“Buy me that toy.” “Change the tv channel - my favorite show is on.” “Mommy - get off the computer- I’m bored.” Do any of these sound familiar? They are all statements we may have heard from our own children and brushed off as childish behavior. While interactions like these do happen, they should never become normal. Unchecked, your children can continue to develop these selfish qualities more and more.
Children usually do not make these statements out of malice for other people, but out of their understanding for their own needs and desires. The only thing that matters to them is what they want at that specific time. The key is to stop this behavior when it happens – right away. Do not make excuses for and tolerate it.
How many times have your children tugged at your clothing or verbally demanded your attention to tell you something while you were on the phone? The next time they do this tell them that you are having a conversation and that you will speak to them when it is over. Be firm and polite. And, be sure to actually speak with them about their inappropriate behavior and not go on to some other task. When you do, you can say something such as, “I was speaking with someone on the phone. Please do not interrupt me. Save it until I am done. I would love to talk about it after I’m finished.” Let them know that their actions were selfish and why. Catching them while they are doing the act is important to helping them stop it. Talking with them about it helps them understand what they are doing wrong and why their behavior is wrong.
Children may not always comprehend why being “self-centered” is wrong. Today’s Bible verse is very helpful. Philippians 2:3-4 says “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Prioritizing the needs of those around us above our own is important because God says it is. It brings out our best character, shows the people we interact with that we care for and respect them, and most of all, it is pleasing unto God. Being self-centered completely contradicts His Word.
Show your children that their thoughts and feelings should not be the only ones that are heard and respected. How are other children reacting to their selfish behavior? For example, if your son has a friend over to play, but he is refusing to share his toys, stop him, take him out of the room, and talk to him about it. Explain to him how his behavior is affecting his friend and making his friend feel. Ask him what he can do to make his friend’s visit more pleasant. When the discussion has finished, have him return to the room and observe his behavior to make sure that he is actually following through on different, kinder behavior.
When you observe your children being considerate of others and not being selfish, let them know that out loud to reinforce their positive behavior. This is one of the most important ways to stop selfish behavior. Take your time to describe the selfless act that was done and make it clear that everyone benefits when they act that way.
As parents, we want to be there for our children and provide for their needs. It’s their constant wants and demands that we need to control so that they do not control us.