Q&A: Promoting a lifestyle of selflessness

Q: In one of the Family Q&A, you discussed practicing self-denial with our children and offered ways to guard them from developing narcissistic tendencies. It was helpful advice, but I’d also like to encourage them to be more thoughtful and aware of the needs of others. Do you have any ideas how I can do this?

A: The fact that you value and want to promote a lifestyle of selflessness with your children suggests that they have a pretty good chance of getting there. It’s been said that “more is caught than taught” – so if you’re consistently modelling these actions and attitudes in your home, you’ve provided them with a great head start.

That said, it’s important to actively involve your children in the process, and there are many ripe opportunities for this during their birthday. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Eat meals together with the orphans at a local home.
  • Visit a nursing home to read stories with residents.
  • Provide gifts to the underprivileged.
  • Drop off baked goods to those who are homebound or hurting.
  • Invite those who don’t have a family to join your birthday party.

You can add your own creative ideas, we’re sure. But the key is to help your children grasp the why of all this. A good way is to ask questions designed to help them reflect on how recipients of your kindnesses may be feeling and what difference your actions might make. For instance, “How would you feel if you were all alone on your birthday?” In doing so, you’ll help them develop empathy and the capacity to recognise, understand, and identify with the feelings of others – invaluable character traits to instil in your children. 

​​© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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