by Mary Allen
A Potpourri of Essays about the Family, the Home, and Parenting
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant. 1 Corinthians 13:4
Q: How do we teach our kids to be unselfish and further, to go the extra mile when it comes to their relationships?
A: Pride and selfishness rear their ugly heads in each of us and the very real need to be important to your parent can cause a child to be judge and jury in watching you with your other children. Two questions we need to answer are, “How do I help my child to be thankful in even this situation?” and “How do I help him to instantly forgive his sibling AND his parent and to pray for them, asking God to give them His love for the object of their concern?”
First of all, we need to remind our children that God is always fair and He uses these hard times (sibling rivalry, etc.) to help them be like Jesus who suffered unjustly so many times. These kinds of conversations are usually best ‘after the fact’, when things have simmered down.
On the other hand, we need to train our children to not be overly concerned when “life isn’t fair”. When we cater to these bursts of “inequality” by rewarding and promising equal “perks”, we are feeding the selfishness. And that selfishness will turn our darlings into little monsters.
For instance, when my middle daughter was six years old, she’d never been on a sleepover. Her older sister was allowed this privilege at age nine, but only to Grammy’s house. We always told our six year old, that her day would someday come, and in the meantime, she needed to be happy for her sister! Guess what? It was that simple. Sure, I told her we’d have some mommy-daughter time while big sis was away, but it wasn’t anything earth-shattering. I didn’t promise her money for “choosing to be happy”. I didn’t go out of my way and finance a Chuck E. Cheese expedition or anything brag-worthy that she could hold up to big sis: “See what you missed out on?”
I think we adults are our own worst enemies in things like this. We want so badly for our children to be fulfilled and not feel left out. None of us wants to be the proverbial Jacob, who favored his son Joseph. Equal treatment is nice (not necessary), and parents should not have favorites…if you need further convincing, read The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley.
But definitely read 1 Corinthians 13 to your children, and show them that God’s love means we’ll be happy, not jealous, for our friends and loved ones when life grants them special privileges. You cannot start too young instilling this!
The day came when we finally decided our middle daughter could handle the privilege of having a cousin spend the night. Her big sister was going to be gone at my mom’s and so my husband and I thought it would be fun, since it was Spring Break, to invite one of her favorite cousins over. In trying not to leave any cousins out, it almost turned into a “that-isn’t-fair-she-gets-to-go-and-I-don’t” free-for-all. To smooth the waters, we ended up having two cousins over, and the girls all had a great time…for the most part.
Inevitably, two’s company, three’s a crowd. My six year old got to play peacemaker a time or two. Thankfully, she’s used to being “bossed around” (she does, after all, have an older sister!) and she made the best of it. The next morning she told me she had the best time ever! (Thank you, Lord!)
One last thing…when hard situations come up—and I hope they do—use them as the great learning curves that they are and emphasize to your child that acting this way only hurts others! Hopefully they’ll remember how awful it felt and resolve to never behave in a similar fashion.
True fulfillment and happiness come from being able to be content with the life you have. Are we being faithful to teach this, or are we feeding the discontent by making issues where there shouldn’t be any?
Rejoicing in hope...Romans 12:12
About the Author: Mary Allen is a stay-at-home, homeschooling, country-loving mom. She makes her home in the mid-west amidst Border Collies, horses, cows, a horde of chickens, her beloved husband of 16 years and their three girls. She writes articles for several online publications, including her own website, Home-Steeped Hope.
Updated March 27, 2014