It is more important than ever to teach our children behavior that models the Golden Rule. After all, the behavior commanded in that rule is biblical. It’s living in a way that honors God and loves others as He does.
by Carolyn Larsen, bestselling author of more than 40 books for kids and adults
Recently I heard about a young boy who got into trouble at school for doing something unkind to a classmate. When asked why he did what he did, the boy said, “I was just doing the Golden Rule. Why did that get me into trouble?”
“Exactly what do you think the Golden Rule is?” his teacher asked.
“Do unto others before they do unto you,” the young boy answered. The other student had been unkind to him before, so in his mind, his actions were self-protection.
He was close . . . so close on the Golden Rule, but his interpretation had morphed into a “Get the other guy first” mentality instead of a kindness mentality.
This story struck a chord with me because of the not-so-simple topic of bullying. Sadly, it seems that unkindness is at an all-time high these days. Our culture is filled with a “Me First” and “I’m Most Important” attitude rather than an attitude of kindness, helping others and lifting others up. It is more important than ever to teach our children behavior that models the Golden Rule. After all, the behavior commanded in that rule is biblical. It’s living in a way that honors God and loves others as He does.
At a summer camp I attended as a teenager, the counselors selected one camper each session to receive an award for modeling JOY, which stood for “Jesus, Others, You.” Campers modeled JOY by putting Jesus first in their lives—honoring Him in love and obedience by putting others before themselves. See the progression? Jesus first—honor Him. Obey Him. Love Him. That will lead you to want to honor others by loving them and helping them. Then comes you. Not everything is all about you. Shocking, huh? That mind-set certainly goes against our world today. But that’s good, isn’t it? Because we are not to be OF this world even though we live IN this world. Christians are to be salt and light. We are to be different, and that difference is to show the world what God is like by how we live our lives. We carry the name of Christ, so we must show the heart of Christ.
Too often, children see selfishness, unkindness, and even bullying modeled all around them by adults as well as other children, and they may be tempted to slide into that same behavior, perhaps just to fit in, or to grab the position or recognition they feel (or have even been told) they deserve.
So how can we help children push back against the “I’m Most Important” attitude that bombards them?
Well, it’s not easy, but here are a few suggestions:
1. Keep conversation open with your children. Listen to what they talk about and what they are observing—how they see other children being treated. Ask whether they are comfortable with the behaviors they see.
2. Listen to what they say about other kids. Do you hear criticism or negative comments about others? Do they say hurtful things to try to be funny? Talk with your children about those attitudes, and help them see the pain they may cause others by their words.
3. Remind your children who they belong to. Remind them how open Jesus was to people who were different, poor, grieving, or shunned by others.
4. Together, memorize Bible verses that encourage loving others, kindness, and compassion. Here are a few to start with:
1 John 4:7-8
5. Help your children understand that they do not have to sink to the behavior of those who are mean to others. Encourage your children to be the better people, to be willing to stand up for kids who are oppressed by others.
More than anything else, model good behavior for your children. Make sure your children see you being kind and considerate to others, from store clerks to restaurant servers to other drivers. Remember that your children are watching you and will follow your example in what you say and how you behave.
One of my favorite reminder verses is Hebrews 10:24: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” The trend in our society will change only with intentional behavior by adults as we teach our children to be kind, understanding, and fair and to lift others up instead of knocking them down.
By Carolyn Larsen, author of more than fifty books in the Christian market, including the popular For Girls Only! Devotions, Princess Stories, and the upcoming Inspire Bible for Girls. Carolyn loves to laugh, read good books, and encourage other women in their faith walk. Her encouragement comes through her honesty, transparency, and humor regarding her own struggles to be God’s woman in today’s world. In addition to being an author, Carolyn is an actress and experienced speaker with a God-given passion for ministering to women. She has spoken at conferences and retreats around the United States, Canada and India.
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