Entitlement. It’s a word that gets used a lot lately. As in “you parents are raising a bunch of entitled kids – it’s ruining our world”. While our culture is pushing that message, it’s also telling us how awful it is that “mothers are told to sacrifice their desires to be a good mom” or “tell your kids to be ‘who they are’ and go for ‘what they want'”. Talk about mixed messages!
God is very clear about the attitudes and behaviors He wants from His people regarding their wants, their needs, their desires and how to balance those with the needs of others. From Philippians “in humility, count others more significant than yourselves” to “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (Corinthians), it’s obvious God wants us to sacrifice our needs for the needs of others.
Talk about counter culture! We are told it’s unhealthy to constantly put others’ needs before our own. That those we love will actually be happier if we focus on doing what makes us happy first. And on and on.
So how can we raise kids who are willing to sacrifice? Who shun selfishness in order to serve others? Here are a few of our favorite tips:
- Teach them what God has to say on the topic. Don’t assume they will just pick it up at church. If they don’t learn what God really wants from the Bible, they will be taught by our culture that God didn’t really mean for them to be selfless. They have to have read it for themselves in multiple passages and stories to be able to tell the difference between God’s truth and the world’s lies.
- Put it into practice in your home – starting with Mom and Dad. If your kids see you make consistently selfish choices, they will learn to make them, too. And be honest about it. Don’t cover a selfish choice with a layer of “this is what is best for me and therefore you”. No, you don’t necessarily have to deny yourself sleep, exercise and food, but so much else we think we “need” to be healthy is a “want”, not a “need”.
- Focus on hearts and not just behaviors. Absolutely, you should require your kids to behave in unselfish ways in their dealings with siblings, friends, parents and strangers. Be careful though. Just because a child is doing what you tell him or her to do, doesn’t necessarily mean their heart is doing it willingly. A selfish heart doing unselfish acts will usually return to selfish behaviors when no one is watching. Watch for and address those heart issues while they are still young.
- Allow them to sacrifice their things, their time and their money for others. Young children are often tender hearted. They genuinely want to give their things, time or money to serve others. It’s not even a major sacrifice to them at this stage. Often, adults will actually talk them back into being self-centered without even realizing it. Of course, you may not want them giving your house away to someone, but whenever possible let them follow through on their instincts to sacrifice for others. You are encouraging a soft, loving heart to stay that way.
- Do sacrificial things as a family frequently and consistently. Serving others consistently as a family, makes the heart and behavior part of your kids’ core identity. Not just doing the minimum in serving though. Going those extra steps and sacrificing something to serve others. If serving others sacrificially is only done occasionally, your kids are more likely to view it as an optional behavior and not an essential part of who God wants them to be and who they are.
It’s difficult to raise kids to think and act in ways that are so counter to the culture in which they live. We even get tricked into believing the world’s lies ourselves at times. Sacrificial giving is mentioned so many times in scripture, we can’t believe the lie it isn’t important to God. Being intentional about teaching, modeling and living sacrificial giving will help your kids be able to act in ways that run counter to their culture. It’s something we all need to be more intentional about with our kids.