Spend five minutes out in public and you will probably witness multiple acts of selfishness. Wars and conflicts are often rooted in selfishness. Food insecurity, extreme poverty and other social problems take longer to resolve because money that could be used to help others is tied up in selfish ways by those who have more than enough things. And who can miss the thousands of references a day to the smaller problems caused by “entitled” people?
No one plans to raise a selfish child (at least I hope not), but many people do. The problem is we are often blinded to the selfishness in our own children. We can’t correct what we don’t notice and uncorrected selfishness eventually hardens in their hearts, creating adults who have more in common with pre-ghosts Ebeneezer Scrooge than Jesus.
So what are some perhaps surprising signs you are raising children who are becoming more selfish by the day?
- Whine and complain a lot. Whining and complaining are rooted in disappointment that things aren’t going the way your children wanted them to go. It’s a selfish mindset that believes everything should always be exactly like they want it to be… or they will whine and complain in hopes of things being done their way.
- Don’t say “please” and “thank you” without prompting. Every child needs periodic reminders, but if those words are rarely heard without prompting, there is a problem. Why “please”? Because the word expresses the understanding that they are not entitled to whatever they are asking of the other person. It’s a form of pre-gratitude.
- Have difficulty sharing and taking turns. Very young children naturally struggle with this and must be taught and reminded. Once they are old enough to attend school, however, sharing and taking turns should come naturally.
- Are poor losers when playing games. Poor losers are vocal about their assumption that they should always win everything.
- Have long wish lists for birthdays and Christmas. If your children can rattle off a long list of things wanted the second they are asked for a gift suggestion, there may be a problem with selfishness.
- Have trouble letting others be the center of attention. Let’s be honest. We all enjoy being the center of positive attention from time to time. If your child is clearly miffed when someone else is the center of attention (assuming your child gets enough healthy attention on a normal basis), there may be a problem with selfishness.
- Have trouble celebrating with others when good things happen to them. It’s okay for your kids to hope that they too will one day win a free trip around the world, but that shouldn’t stop them from being super excited for the person who just did.
- Melt down when told “no”. No one likes to hear the word, but your children should accept it most of the time. Asking to appeal your decision is one thing, but having an immediate meltdown every time is problematic.
- When denied something, sneak or lie to get it anyway. This is a serious warning sign of selfishness – the inability to accept the denial of any whim and the willingness to sin to get what was desired.
- Have a strong focus on money and/or things. Part of growing up is learning how to handle money in godly ways. That includes the idea of generosity. If the focus becomes on getting more money and spending the vast majority on oneself, then selfishness has overwhelmed generosity.
- Shopping or window shopping IRL or online is a favorite past time. Your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists. Spending too much time in environments where things can be claimed as one’s own can create a desire for things your child doesn’t really need or under normal circumstances would even want.
- Don’t seem to notice or care when their words or actions hurt others. There is a caveat to this one as some children with special needs struggle to notice the cues that someone is upset. Even they can be taught the cues, however, and change their behavior, apologize and make amends when they have hurt someone.
- Are reluctant to take personal responsibility for the outcomes of their choices. If everything is always the fault of someone else, a selfish heart is quite probably a serious issue.
- Make sure their needs and desires are met first before attempting to help or attend to others. This selfish trait is tricky, because on the surface it may look like they are helping others. Look more closely though and you will realize their needs and desires are met first and only then will they give their excess time, attention, money, etc. to others.
Our world is miserable because of the actions of selfish people. Don’t make things worse by raising more people who will operate from a position of selfishness. If your children consistently have the symptoms mentioned above, call it for what it is and take action to help them change their hearts. Otherwise, it won’t end well for them or anyone who is touched by their lives.