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6 Things You Want Your Kids To Be Able To Do – pt 3

April 6, 2019

No catchy introduction or arresting story for starting this post.  I’m picking up where I stopped last time.  Let’s look at number 3 on the list.

  • To know the difference between needs and wants
  • To know the difference between suffering and inconvenience
  • To know how to sacrifice for someone or something
  • To know how to express their emotions in appropriate ways
  • To know how to make, save and spend money
  • To know how to say yes and no

This is a very hard one to teach your kids.  But if they don’t know how to sacrifice for someone or something, they’ll spend their whole lives trying to get what they want, and in the process of getting what they want will leave a trail of collateral damage behind them.  Whether or not they are actually narcissistic, they’ll look and act like one.  Narcissism isn’t just selfishness, although narcissists are selfish.  Narcissism us a serious diagnosable psychological disorder.  People with this disorder live horribly difficult lives that are full of broken and murdered relationships.  They leave a very wide and bloody trail behind.  I’m not thinking of these kinds of people here.  I’m thinking about our kids, who need to learn how to sacrifice for someone or something other than themselves and their own desires.

Years ago, a friend of mine told me that he thought you can reduce all the theology of following Jesus to a simple statement: Discipleship is a process that takes a person from selfish to unselfish.  I think he’s right.  That’s essentially what I’m advocating with this bullet point on my list.

I often read and hear people say that God calls us to be selfless.  That Jesus was the ultimate picture of selfless.  That His Golgotha suffering and death were selfless.  This, I believe, is not the case.  I believe all these things about Jesus and what He wants from us are unselfish, but not selfless.  My reason for this is in the literal meaning of selfless: without self.  I believe there has never been anyone (nor will there ever be anyone) who was more in possession of their self than Jesus was.  There has never been (and there will never be) anyone who was as unselfish as Jesus, but He was not selfless.  He was not without self.  He gave Himself up for us, but this did not leave him self-less.  I could go on and on about this, but I won’t.  I’ll leave it at this: I do not believe Jesus intends for us to be self-less.  His plan for us is that we will become unselfish.  To do this, we must be in full possession of our self.  OK.  That’s enough on that.

You noticed with your first child, didn’t you, that they came into the world very selfish.  Their only concern was for themselves.  They had only their own desires and what they perceived as their needs driving them.  They literally gave not a single thought to you and what your needs were.  Just cry, cry, cry.  You remember, right?  This is by design.  Babies are not bad people because they are so incredibly and absolutely selfish.  They’re just babies.  Not big babies, like the 20-, 30-, 40-, 50-somethings or older who just whine, whine, whine.  Babies are so selfish because they have to be selfish in order to survive.  There is literally nothing they can do for themselves.

At birth, our journey from selfish to unselfish begins.  As we develop, we become more independent and able to meet our own needs, but we may not necessarily become less selfish.  We needed outside help to learn how to to do that.  We won’t naturally develop into an unselfish person.

So that puts your job, as a parent, in a developmental context.  You’re your child’s primary instructor in this learning process.  You are their primary teacher for them learning how to sacrifice for someone or something beyond themselves.  This is what unselfish people do.  They make sacrifices.  And, again, the two primary ways you teach this are by what you say and what you do.

It’s important to talk about making sacrifices.  But be careful how you do this.  If you talk (and act) as if you’re a martyr or a victim, you won’t be teaching your kids how to sacrifice.  You’ll be teaching them how to call attention to themselves, and worse than that, how to be socially acceptably selfish.  You might want to go back to what I wrote last time about knowing the difference between suffering and inconvenience (6 Things You Want Your Kids To Be Able To Do – pt 2) for this.

One thing you can use for this is literature.  Great stories have always involved sacrifice.  No hero in a good story ever became a hero or acted like one without sacrifice.  So when you and your kids read great stories, look for sacrifice.  Talk about what the motive might have been for this.  My favorite stories for this come from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.  But other stories and books deal with sacrifice.

So do great movies, which are just great stories made visual.  If you’re watching a movie at home on your TV, plan to use the pause button so you can point out sacrifices.  Don’t kill the fun of the movie, but don’t be afraid to pause it so you can point out sacrifice.  Then, when you’ve finished the movie, talk about it with your kids.  Ask them what they think about it.

This kind of conversation isn’t for pre-schoolers, generally.  Sacrifice isn’t a concept that younger minds can understand.  Use other words for it.  Maybe something like, “Wow!  Did you see how he/she did that thing?  It was so great!  They did it so that the other person could be happy.  Isn’t that cool?”  Use your words not mine, but if you’re experimental and playful, you can introduce the idea of sacrifice to young kids.

Then one last thing.  It’s a very smart thing to talk about motives when it comes to making sacrifices.  Because at the heart of sacrifice is motive.  Of course, this means you will have to sift your own motives for the sacrifices you make, if you want to talk about them with your kids.  How often, and for what reasons do you make sacrifices?  Do you avoid them?  Do you gloat about it and call attention to it when you make sacrifices?  Do you resent it when you’re called on to sacrifice?  I guess that’s more than one thing.  Sorry.  Not sorry.


From → Marriage, Parenting

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