Cigarette butts left on my front porch. Dirty dishes left for someone else. A rude driver on the road. Words spoken in a disrespectful tone. Pouting because of being unexpectedly interrupted. Making ugly assumptions about someone else’s decision. Failing to arrive on time to an appointment. These are all examples I witnessed this past week of people being selfish and not considering the preciousness of other people. In fact, in some of the examples listed, I was the guilty party. And, no, I did not leave cigarette butts on my porch. Hahaha
What do these actions have to do with parenting? Let me answer that question with a question: How did your child learn to speak? You had to teach him. You may think you did not teach your child to speak and you are partially correct. You did not knowingly, proactively teach your child to talk in the same way you knowingly, proactively taught him to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at the appropriate time. You taught him to speak without knowing you were doing it. Without trying to do it. You taught him to speak just by being you. Just by talking yourself. He observed you speaking. He heard you talking. Now, he can speak and he probably shares your accent, your slang, and your mannerisms. [Insert a piece of freebie advice: Oh be careful little tongue what you say. He will repeat it.] We teach our children many things, whether intentionally or not. The value of other people will also be taught to our children, whether intentionally or not.
How to teach your children that other people matter:
- Clean up after yourself. Do not leave messes or trash for other people to pick up. This is true in your home, in other people’s homes, and out in public. Some of us are germaphobes!
- Do not assume someone else in the house will take care of the necessary chores. If chores need to be done, just do them, even if it is not your responsibility. Fun fact: We have friends whose young son does not have hands or arms, and he still does the dishes!
- Be courteous behind the wheel. Do not be a jerk to other people while driving. What good does it do to become so worked up about something you cannot change? Side note: if you have read a few of my blogs, this driving thing seems to make a frequent appearance. I may or may not struggle with being annoyed by rude drivers.
- Recognize interruptions as opportunities to serve. Do not pout about your schedule being interrupted and being unable to finish your planned event because someone else needed your help. While helping another person is considering the preciousness of others, complaining about it after the fact is not. God loves a cheerful giver is the theme here.
- Do not be rude and insulting when you disagree with another. People are going to make decisions that make absolutely no sense to you. Does that change if you decide to be ugly about it? Trust me on this one. I have done the leg work for you, and I can say the result is looking like a jerk in the end.
- Be on time. Do not be late. If you are expected to be some place at a specific time, you should not consistently arrive late. Showing up late to an appointment is the same as saying, “I know I’m late, but what I was doing that kept me from arriving on time is more important than you.” Time management. It’s a thing. And it’s a thing at which I am horrible. Just keeping it real. Victory can happen though. My Cubbies finally won the World Series again after 108 years! Someday I will consistently be on time. There’s always next year…
I could go on and on with a list of things not to do in order to consider others more important than yourself. However, I am pretty sure you are capable of continuing such a list on your own. In fact, I really did not want to give you a list at all, because those of us who are list makers tend to think that is all we have to do. If the item is on the list, we find it important. If the item is not on the list, we find it unimportant. My Fellow List Makers, listen very closely: The preciousness of others will never be found on a list of do’s and don’ts. Considering the value of other people in your words, your attitudes, and your actions must come from your heart. It must come from a belief that you are not better than the other people in your life, whether they be family, friend, stranger, or foe. That goes for all of you wild and crazy non-list makers as well. Though we list makers are pretty great…just sayin’.
Did you notice that the above list said it was how to teach your children that other people matter? Did you notice as you read the list that most of those suggestions applied to you, Mom and Dad? Just as you unintentionally taught your child to speak, you will unintentionally teach your child how valuable you regard other human beings. In choosing to consider others more important than yourself, and demonstrating that in your words, your tone, your attitudes, and your actions, you will unintentionally teach your children that other people matter.
I would be failing you, as the reader of this blog, if I left you with only a partial list of how to unintentionally teach your child to be nice to other people. Just watching other people be kind to others is not going to make you or your child become the kind of person that considers others before himself. Intentionality must also take place.
Remember what I said about the need to avoid a list of how to be nice and cultivate a heart attitude instead? This is your job, Parents. You must cultivate a heart attitude that is others-focused in your child. This the hard part of parenting. This is the part where we have to get our hands dirty and use our brains and muscles and be intentional. Just as you had to intentionally teach your child to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, you will have to intentionally teach your child to think of others.
Rather than give you a list of intentional ways to teach your child, I will give you this one little phrase: the moral reason why. Every time you demonstrate kindness to others, tell your child why you did it. This is not about glorifying your actions. It is about explaining your motive. Hopefully it was a virtuous motive and not just a need to stroke your ego. That is a topic for another blog. The moral reason why should be used by you all day long, every single day.
Let’s apply sharing the moral reason why to the above list. When your child needs to throw away his trash, tell him why he should do that. When your child has chores to do, tell him why it is important to complete them. When your child asks you why you did not get mad and yell at the rude driver in front of you, tell him why. When your child is told to help another even though it interrupts his own play or work, tell him why it was important to help. When your child argues or disagrees with a friend or sibling, tell him why he needs to forgive and seek forgiveness. When your child does not return home when he was told, tell him why timeliness matters. Giving the child the moral reason why intentionally trains his heart attitude, which is the key to learning to consider the preciousness of others.
Other people matter. Show your child other people matter. Tell your child why other people matter. It really is that simple. Oh, and could one of you suggest to my neighbor that left his cigarette butts on my porch to consider bringing an ashtray along next time? Thank you.
Tricia McDonald is the wife of SGM(ret) McDonald and four adult children. She is learning to adjust to civilian life now that her husband has retired. She is also learning to adjust to life without homeschooling, as all of her children have graduated. Tricia volunteers her time teaching U.S. History to local homeschooled high schoolers, and coordinating music for a local semi-professional youth theatre. She enjoys blogging from time and time and is trying to figure out what she should be when she grows up. She wants to encourage all the young moms to hang in there and enjoy the moments, as they will pass far more quickly than you ever thought possible.