A couple of decades ago “experts” decided the problems in society were caused because children had poor self-esteem. If you have read a magazine or newspaper in the last decade, you are aware of all of the backlash issues self-esteem education has created for our kids and our society. Now, experts wrestle with how to right the unfortunate shift they have created in child rearing practices. As usual, the Bible often has the answers society struggles to find.
Looking through scriptures, it’s impossible to find any mention of working on your self-esteem or building up yourself. Instead, there are numerous commands for us to be humble, put others before ourselves and serve God and others with humility. Yet, even Christian parents have gotten caught up in making sure their children have “healthy” self-esteem (I’m still not quite sure what that is) and don’t give a thought about teaching their children how to be humble.
Part of the problem is that at the moment, we don’t even agree what being humble means. Some think it means you are agreeing to be a doormat with no opinions or voice of your own. Others think it’s just being polite. Must of us would probably fumble around trying to come up with any understandable definition. It’s really hard to teach something you don’t quite understand yourself (“helping” my daughter learn calculus is my best experience with this!). I think there are some basic things you can do with your kids though, to help them develop some godly “humility skills”.
- Foot Washing. This of course is the example Jesus set with his apostles. Your kids don’t need to literally wash someone’s feet (although it might not hurt them!), but learning to do menial tasks with grace and a positive attitude is an important part of humility. Your family might choose to serve in a soup kitchen or stay and help with the clean-up after a major church event. Perhaps your kids will learn more about humility by listening to an elderly person’s repeating of the same story the hundredth time while still being polite and respectful. God expects us to serve those around us and service can often require a healthy dose of humility. Give your kids lots of opportunities to serve, but teach them to focus on their attitudes and behaviors while serving as well as the project they are actually completing.
- Military Cotillion. Okay, I don’t think there is really such a thing, but the principles both organizations teach are an attempt to create an ordered society where people are expected to treat others with humble respect. You can question the methods and the results, but the idea has some value. Showing respect and manners to everyone is a part of demonstrating your humility. Don’t get me wrong. I have seen some kids with theoretically perfect manners who were the most disrespectful children I have ever met. Teach your children the trick is in the attitude behind the manners. There must be true respect for others or it just doesn’t work well.
- The World Revolves Around the Sun. One of the best concepts to teach your children is that the world does not revolve around them. They are not the center of the universe. Everything does not always have to go their way. They do not have to always win or be the very best. Teach your children the real world should revolve around God. Doing that means obeying God’s commands and principles – which puts us back at learning to humbly serve others and put them before ourselves. Teach your children to lose gracefully, to celebrate others’ accomplishments, to truly wish for the best for others – to accurately reflect God’s love towards others in everything they do.
- You Aren’t the Smartest Person on the Planet. There is something deep inside of most of us that secretly believes everyone else on the planet has absolutely no common sense/intelligence. Granted some of those stupid criminal stories might give a boost to your theory, but the reality is no one is truly the smartest person on earth. Think about it. The Nobel Prize winner in chemistry would probably be trampled in a Chinese writing contest or knowing how to knit thirty different stitches. Your child needs to humbly accept that there are many people smarter and wiser than him. Even if he is “smarter” in a particular area, there are things he can learn from just about everyone. Teach your kids to find something to learn from everyone they meet (Granted at times, they may only be learning what not to do!) and to learn it humbly.
- God is King. Period. This is by far the most important principle of humility. I nearly choked the other day when I read a newspaper article quoting a “Christian” saying God was big enough for us to change His commands! If your child cannot accept and obey God’s commands as written and humbly admit he needs God for salvation, he is not going to be a faithful Christian. It just isn’t possible without humbly accepting your place in relationship to God. Your child not only needs to hear it from you, but he needs to see it reflected in how you live your life and make your decisions. If God isn’t first for you, chances are strong your child will have a difficult time being humble in front of God.
Teaching your child humility does not involve physical or verbal abuse. Rather, teaching humility to your child is teaching him how to show respect to others and reflect God’s accurately by serving them humbly. It means teaching him how to obey God’s commands with a humble attitude. If you can teach your children true, biblical humility, they will be on their way to be the Christian adults you are working to raise.