Yes, I said #2 trait of happy kids…
The number one trait is that they know and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What trait could be so significant that it comes in second only to the gospel?
From the time our kids were very small we regularly used a handful of significant words that you wouldn’t typically hear parents using toward their children. They were big words. Adult words. Words that required explanation. But we believed they were VITAL words for our kids to understand. Here’s a short list…
Also on that list was the word, CONSIDERATION.
Learning to be considerate is hard, for adults and kids. We humans are selfish critters. We think of ourselves first, are eager to do for ourselves first, and are prone to put our own interests and preferences far ahead of the interests of others. Our kids are born with that same self-centered bent. That does NOT make for happy kids.
As adults we know selfishness first hand. Let me ask you,
Have you conquered it once and for all?
And it’s been how many years?“
Before you get too down on yourself, let me switch things around by asking you this,
THAT is the point I want to make in this post.
Your children NEED to know about their selfishness. They need to know where it comes from and what it will compel them to do (and not do). They need to know the power of Christ that can aid them in overcoming it. They need to know what it looks like when they have successfully overcome it in any given situation.
That is where consideration comes in.
First, let’s define it:
thoughtful or sympathetic regard or respect; thoughtfulness for others
Just like we adults need to learn to be thoughtful of others, our children need to learn to be thoughtful about the people around them. They need to learn that the world does not revolve around them, it revolves around JESUS… and HE wants to live through them to love the people they meet every day. It’s a high, HIGH calling and a wonderful opportunity to partner with God in accomplishing His good work in the world! There is truly NOTHING more significant our children can accomplish in life than to learn to be a tool for Jesus to use.
We need to equip our children with what I call a “Consideration Mindset.” It’s the mindset that Paul teaches us to have as followers of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:3-4). It’s a mindset that guides us to look to others’ needs first, to insert their interests into every circumstance, and to entrust ourselves and our own needs into the hands of the Father (1 Peter 2:21-22).
A consideration mindset is powerful for your kids when…
- they are struggling to share
- it’s time to do chores around the house
- there is a service project going on that the family has agreed to take part in
- they are trying to manipulate a friend or sibling to do the game the way they want
- their friend at school is being “less than nice”
- their sibling is “invading their space”
- their parents desperately need time alone together and ask them to care for their younger siblings
- you hear “me first” or “mine” or “Hey, no cutting” coming from the playroom
- they are trying to get the biggest piece of dessert
You get the idea. A consideration mindset is one that helps your child reorient their naturally selfish tendencies in a direction that honors Christ and His desire to love and serve others through them.
Consideration makes for happy kids
When your kids begin to learn consideration, their level of personal joy and fulfillment will grow. They will feel good about helping people. It might even become fun to them.
But more importantly, they will begin to see that
- Jesus is doing things through them to help and encourage others, and that will encourage them.
- They will begin to get a broader vision for what their life might become
- They will start to understand that Jesus can use them to accomplish great good in the world
And a little “BONUS” blessing… your home will be a more peaceful place, which will increase the happiness of everyone in the household.
How to teach your kids to be considerate
This is what you’ve been waiting for, right? But you’ve got to know by now that I have no magic wand or all-purpose formula to give you. All I can do is tell you some of the steps we took that seemed to help, and how we went about applying them.
1. Start young
I honestly think a good part of our success (and our kids are by no means perfect at it) has come from the fact that we started out with a plan to emphasize consideration when the kids were wee little things. We taught it to our children from the time they started conversing. We didn’t want it to be some big, adult word that we waited to drop on them when they hit 8 or 10 years old. We wanted it to be part of their DNA, so we talked about it plainly and regularly. We gave them examples from our own lives (of successes and failures) and made heroes of people we thought were demonstrating consideration.
2. Model it yourself
Modeling and example are huge. It’s a drum I beat all the time. If your kids hear your words about consideration without seeing any corresponding fruit of it in your own life, they will tune you out. Did you get that?
THEY – WILL – TUNE – YOU – OUT.
That means you may have some work to do with the LORD on this issue, doesn’t it? Me too.
Take the time and make the effort to work on this issue with the LORD’s help. Ask Him to point out areas where you need to become more considerate (to co-workers, your spouse, your kids, your extended family, etc.), and pay attention. Once He’s put His finger on a tender spot, begin to examine it and make intentional, diligent changes in your behavior.
Then SHARE your battle with your family, as you go. Let your kids see your desire, your intention, and the work you are putting into it. They need to see that YOU are a work in progress, and that with the LORD’s help you are MAKING progress. That’s what being an example for your kids is all about.
3. Eavesdrop on your kids
Yes, I mean it. As you teach your kids about consideration, begin to listen in on their conversations, their play time, their interaction with friends. Listen for opportunities to remind them of the need to let Jesus consider others through them. Step in. Take action. Show them what consideration looks like in the situations they face each day. Instruct them in the moment. Find ways to help them curb their selfishness and serve others.
When you do this you’re helping them live an examined and intentionally obedient life. These kinds of exercises will help them learn to apply the truths of scripture and become a doer of the word of God instead of a hearer only (James 1:22).
4. Be consistent
There’s not much more that I can say about this one. You simply have to stay up on this. Your kids won’t, so you have to.
5. Ask questions
Ask your kids questions about their lives, their friends, their experiences, their desires. Listen for opportunities to discuss those things in light of applying consideration. Help them see their mistakes, their need to be more considerate. Help them discover practical things they can do to correct their errors and avoid them in the future.
6. Encourage them in Christ
If you do #1 through #5 all by themselves, you’ll come across as an scratchy, broken record of “consideration condemnation.” You’ve got to make sure that you add encouragement to the mix. As you listen and observe, point out the victories. Call out the successes. Tell one child how you saw another being considerate. Praise them for it (in a biblical way) in the hearing of the other children. Help your children see that Christ truly IS living in and through them as they are endeavoring to become more considerate.
Celebrate when you see Jesus producing fruit in them. Make it a happy time. Enjoy what God is doing in your kids in ways that they can see.