Last week we talked about creating the family standard in our home that we love God and love others. And I particularly focused on how we can teach our children to love others – or to honour others by looking at the One Another verses in the Bible. As I applied that in our family – way back in the day – I had a realisation that as my kids lived with me I had an incredible training opportunity that I was missing. Looking back I believe that picking up on this key has been central to the relationship that I have with my kids now. Listen in as I share this mindset shift that will change your parenting too.
I want my kids to be other’s focused:
Phil 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” This is one of the key verses that reminds us to teach our children to show deference or preference to other people – to be on the lookout for what others need, and how we can be a blessing to others.
As I set about to teach my kids how to live out the One Another verses – like I talked about last week in Episode #33 I asked myself, “Who are these “other people” in my child’s life?”
I suddenly realised I was one of the ‘other people’!
Once I realised that, suddenly every interaction I had with my kids was a training opportunity for them to consider the other person – to learn to be others focused.
We usually see ourselves as ‘just mum’ but to Jesus we aren’t ‘just mum’ we are a precious person, made in God’s image, loved by God, and redeemed by Jesus’ love and sacrifice. We are one of the ‘other’ people God wants our children to love.
And if we go through those one another verses (if you haven’t downloaded the printable list then you can still do that – the link will be in the Show Notes with this episode as well as last week). So if we go through these One Another verses – we are the other person our children can greet, be patient with, pray for, serve, love, honour, and so forth.
I know we probably teach our kids to do those things as an aspect of respect but when we see ourselves as an “other person’ we suddenly create so many training opportunities where we can bring to our children’s attention the opportunity they have to show love, honour, deference etc to another person.
Sometimes it helps if we look at where we want to be at the end of a journey to see what we need to do to get there. So if you look at the end of your directive parenting what do you want your relationship with your kids – remember these kids will be 18 and continuing to grow older. What do you want your relationship with your adult kids to be like?
My heart gets such a thrill when my kids ask me how I’m doing, when they remember that I’m struggling with something they follow up with concern and interest. They know my likes, they know my foibles, my strengths and weaknesses. They know me – and they relate to me as a person. Which of course includes being their mum – but it is too easy to define a mother-child relationship by authority – our relationship is defined because they value me as a person in their life.
Let’s go through some of the One Another verses with considering me, a mum as a person in the eyes of my children:
To love others: One of the ways we show love to each other is to use good manners. So at home, every time I did something for my kids, or gave them something they had an opportunity to say thank you. Or every time they wanted something they had an opportunity to say please. Please and thank yous are just the basics of good manners and you are probably already doing that since please and thankyous are some of the first manners we teach our kids. But we practiced many other good manners as I interacted with my kids daily. (Actually I have a podcast on teaching manners – Episode #5 – once again I’ll leave the link in the Show Notes)
Some key good manners to be aware of:
- Using kind words and gentle voices
- Making eye contact
- Being interested in what they are doing
- Asking questions
- Interrupting with respect
There are so many ways we show love or good manners and yet sometimes we let our kids become over familiar with us and we let these things slide in the busy of family life. But every time we hold our child to loving us with good manners we are teaching them that people matter, mum is a people and she matters.
To serve others: to help others, to be hospitable. In order to serve someone or be helpful you have to first of all notice a need. As a mum I made space for my children to help me – it was a culture we developed. The kids helped me by carrying in the groceries, they helped me by looking after a younger sibling, they helped me by answering the phone and taking a message (in the days before mobile!!). These things were my responsibilities that I asked my kids to help me with.
As with most things – first of all, I needed to point out the need. “Hey, Josh I need a hand, can you please bring the groceries in for me? Thank you.” Then after a while, our kids start seeing these opportunities themselves and they choose to be helpful – they offer. “Hey Mum I can bring the groceries in for you.”
When we create a habit or a culture of loving others, and when we teach why this is important, our children can transfer the habits and choices to other situations. So they learnt to help me, but when they were with other people, they were still helpful: they had learnt to see a need and learnt the skills of filling that need.
To greet others: The Bible says greet each other with a holy kiss. It is a very intentional greeting. It is a greeting where you make contact! Though we didn’t always kiss we did make it a habit of greeting each other each morning – and saying good night at the end of the day. Touching base with each other sets the tone for the rest of the day. I also expected them to greet each other – but the first training ground was greeting me.
- Because I’m a person, precious in God’s sight, and hopefully in theirs. And
- Because I’m teaching and training them to see other people and say hello!
To be concerned for others: Our kids aren’t going to pick up on needs automatically – neither are they going to know how to respond to a need. But they can be taught.
This one may be the trickiest because we often don’t even recognise our own needs let alone be honest enough and point them out to our kids so our kids can do something about it! But if we are going to use our relationship to teach and train our kids we have to get over this.
I was honest with my kids when I was tired, in pain or not well. How can they care for me or show me concern if they don’t know my struggles?
I would say – I’ve woken up with a sore back today so one way you can help me is by taking on the laundry today. And when they did that I would come back and them and say – thank you for doing the laundry, helping me that way was really caring for me.
