Raising children is definitely the most challenging thing you’ll ever have to do--- and also the most rewarding. It’ll call into play all your resources, soak up all your patience, and sap every last bit of energy from you. At the same time, it’ll give you many, many moments of inexpressible joy, fill your cup of love so full that you can’t hold another drop, and make you altogether a better person.
What is raising children all about? Bringing a tiny, absolutely vulnerable, entirely dependent newborn child into his or her future as an independent, thinking, loving, adult; a person who will make the difference in the world for the better. In between, we get to share with this new person the magical moments of childhood and the tempestuous season of adolescence, but it’s all part of the same grand game.
In nurturing children one of the most important things we can teach our children is to love and to care for others. If your child misses that lesson, he misses everything. Sure, he may grow up to be a successful adult and rake in millions of dollars, but he’ll be living a tormented, miserable existence all the same.
How do we raise a child who cares; who knows how to empathize, who is able to put others before himself? The best way is to model this behavior in your own life. If you consistently put yourself first, you should not expect anything different from your child. Your little angel is likely to grow up a selfish brat, and you have only yourself to blame.
If, on the other hand, you model love, sharing, and self-sacrifice for your child, and especially if you take every opportunity to include your child in it, and discover for himself that ‘it is better to give than to receive’, you can look forward to spending many wonderful hours with the beautiful person your child becomes.
• Fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child at Christmas time, and let your child be an active participant in choosing what to put in.
• Make meals with your child for people in your community who are sick, old, or dealing with difficult circumstances.
• Help your child to make get-well cards for anyone who is sick, or “I’m thinking of you” cards for older people in your community.
• Ask for your child’s help in planning a surprise for daddy, brother, sister, or grandma. Get your child’s input on the best way to make the person feel special, and enact your plan together, as a joint project.
These are only a few examples of sowing love while bringing up children—if you start thinking, you’ll think of many more! The key is that you are working in partnership with your child to make life better for another person; putting a relative strangers needs first; and that you are doing this with a cheerful, happy spirit.
If you serve others in a grumbling way, your child will pick up a very clear message: helping others might be something we ought to do, but it is only done out of a sense of duty; it is not something fun, not something to want to do! Such a child will avoid anything like the ‘charity’ he saw you do when he is old enough to choose his own way. It is better not to do an act of service at all than to do it in a bad spirit.
Forcing a child to do a thoughtful act that they don’t want to is also very counterproductive. Children love to make others happy, naturally, so if you stage it the right way your child will excited to join you in making life better for someone else.
Raising children is a joy, an adventure, and it’s something you can’t afford to mess up.