27. Teach your children to serve others. One of the inherent dangers of all these affirming efforts is an unhealthy pride that can infiltrate your family. How do we tell our children they are special without puffing them up? How do we affirm our kids, but not spoil or coddle them? How do we teach “everyone makes mistakes” while at the same time expecting them to improve and do their best in every endeavor? Welcome to the balancing act called parenting.
So much of our parenting wisdom goes into finding the balance between love and control, between fairness and generosity, between reward and punishment, between activity and margin, between giving an allowance and making our children to earn their money. And finally, today’s topic: the balance between affirmation and an attitude of humility.
The answer is not to lessen the affirmation. The answer is to raise the humility. And we do this by teaching our children the importance of love and the service that flows from it. Love one another is the greatest commandment of the New Testament. In the book of I Corinthians – specifically chapter 13 – we learn that love trumps knowledge, love supersedes our gifts and giftedness, and love is even greater than faith itself. Love is the answer to pride, strife, envy, and disharmony in both the home and the church.
Teaching our children that love trumps knowledge, gifts, and faith is not only biblical, but practical as well in preparing them for the mission in life that God has for them. Our son, Josh, was not taken aback by the decadence in the residence halls of the secular university he attended known for its art and music programs. He had been taught that all people are worthy of our love and this helped him overcome the fear of such an in-your-face experience. He and his wife, Erica, are now teaching their children what serving out of love looks like. Our daughter, Elizabeth, befriended her manager at her first job in Boston. He is a gay man who is curious why Elizabeth is the first professing Christian he has known who was not mad at him. Our daughter, Annie, and son-in-law, Matthew, moved their family to Burkina Faso, West Africa to follow a specific mission God has for them. Their desire to serve their new neighbors, motivated by love, was stronger than their fear of sickness and loneliness. Our daughter, Bethany, walked through the contaminated and flooded streets of India aware of her natural phobia of germs, but overcame her fear by the love she had for the destitute, dying and demented she was going to serve. Our son, Joe, served as a counselor to incoming freshmen at Texas A&M, overcoming his inclination to shyness by love for the new students and a desire to give back as he had been blessed by his Impact experience.
I am not sharing these things to build up our own family. I am trying to make the point that when you teach your children that all people are loved by God and worthy of our love, it prepares them for the path God has for them in their adult life. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13).