How do we teach our children to love others, to be others aware, to treat others as precious.  All these phrases probably roll off your tongue as easily as they roll off mine – this idea of our children putting others first, treating others with respect and even honour was something that we wanted for our family.  It is a very counter-cultural idea these days.  It is a challenge to live it out even as an adult.  But it certainly reflects God’s heart which is why we are talking about that today – how to teach our kids to be others focused.

The Bible tells us to love God and love others – it is the commandment given to us by Jesus.  As Christians this should be our mode of operation – this command should be at the fore of our mind in whatever we are doing.

As Christian parents, this becomes the standard we want to teach our children to live by.  

Christian parents have the two-pronged objective in family life:

  1. To live their life as a follower/disciple of Jesus themselves (and therefore love God and love others)
  2. To teach our kids all that Jesus taught, and to make them disciples (so that they too love God and love others).

One way we do that is to make God’s commands to us the framework of our family culture.  

I’m sure you’ve seen the home decor signs that say “In this family we …” or “In our family we…”  In our family we do real, we do 2nd chances, we do forgiveness, we do grace and so forth.  I grew up with my parents saying, and they had a sign – As for me and my house we will serve the Lord – You’ll recognise that as a quote from Joshua from the Bible. 

Whether you have a sign or not – every Christian family should be saying – In our family we love God and love others.

Now, just a little sidestep here because when I say that I hear objections in the back of my head.  But what if our kids decide to not love God.  And of course that happens and it grieves our parent heart.  But the sign is a reminder – the standard is what we are working towards.

We don’t question those decor signs – In this family we Tell the Truth or Always forgive.  But we know that isn’t true.  We are often slow to forgive and often tempted to tell just a little lie!  But the family standard is – truth and forgiveness.  

Loving God and Loving others – is what you are holding up as your standard – something you are walking towards.

When we say something is a standard we think of this line up here – above where we are, possibly even above what we think we can achieve.  We put this standard up there.  It is like a rule, maybe a bit gentler than a rule still something we aspire to but doubt we can attain.  Its a colloquial saying that often puts pressure on us.  But what if we go back to the original meaning of that.  A standard was the flag that held the coat of arms on it and it was like the home base.  It gave a message – everyone come here – this is us.  It was used in battle so they knew where they belonged.

The standard (the banner) that is held up – isn’t man made rules, but rather the Word of God that tells us what God wants of us.  It is like His gathering point and His call to battle.

So the standard we lived UNDER (Pete and I still do) was

  1. God is God and in this house we respect His ways.  
  2. God wants us to love others – we will treat people with respect and put others first

 

Todays question is – how do we teach our children to love others?

 

The first way is like I’ve already said – we need to have that as our family standard – We love because God asks it of us.  Or Jesus commanded us to do that.  

Second way is to intentionally and specifically teach our children how to do that.  How do they love others, how do they love others when others are being annoying and unloveable, how do they love others when they’ve been hurt, how do they love others when they really don’t want to! 

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

 

And I think going to the Scriptures is the best place for learning how to love others.  There is over 50 verses that help us understand how to relate to others.

Whenever we are learning to live out a character trait – or a One Another verse we would always follow the same process.

  • Understand what it means, and what it looks like in action.
  • Discuss ways to live it out in our life
  • To intentionally find times, or create opportunities to practice doing it.

 

Here are some of the easiest ones to start with (and by easiest I mean, easy to find application in our family life)

  • Serve one another – Galatians 5:13
  • Accept one another – Romans 15:7
  • Greet one another – Romans 16:16
  • Use your gifts to benefit another – 1 Peter 4:1
  • Pray for one another – James 5:16

 

If you take one of those verses and focus on that for at least a week, if not a month you will start to see your children living this out – because it becomes a normal way of living in your family.

Take serving each other for example.  As you read the Scripture and remind your children of what God requires of you – that you love God, and love others – then you start to discuss what does it mean to serve each other?  You can answer objections (I’m sure you’ll have some especially if you have tweens or teens – after all serving another person is not our normal way of thinking or doing – not in our society any way.)

This is why it has to become normalised in your family – it has to become the way you think, it has to become the normal way of doing things – loving others, treating them with kindness, respect and honour is your family way.

So what does serving look like?

  • You see someone who needs help – you stop doing what you are doing and help them.
  • You see someone having a hard day – you find time to do something that will help them or make their day a little lighter.

Serving someone means that we see a need and step in and meet it.  It is a selfless act – as in we don’t expect praise for doing it or a reward of any kind.  See how counter-cultural this is!  Not only is it counter-cultural it cuts across our self-focused tendencies – we want at least to be recognised if we do something good for someone – and our kids are no different.  But that is not what serving is about.  

Can you see the breadth of conversations you can have with your kids around the idea that because God tells us to love others we need to find ways to serve people around us.  

Now, something else you may need to address is that others are the people in your family.  Recently at a kids’ talk in church the kids were really quick to talk about others being the kids at school, and even the kids at Sunday school but much slower to recognise that their sibling or their parents were the people in their lives that they needed to treat with love, respect, honour, kindness etc.   So you may need to have that conversation as well.

The Heart Attitude of Loving

The other important thing that goes hand in hand with this is the heart attitude.  We provide the information – our children have to decide to believe it.  That is what heart-focused parenting is all about – helping our children hold beliefs and values that direct their choices consistent with God’s word. 

So while we show them the practical outworking of how to love others and treat them as special, we also have to help them deal with their own heart. Until they choose to see others as God sees them, they will just be doing the outward actions that we have set as our family ways – but their heart will still be selfish, still self-focused and they’ll struggle to really treat others as God would have them to do.  

Relating to each other in our family is an opportunity to help our children see that their heart is self-focused and not God-directed.  It is an opportunity to teach our children that God is God, that He loves all people, that He wants us to turn from our selfish ways, and follow Him.  

Heart-Focused Action Step

The heart-focused action step for this week is to consider how well your children treat each other and how well they treat you because you are a person made in God’s image as well. 

Download the One Another verses sheet I have for you and think about how each verse is lived out in your family. (see button below)

Take one verse – and focus on it for a week.  After you talk about it have a rotation where each person can be intentional about living out that action in their relationship with one other person in the family.  For example,

On Monday I’m intentional about serving Peter

On Tuesday I’m intentional about serving Joshua

On Wednesday I’m serving Jess

And so forth – rotating through each member of my family till the end of the week.

Every person rotates through so we each have a different person each day – all learning and practicing to serve one another.

Hope that makes sense!! I have written this out in the download so you can do this in your family.

The more familiar you are with the One Another verses the easier it becomes to teach your children to treat other people as precious, or as special because you’ll have plenty of opportunity throughout the days to pull your child up and direct them to the right heart attitude and right action – based on the standard of loving God and loving others.

 

Further Reading:

A Simple Command but so hard to do: Love One Another: To follow Jesus’ command to love one another I need to see that it is God’s love in me that enables this to happen.

Do you Intentionally Teach your Children Good Manners?  Manners are important but we should ask why we teach good manners to our kids before they start expecting their kids to behave with manners. 

Teach your Children to Serve Others: When our children serve others they are developing both life skills and relationship skills.

Laugh with your Family: Do you laugh with your family? Laughter maintains perspective and lightens the load, creates memories and builds relationships.

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