Putting others first

My Kindergartener and I were talking after dinner about her lesson at church today. “Putting others first”, she replied. Wanting to see to what degree she understood her own answer, I asked her if she could give me example.

She said something about when you’re in line at the candy store and let someone else go in front of you, you’re putting others first…which, is technically correct but it also seemed a bit Willy Wonkaish to me.

Wanting to make sure she understood the concept in her own life context, I began searching my brain for a real-life example of someone in our family putting someone else first.

My kindergartener flitted away to battle one of her siblings for a Wii remote before I could come up with something earth-shattering, but as I finished cleaning up the kitchen, I continued to travel down the tracks of this thought.

Since we had just eaten dinner, I realized that I had spent almost half the meal “putting others first” by making sure everyone else’s plates were full, and that their foods were cut and ketchuped before I ever took my own first, luke-warm bite. It’s how I put someone else first.

My husband has literally fallen out of his clips trying to ride his bike slowly enough for our preschooler to “beat him” riding bikes around the loop in our neighborhood. It’s how he puts someone else first.

It got me to thinking, Dan and I pretty much spend our LIVES putting our kids first. Yet, they seem totally clueless and oblivious to the fact that we are letting them take the biggest chocolate chip cookie, foregoing personal enjoyment by giving one of them the exhilaration of opening the package that just arrived for ME in the mail, or saying “no” to our own hobbies so our family can go somewhere together…well, together.

I wondered if my kids were so hard-pressed to come up with examples of putting others first because we grown ups as a whole are too modest and quiet about telling others when we are putting aside our own desires and putting others first.

No, we are not supposed to boast or be proud, but are we going so far in the the opposite direction that we’re failing to model and teach good behavior to our kids?

Are we so subtle that they don’t see or realize that we’re living out Godly principles? If my kids aren’t seeing me live out godly principles, then I. Am. Failing.

No one wants to admit that they are a failure. But once you admit it, coming up with a solution to rectify it and then committing to follow through is the only way to make up for the shortcoming.

So how does a parent successfully teach their child to put others before themselves without either guilting their children into doing it, or being proud and boasting every time they do it?

Practically, I think a good teacher would be wise to call attention to good behavior in a positive light. Have you ever watched a teacher of young children say, “Henry, I see that you are ready for our story by the way you are sitting so quietly with your hands folded together and your eyes looking right at me. Great job following directions”? Suddenly all the other tots in the room leap onto the good behavior wagon as they scurry to find a spot to sit still as a statue, fold their hands as tightly as possible, look at the teacher with flying saucer eyes and radiating the message that they want to be noticed and lathered with praise as well. I guess that means we need to study our kids, be watching for them to put others first and praise it to the heavens.

One of the verses in my memory plan this week is Philippians 2:3-4.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

I think my answer lies right there. If I am thinking of my kids, or anyone else, more than myself, God will help me succeed in striking the balance between instructing and modeling this principle to them without acting like a martyr having a prideful heart that wants to make sure they notice when I am putting someone else first.


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