Humility gets a bad rap in today’s world. People often associate the idea of humility with being a doormat, unwilling to stand up for anything and letting people take advantage of you. People may verbally say it is great to be humble, but they certainly don’t act like it.
“Toot your own horn.” “If you don’t promote yourself, who will?” “Demand what is rightfully yours!” Our children hear over and over again how they need to shout their personal greatness to the world so everyone can truly appreciate them and they will get what they are “due”.
The funny thing is, to dedicate our children to God, one of the very most important attributes we can teach them is humility. Why? Your children are going to have to be humble to admit they are sinful and need God’s grace. They are going to need to be humble to be effective, godly leaders. They will need humility to keep their relationships strong and vital. Your children will need to be humble to serve others and share their faith in godly ways.
Look in the Bible and you will soon realize the “greats” in there were actually very humble. From Abraham going above and beyond entertaining strangers to Joseph being willing to interpret dreams for his troubled fellow prisoners to Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles, there are plenty of stories you can use to teach your children about godly humility. In fact when a “great” got in trouble, it was often the result of a lack of humility and the actions it led them to do. (Moses and the rock, for example.)
In addition to teaching about the people in the Bible who were humble and why it was important for them to be humble, there are other things you can do to help your children develop humble attitudes. There are probably dozens of possibilities, but here are some ideas to get you started.
- Remind your children everything is not always about them. It is human nature to think the world revolves around us and our needs and wants. Unfortunately, it is a very ungodly thought process. Make sure your children don’t always get their way in the little things around your family. Parents may favor the oldest, the youngest, the middle or the only child. This favored child often gets to always pick the tv show, the restaurant, where they sit in the car, etc. We have an only child, so even when she was little, she did not have the only stocking at Christmas or Easter basket or was always the one who chose what activity we did. Often we would explain to her it was “Daddy’s turn because this is very important to Daddy and we take turns getting to do things that are special or important to us” or something similar. We also helped her understand how important it is to not whine and complain the entire time someone else is the “special” one. It may not teach true humility, but it begins an awareness others have important needs and wants, too.
- Allow each child to be the center of attention once in awhile. If your child is never made to feel special or the center of attention in an effort to raise a humble child, it can backfire on you. Always having to be “last” can create a hunger for being special which eventually becomes almost almost impossible to fill. Allowing your child to have presents on his birthday or have a special restaurant meal to celebrate a victory will not create a spoiled child, especially if he is the center of attention only infrequently. Also be careful of the tendency to reply to a child’s good news with “your cousin so and so did that too (or better)”. Instead of creating a humble attitude, those types of statements can create bitterness and jealousy.
- Make sure your children thoroughly understand the idea of gifts from God. Every child has special gifts from God. It may be good looks, athletic ability, musical talent, intellectual giftedness or a wide variety of other giftedness combinations. Depending on the gifts, your child can not only become dependent on these gifts for his feelings of self-worth, but also begin to believe he is the cause of all of the “wonderful” things about him – not God. From a very young age, you should reinforce that these are very special gifts from God. Help your children nurture these gifts and teach them God gifted them with these things to be used to honor God and help His Kingdom. Remind them everyone has special gifts from God and help them learn to notice and celebrate God’s gifts in others.
- Teach your children to serve others carefully. Serving is a funny thing. Done improperly, it can actually cause someone to become very egotistical. Instead of your children viewing themselves as humble servants of others or helping teach others how to use their own resources and assets to help themselves, it can actually cause them to feel superior. Watch for attitudes of superiority towards those being served. (Statements made looking down on those served or attitudes of “these people would be nowhere without my help” are early clues.) Teach them God views all of us as equally worthy of his love and grace. Help them understand how it is often the circumstances of life in a fallen world that create a need for people to be served. Encourage empathy and not sympathy for others.
- Teach your children to allow others to serve them in certain ways. This is a tricky one. Any mother can tell you most children are absolutely willing to allow their mothers to wait on them hand and foot, probably forever. This is the type of service you need to discourage children from accepting. If you don’t, you will create entitled little spoiled brats. Ironically, children hate to get help and advice from others on more important things like school work, character training, attitudes, etc. They need to learn to humbly admit when someone knows more than they do and accept their help. Not only will this habit develop humility in your children, but it will also make them smarter and wiser because they are willing to learn from those smarter and wiser than them.
- Help your children understand how awesome God is and how His plans for us are such an important gift. Humanism and new age religious ideas are very commonly promoted in the media and even taught in schools. The idea of God as the supreme ruler is often viewed as quaint or even “stupid”. Denying God and His authority means we are placing ourselves in the position that was only meant for God. Once you have placed yourself in the top position, there is little reason to be humble. Your children need to be taught not only about how awesome and powerful God is but also that He expects our complete obedience to him. In fact, the apostle John even writes the way to show God you love Him is by obeying God’s commands.
- Teach your children to be considerate of others. Consideration means more than just having good manners (although that is an important part of it). It means your children know how to obey the second greatest command to love others as we love ourselves. It may mean not doing something we love in order to do something which will make someone else feel truly loved. It means treating others with kindness, really listening to them when they talk and being considerate of what the other person may need. Consideration builds humility because it means you are humble enough to put the needs of others above your own. Not because you are a doormat, but because you want them to understand how much you truly love and honor them.
- Insist your children show respect to those in authority. Sounds old fashioned, but treating teachers, parents and really all adults with respect is part of teaching your child to be humble. If your children cannot show respect to the adults they can see, they will have a very difficult time respecting and obeying God’s authority.
It really is worth your time and effort to focus on raising humble children. Without humility, your children will not be able to serve God. In fact, if they are not humble, your children will not even want to serve God. If you are already working on humility in your house, I would love for you to share with us what other things you are doing.