My Kids Can Be Selfish and So Can I: Three Ideas for Building "Otherness" (And #GritUp Writer's Collective)
Along with the newness of Fuchsia Thunder, they're also trying to go dinner-rogue, testing out the powers of the picky eater. The odds haven't been in their favor. Knowing full well that there's no chance of them starving, Doc and I have drawn a line in the sand. Eat something from the table or don't eat at all. It sounds harsh, we know, but our kids were morphing into unrecognizable and demanding monsters. We came to acknowledge that if they launch from our house at eighteen, entitled and difficult to please, it probably started with the green beans. (It's a working theory)
Nobody "becomes" entitled. We're born that way.
And so we'll remain, so long as caregivers feed the beast.
As it turns out, parenting is just one, long God-dependent process of nurturing generous and "other-focused" thinking, while starving the fickle and self-centered. We're right here with you on this unpredictable and exhausting journey, so here are three easy ideas to help our families adopt an "other-oriented" worldview:
1. Create Moral Responsibility to Help Kids Understand that People Rely on Them
Mood. Work Ethic. Patience and Kindness. We all play a part in the environment that's created at school, work, and everywhere else we travel. As I shuffled the boys into the truck to leave this morning, I repeated the words they've heard every day since walking into the school for the first time: "Let your light so shine, guys...not John's light, or Nora's, not James' or Ella's."
Now they giggle and say, "Okaaaaay, Mom, we get it." But long after I'm gone, I pray they'll remember the importance of that scripture.
2. Create a Prayer Space
Bedrooms are sacred places. It's the place a child takes a friend who comes over to the house for the first time. It's where dreams originate and kids are comfortable enough to pass out after a long day. Find a nook, closet, or create a snug, "private" tent space. Paste sticky notes all over the place as you and your child brainstorm all the friends and family members who may need God's help and comfort. Record all the blessings too, and don't forget to ask about your child's personal prayers. It's a great practice in empathy and compassion!
3. Encourage All Different Types of Friendships - Family Structure, Socioeconomic Status, Religion, Race
Parents fear the different and unknown. We worry about "bad influence" and values that are contrary to our own. While some are valid concerns, none of us can shield (or even should shield) our kids from the unfamiliar - the realization that their friends are being raised differently than they are. The conversations that come from our differences are great opportunities to punctuate empathy and to reinforce our own family values.
Emma got in trouble at the party? I wonder if she had a rough day. You told me that her Dad isn't around much, so I bet she felt left out at Parents' Day. Can you think of a time when you've felt lonely or left out? Can you think of a way to include Emma in an activity next time?
John had a lot of money to spend at the Book Fair? It's normal to feel jealous when other kids are able to buy as many books as they want. I want you to have a lot of books too, but it's important for our family to be extra responsible with money right now. I think it would be fun to get a Library Card. Do you want to invite John to go to Story Hour with us?
Our lives are richer and more interesting as we begin to see the world through the eyes of others. The practice draws us closer together in our relationships, and honestly, it can be a lot of fun learning about the world and sharing our faith with those interested to hear it.
Let us know if you want to take a whirl on Fuchsia Thunder!
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
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Photo Credit: Mike Wilson
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.