Another way I taught my kids to see a need and respond was, I would put a pause in the activity and talk them through it. For example, I would say, “Good morning, how did you sleep? Or, Good morning, how are you today?” They would answer me and then I would prompt them by saying – “Now would be a good time to ask me the same questions – that shows that you are concerned about me, or thinking about me not just yourself and your breakfast!” So we’d pause moving on so we could go through the process of them asking me the same question. It may seem contrived – and it is – but it is for the sake of teaching and training.
Whenever we learn a new skill it is always awkward in those early stages. Moral training and lifeskills are no different.
To pray for others: When I taught my kids to pray I would start off by brainstorming different things they could pray for. It wasn’t until I started seeing myself as one of the ‘other’ people my kids could pray for that I started to include my needs in the brainstorming. So let your children pray for you – I would let my children pray for me when I wasn’t well, we would gather around and a couple of them would pray for me – just as I would pray for them. So it is creating this lifestyle of caring and bringing our cares to the Lord, by praying for each other.
To honour others: One way we honour each other is by interrupting respectfully. I certainly wanted my kids to interrupt others respectfully and I had the opportunity at home to teach them to interrupt me which not only showed me respect, but it is a very transferrable skill that they could take what they learnt while interacting with me, and do the same when interacting with other people.
I always found it frustrating that my kids needed something as soon as I was on the phone! Well, I used this to my advantage. I taught them that talking on the phone was me having a conversation with another person and they needed to interrupt in a way that showed me and my friend respect. This then carried over into other conversation situations (more face to face) where they wanted to interrupt.
You may have heard of the interruption courtesty where we taught them to put their hand on my arm and wait until I was free to talk to them. To help them understand that I knew they were waiting for me, I would put my hand on their hand. I would then excuse myself from my conversation, and then talk to the child. As they grew older, they would also say excuse me to both myself and my friend before they said whatever they needed to say. Eventually they were able to do this without the hand, and just wait and say excuse me at the appropriate time.
I also taught them to interrupt my thinking time with respect. They didn’t just walk into a room talking at me, and if I had earbuds in, then they had to interrupt with courtesy and wait till I was ready to talk to them.
When we start to see ourselves as a person whom our kids need to put above themselves, we will start the training – finding all sorts of ways to give them practice!
To forgive others: We often went over the skill of how to say sorry, how to apologise. And yes, when our kids did something to hurt me, they had to apologise. But there is a flip side too. When I did something that was inappropriate or wrong, and I had to apologise to them – it was an opportunity for them to learn how to forgive. We need to teach our kids to say sorry and to say I forgive you. Both are necessary for restoring relationships after a hurt.
Treat Mum as an Other Person
There are so many values that I wanted my kids to live out – and I am sure you have the same desire. We want our kids to care for the sick, to listen to people, to respect other people’s property, to notice other people’s efforts. Each of these and many other values that I wanted to teach my children could be taught and practiced by recognizing myself as a person who my kids needed to be considerate towards.
So often we let our kids be rude to mum and we only pull it up when we’ve reached our limit – and yet at the same time we teach them they should be respectful to all people. When we start to see ourselves as someone who should be loved, respected, cared for then we can teach our kids to do just that. We interact with our kids so much throughout the day and every interaction is an opportunity to teach them how to be others focused and consider the needs of the other person.
Heart-focused Action Step
The first thing we need to do if we are going to pick up on this idea is to acknowledge that we are indeed a person to whom our children should show deference to. Not out of authority but because we are a person. This is the key switch in our thinking. We aren’t demanding it because we are an authority figure – we are teaching it because we are a person.
Deference is when we put the well-being of others ahead of our own pleasures. Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another. This might be a character-based response or value you need to discuss further in your family.
Once you’ve got your head around this perspective shift – start to look for the times in your day when your child could treat you like you’d like them to treat another person. If you’d like them to treat their friends, or your sister, or your neighbour, or a person at church a certain way – then that is how they need to treat you – not because you are their mum, but because you are a person in their life. Because people are important – people matter.
Start pointing out those situations and responses to your children. Start pointing out that you are there and they need to say hello, or help you, or ask about you. Start pointing out that you have needs and they are in a position to meet those needs.
And remember, whenever we teach our children a right response, or maybe we are reminding them, we need to include why this is the right response.
It is the right response because God tells us to show deference to each other – to consider others more important than ourselves – and Mum is one of those other people.
Remember to download your copy of the One Another verses that you can use in training your children’s hearts. As they continue to love each other, love other people, and love you as well – because you are a people and you matter!
A Simple Command but so Hard to do: 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.
Significant ways your Children can show Respect: Respect is the basic virtue that drives so many choices; both attitudes and actions. Parents can teach their children to show respect in everyday situations.
Develop Good Habits in your Family: Just as we develop good habits in our own life, we can practice good habits as a whole family: good habits or bad habits.
If you are Tired, be Prepared to make Changes: Being tired is a consequence and if we want to live our life to the full we need to make changes; big or little.
Hi there! I'm Belinda and I'm glad you are here!
I am a family life coach and help parents to raise their kids with faith, values and life skills in a way that is intentional, relational and heart-focused. Read more on the About page
You can learn about heart-focused parenting through my podcast, blog and weekly email (Heart Boosters).
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