Looking Outside our Walls
This is such an important topic we have written another series on teaching your child to serve. Click here to view the week long series on this.
And as always listen to today’s podcast for more on finding the balance of family and individuality.
There are many things that we can do as a family to help our children look outward to the needs of others. Today’s child will fight a battle of not even knowing how to interact appropriately with others, if we allow devices and social media free reign in their lives. One of the first things that we can do to help them see what’s truly going on around them at hands reach, is helping them place boundaries on devices. Having set aside unplugged family time is a great way to do this. Taking turns discussing what is going on in each other’s lives at this dinner table is a simple way to start. A child listening to how a parent’s or sibling’s day went is a very simple and easy way to look past their own self.
The next step is taking time to train your child to “see a need, fill a need”, a great quote from the kids movie Robots. This can start in your own home but it will take some time and encouragement. Little things like taking their own plate to the sink after meals and not leaving it for someone else to clear is such a simple way to start. Next you can take it a step further by creating a random acts of kindness game. Go crazy if you catch your child doing something nice for another family member, like not only clearing their plate but taking mom’s as well. In the Girls home, I had a white board on my office door where I would write a quick sentence for all to see if I could catch one girl being kind to another. This attitude of service is caught and taught. What are ways you can positively reinforce this attitude in your home?
We touched on this yesterday, why it is imperative to teach our children to function in a unit. If our goals for parenting are to raise a child to become a Godly adult who is both marriageable and employable, then teaching a child how to “lay down self” is an extremely important lesson. We have all been around people who are just 30 year old adolescents. They give in to their every whim or desire regardless of the needs of those around them. This is not a desirable characteristic for an employee or a spouse.
We mentioned yesterday how Philippians tells us to value others before yourself. Romans explains why we do this. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” We lay down our will and desires not only because it is in our best interest to function in a unit, but because it is an act of worship to God.
Listen to today’s podcast for more insight on this topic.
Today’s cultural focus is the individual. If we are not careful we can allow this to impact our parenting. We are told to value “me time” or that we “deserve” certain things, even if it is to the detriment of others. This seems to be blatantly obvious anytime we are out on the road, it’s hard to find a lot of selfless drivers. Now while it is important to celebrate each special quality that makes our children unique, the gifts and talents that God gave them, we have to find balance and help them learn to thrive in a unit. In today’s “selfie” culture we are raising a generation that if we are not conscious, will not be marriageable and employable.
I think we could all agree that we want our children to be selfless not selfish. In fact this is imperative if we are Christ followers. Christ taught us in order to lead we must serve. Philippians 2:3 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of the others.”
There is such pressure for performance and perfection in today’s culture, from how we perform at work/school to our appearance. A great way to defuse this pressure is family fun. Especially fun at a parent’s expense, this helps model for a child how not to take themselves to seriously. In our house this was Dad. Dad made sure that he rigged it so that he lost most of the games we played. He then would make a huge show of loosing meaning that he would burst into tears or being silly throw a temper tantrum. There were many creative ways to have us all hysterically laughing. It seems he took it as a challenge if one of us was in a bad mood to do something ridiculous to make us laugh. There was even several times that he “fell asleep” at the breakfast table and got oatmeal all over his face. This was a great lesson for us in how its ok to be silly and to laugh at yourself.
With the explosion of social media there is an overwhelming amount of information on how to have fun and create fun family memories. From blogs, like this one, to pinterest we have no excuse to not have creative family time. We just have to make the time.
There are two types of fun that need to take place because they serve two different purposes. The first is spontaneous fun, this is the type of fun that breaks routine. We gave an example of this unexpected fun with the story of the water balloons earlier this week. It can even be something like having a themed dinner, picnic on the floor, dinner at the beach or the park on a weeknight, or even as simple as stopping for an ice-cream off the dollar menu to celebrate a Tuesday.
The other type of fun is scheduled fun. This is setting aside time to have fun together as a family. A great example of this is a family game night. Family game night can do a lot more then just fun. It can help to teach a child how to have fun with competition and how to win/loose appropriately.
Make it a habit to have moments of spontaneous and scheduled fun at least once a week.
Today’s society has such a warped view of what fun is. For many of us fun is wrapped around getting something new or paying someone/something to entertain us. Many of us pay to take our children places for them to be entertained. We need to teach our children what it means to have fun with out spending. This doesn’t mean sitting your children down and lecturing them how when you were a child you could spend the day entertaining yourself out side with only a stick or a rock. This means setting the example. Play with your children, don’t just set them in front of the TV or videogame as a babysitter.
Another thing that we can do is encourage our children to develop their imagination. Spend time reading to your children or making time for them to read. Loose your inhibitions and spend time in the back yard pretending to fight the dragon or sailing across the ocean with your young children. Take the time to kick/throw/ hit a ball with your older children. Show them that fun doesn’t have to cost anything. There is also something to be said for the value of knowing how to entertain yourself and not have to be entertained.
We touched on the concept of fun as a stress relieve a little bit yesterday. It is amazing that fun can be like a mini vacation from life. It is amazing how just a few brief moments of fun can lighten the load of a stressful situation. It also helps us as parents keep proper perspective on what truly is important.
For example, during a particularly stressful time for the girls in the residential program, meaning they were having a bad week of fighting between each other, the house mom and I decided that we needed to create a “distraction of fun”. When the house pop left in the van to pick up the girls we spent 30 minutes filling water balloons. Now was there other things that we could have, and probably should have, been doing with that time? Yes, but we knew that it would help the girls relationally if we could create a distraction. We were around the corner of the house when the van pulled in and soaked them as they got out. It is amazing what being pelted with water balloons does to build camaraderie in a group. We were able to defuse the tension and relational stress with fun.
Try finding time for some silly fun in your house this week.
There are so many stressors on every member of the family today, financial, relational, and work/ school related stress to name a few. The home is suppose to be an environment that will shield us from those stresses. It is our safe place and shelter from the world around us. It is also the place to build those lasting childhood memories. How sad for time to just fly by because of our busy lives and have regrets about the time spent with our children. We can’t spend our time living only for the weekend or the vacation time. We need to incorporate fun into our day to day. When children are young get into the habit of making family meals something that you do together. Take that opportunity around the table to talk but also don’t miss out on the opportunity for laughing and just plain silliness. It is amazing the stress relief of a really good laugh. Taking opportunities to look for fun also sets the tone for the atmosphere of your family. What will your children feel as they think about their childhood? Will it be fond memories of great family times or will it be memories of wishing for something different.
Make sure to not take yourself to seriously and just have fun with your family.