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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3 biblical lessons for parents when your child is selfish

3 biblical lessons when your child is selfishIt was a picture perfect Spring evening for baseball as I took my two sons to their first minor league game.

The sun was setting, there was a nice warm breeze blowing through the stadium, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We ate popcorn. We devoured peanuts. We even got to watch a train pass close by the stadium, which always is a treat for the kids.

After a couple of innings we visited the playground located outside the foul line in left field. My sons were having a blast.

We had passed this empty stadium multiple times on the highway, and my oldest had said he longed to see a game there. So here we were, in that very stadium that my son wanted to visit, doing presumably everything he wanted to do.

Then it came time to leave. He didn’t mind leaving, but he wanted cotton candy first. Never mind that I had not promised him cotton candy, that it was too late to eat anything that sugary, that I had already bought him a ticket, and a popcorn, and a bottled water, and that he was able to play on that playground for so long that he was tired. He wanted cotton candy, and he wasn’t leaving until he had it.

I told him no, and he got mad. He raised his voice. He cried. Even stomped his feet. We went to the car with him upset and me wondering how that situation could have been avoided. And he didn’t get any cotton candy.

When our children are selfish and ungrateful, what are we to learn? I think God is telling us something – about ourselves. The Bible draws many parallels between the relationship between God the Father and His children (Christians), and earthly parents and their children. Often, our children serve as a mirror of our own actions. It’s as if God is holding up a full-length mirror and screaming from heaven, “Look!”

Here are three lessons to consider:

1. We, too, are ungrateful. When my son or daughter or your son or daughter is ungrateful, we are getting a vivid yet honest reminder from God of our own sin – a small glimpse of what our sin looks like to a holy God. When the Apostle Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing,” he certainly had in mind living in a constant state of gratefulness for our blessings. But how often do we thank God for the basics of life — food, housing, health, clothes, a job – much less the things He gives us that we “desire” (that car, that boat, that vacation)? And even when we mumble a prayer, how often are we truly grateful?

2. We, too, are prone to forget our blessings. How many times have you prayed to God and received the answer that you desired, only to forget it quickly and six months later wonder in your heart, “Why has God abandoned me?” We forget that God has blessed us multiple times in multiple ways, over and over, abundantly. We are prone to forget, to stray, to wonder. We’re like every other person who only remembers what happened five minutes ago – the meaningless Facebook post, the pointless TV show. It’s the “what have you done for me lately?” syndrome. We want the cotton candy.

3. We, too, rebel against God. So often, it’s when we’re living in the midst of God’s blessings that we’re prone to sin. Deep down, we begin to credit ourselves for our blessings, forgetting that all good things come from God (James 1:17) and that He is due praise for every blessing in life. In our sinful heart, we begin even to wonder if we need God. In other words, our spiritual life often hits rock-bottom when God is blessing us the most. Just like I did to my sons, God may pour blessings on our lives – the “popcorn,” the “peanuts.” But he’s still not buying us the cotton candy.

Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public).

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5 ways parenting makes us less selfish – and why I’m thankful for the lesson

5 ways parenting makes us less selfish – and why I’m thankful for the lessonRemember those times in elementary school when you wanted that yummy pie on your friend’s plate?

“You gonna eat that?” you might say, putting your finger smack-dab in the middle of it.

“Well, not anymore,” they’d reply.

Or maybe you were on the receiving end of such silly antics, frustrated at your friend’s selfishness. Of course, very few of us looked at that delicious pie and wanted to give it to someone. No way. That was our pie.

I remember those days very well. I also remember the day, about four years ago, when I was eating dinner and had some food on my plate that was seconds away from being devoured. But my first child, my then-1-year-old son, had been eyeing it, and he wanted it, too. You see, there were no leftovers on the table. If I ate it, he would not get any more food. But if he ate it, I would not get any more.

What do you think I did? I gave it to him, without hesitation.

Throughout Scripture, God commands us to avoid selfishness, and for good reason; we all struggle with it. Paul tells us to do “nothing from selfish ambition” (Philippians 2:3). Peter tells us to humble ourselves (1 Peter 5:6). Jesus Himself tells us to deny ourselves and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). But it’s hard, isn’t it?

Nothing wipes selfishness out of your life like parenting. I didn’t think I was a selfish person as a bachelor, but in hindsight, I probably was. And I still am – we all are, to some degree — but I’m further along in my goal of selflessness than I was.

I’m thankful for what God’s taught me about selfishness. Here are 5 specific lessons I’ve learned:

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