The most mature character attribute that a parent can teach their child is altruism. Altruism is giving out of concern for another without any regard to oneself.
If you think about it, an “altruistic child” is an oxymoron because the process of growing up is pretty self-centered. Children are inherently selfish until they mature. A childish person is often a self-oriented person; these two traits go together.
Yet children can learn as they are growing that they can comfort with the comfort that they themselves have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Altruism does not act out of feelings of guilt, duty, obligation, wanting to look good in front of others, or because someone wants to mark a checkbox on their list of ‘religious deeds done.’
It’s a condition of the heart which is the essence of God’s love. This is why God sent his Son to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
Precious parents, if you want your children to grow and have this wonderful quality of Christ, then they must see you model it for them in their everyday life.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
Contrary to what many might think, these life lessons are not learned through huge, grand gestures that cause some magnificent spiritual awakening to happen in your child. Altruism, like every spiritual principle, is learned through the daily routines of life as children watch the examples that you live right in front of their little eyes.
- Holding the door open for a person behind you at the gas station or grocery store
- Making a sack lunch and giving it to the homeless person you see every week
- Stopping to help the distraught woman with 3 kids and a flat tire on the side of the road
- Visiting Sweet Aunt Bertha and taking her homemade bread and some groceries (even if her house has a ‘unique’ odor *wink*)
- