4 keys to raising selfless kids

4 keys to raising selfless kidsMy youngest son is 3 years old, and he, like all of us, struggles to put others first. His selfish moments, though, tend to be louder—and at the same time, funnier.

For example, there was the moment a few months ago when he was having an extra-difficult time playing with his twin sister. My wife had taught him to treat girls with respect and kindness, and even had taught him to be a “gentleman”—a word that I reminded him of that afternoon when he and his sister were fighting over a toy.

“But I don’t want to be a gentleman!” he screamed to no one in particular, tugging even harder at that toy, determined to get it back.

He was perfectly fine with the death of chivalry that afternoon, as long as he got his way.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time that he had exhibited a stubborn streak of selfishness, nor is he alone. His sister often is the instigator, and if not her, it’s her 7-year-old brother.

Young couples who deny the doctrine of original sin get a wake-up call when they have their first child. A baby’s first words often are, in order, “da-da” and “ma-ma,” followed quickly by “no!” and then “mine!”

Children aren’t taught to be selfish. It comes naturally—and then tugs at each of us every day throughout adulthood until we breathe our last breath.

We can teach our children to be unselfish while learning valuable lessons ourselves. Here are four ideas:
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‘Dad, did baby Jesus cry?’ — 3 ways to teach your children great theological truths this Christmas

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst), 1622.

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst), 1622.

Kids have a way of asking questions we adults have never pondered.

Once, my inquisitive son was reading a science book and looked up at me with a puzzled look.

“Dad, are there germs on germs?”

I was confused, and he knew it.

“Yeah,” he continued. “There are germs on us. But are there germs on those germs, and then germs on those other germs, then germs on those germs?”

Maybe he was hoping that all those germs would duke it out in a battle royal and kill one another – and we’d never get sick.

Honestly, I’m still not sure what the answer is.

But the other night he asked me a relatively easy one.

“Dad, did baby Jesus cry?”

“Of course,” I responded.

“Huh?” he replied, sort of shocked.

“All babies cry, because that’s how they communicate,” I said. “And it’s not a sin for a baby to cry.”

He had been singing “Away In A Manger,” a wonderful Christmas tune that has the unfortunate lyric concerning the Christ Child: “No crying he made.”

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to reinforce the Gospel to our children, simply because everyone they know – their friends, their teachers, their neighbors – is celebrating it. In other words, our children can’t go anywhere without being reminded of Christmas, even if it is a sanitized, secular version.

But we don’t have to battle the local box store to put “Christ back into Christmas.” We can do that in our homes, beginning by what we tell our kids about Jesus.

Here’s three ways parents can teach their children deep theological truths about Christ this season, using simple language:
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4 countercultural reasons my family doesn’t celebrate Santa (and why my kids think he’s Noah)

4 countercultural reasons my family doesn’t celebrate Santa (and why my kids think he’s Noah)

I don’t own a pair of those record-everything “Google Glasses,” but there are times I wish they had been invented much sooner.

Like the moment in 2010 when my oldest son – then 2 – first saw an image of Santa Claus. He and I had been enjoying a father-son night at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, having just finished off a shared plate of chicken and dumplings after coloring the kids’ menu.

But before leaving we wanted one more moment in front of the restaurant’s fireplace, and it was that moment I could have used those Google Glasses.

“Noah!” he shouted.

Caught off guard and trying not to laugh, I replied, “Did you say Noah?”

“Yeah, Noah!” he excitedly responded, pointing upward at the fireplace mantle, where a small statuette of Santa Claus resided.

And then it hit me: This is how a child who has not been raised to know anything about Santa responds.

I grew up believing in Santa – studying toy catalogs and writing letters to the North Pole — but when I reached adulthood I pretty much decided that I didn’t want to continue that tradition with my children. And then I married someone who felt the same way. And so it was an easy decision: We wouldn’t “do Santa.”

Of course, such a decision would have no impact on anyone at all if my family lived in the Alaskan wilderness or in the northern parts of British Columbia or pretty much anywhere in Wyoming. But we don’t. We live in a town near a mid-sized city. We interact with people, and our kids do, too.

When our kids were very little, we never mentioned Santa around them. No books about Santa. No TV shows about him. Nothing. When strangers asked them what Santa was bringing them for Christmas, they responded with a “what-planet-are-you-from” look – and we all laughed.

As they aged, though, they learned from friends who Santa was. But because we didn’t reinforce the Santa story at home, they naturally placed him alongside other fictional characters such as Clifford The Big Red Dog and Charlie Brown. It was only when they were 5 or 6 and running into friends who “believe in” Santa that they came home with questions. And so we tell them that some families practice Santa and some kids believe he’s real — and that we shouldn’t ruin it for them. But, of course, kids are kids, and everything doesn’t always go as planned.

Sadly, Santa has turned into one of those taboo subjects for Christians that we can’t discuss without dividing into camps, getting angry, and questioning everyone’s motives, patriotism and faith. We have friends on both sides of this, and we get along just fine.

My family does eat apple pie and we do celebrate the Fourth of July and we even like baseball. We just don’t “do Santa.” Here’s four reasons why:
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‘Dad, will dinosaurs be in heaven?’ (the answer may surprise you)

‘Dad, will dinosaurs be in heaven?’ (the answer may surprise you)Sometimes I wonder if we Christians have missed the mark when it comes to discussing dinosaurs. I think about this often because I have a 6-year-old who, honestly, wishes he were a triceratops.

Too often we seem to get lost in arguments over the when and how—for instance, “Did they live thousands or millions of years ago?”—and we fail to ask a more basic question: Why did God create dinosaurs? For instance, did He make these majestic creatures simply so we could split up into two camps (young-earthers and old-earthers), or did He make them for the same reason He made the rest of creation: for His glory? And if he made them for His glory—which He did—then why did He have them all die off before you or I would even see them?

Here’s what I think: It’s because we will see them again someday, after creation is restored. There is scriptural evidence for this, and that should excite all Christians—your kids, my kids and the “kid” in all of us—and make us even more amazed at God’s plan for the future.

To build the case for why dinosaurs just may be in heaven, we need to start with a more basic question: Will animals be in heaven? I don’t know whether your specific pet or mine will be in heaven, but the Bible seems clear that animals—generally speaking—will be there. Consider …
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4 tricks to making every child in a large family feel special

4 ways to make every kid in a large family feel specialThere’s a humorous but wise adage that many parents who are having their third child eventually hear: “Man-to-man defense no longer applies. You’ll have to switch to a zone.”

The meaning in a nutshell? The kids now outnumber the parents.

I had heard friends talk about the blessings and challenges of a larger family but didn’t fully understand it until my wife and I added twins to our “bunch,” which automatically bumped our small family of three to a “large” family of five – thereby putting us at that out-of-the-way corner booth in all the restaurants. No longer would we fit at 95 percent of the restaurant tables or 99 percent of the hotel rooms.

That also meant it was not possible for each child to be held, for each kid to receive individual attention, for each child to sit in a lap. I’ve always been one who wants to see needs met, so it was a major adjustment. After all, I physically couldn’t read a story to my twins and ride bike with my oldest son at the same time – even though I wanted to do both. (It did, though, put me in awe of God more, because He
can comfort the little boy in China and the little girl in America simultaneously.)

So can a mother and father of multiple kids still make each one feel special? Yes. Here are four suggestions:
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