insatiable hunger for more things by modeling a lifestyle of dissatisfaction and materialism in front of our kids.
And that brings me to the next point:
Show Your Kids What Gratitude and Contentment Look Like in Everyday Life
Selfishness and ingratitude are easy to recognize in a spoiled child, but it’s pretty easy to excuse it in ourselves.
As I attempt to teach my five children about contentment and generosity toward others, I have to do a little self check-up and honestly assess if they’re learning Christ-like values from me… or if I’m just talking about it, but not really living it.
When it comes to the home I live in, the vehicle I drive and the clothes I wear, how I steward our finances and possessions, would my children say that I’m me-centered or others-centered?
That I’m a thankful, generous woman, or a self-centered, unhappy woman?
The old adage is true: attitudes are more caught than taught.
Provide Opportunity for Your Kids to Serve & Give to Others
Generosity should always be a positive thing!
Like we talked about earlier, I don’t want to make the mistake of simply focusing on how ugly and selfish certain attitudes or habits are. I want to help my children overcome selfishness, not by guilt tripping them over “bad” behavior, but by showing them a better way.
Here are a few ideas for providing opportunities for kids to give of themselves:
- Let them earn a little money by doing extra chores or projects around the house, then help them shop for simple gifts for their siblings or friends.
- Set aside a day (or two!) to help them create or build inexpensive but fun gifts for loved ones: bath fizzies, homemade soap, lip gloss or balm, wooden crafts (great for boys!).
- Spend a day baking yummy treats for neighbors, grandparents, or church friends. (Check out Baking With Kids for recipes and ideas!)
- Sponsor a child from a children’s home or missions program.
- Serve at a soup kitchen.
- Visit a nursing home.
- Make and send cards to shut-ins from your church congregation.
These are just a few, simple ideas for helping cultivate an others-focused heart in our kids.
Keep in mind: this endeavor of teaching children to go against their natural inclinations and selfish natures is a long-term process, not a 3-step program!
This is a lifestyle we live before our children, as we teach and live it precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little. If you are a parent who is struggling in this area, don’t give up and don’t be discouraged!
Keep living an others-centered, Christ-honoring life at home. Pray for your children.
Show them, on a daily basis, what Gospel-inspired love looks and feels like.
The Holy Spirit will be the agent of change in your children’s hearts, just like it is in your own heart.
I have personally enjoyed Mission of Motherhood, by Sally Clarkson, as I endeavor to discover and live out Christ-centered love in front of my children. I hope you’ll check out this book at Rainbow Resource!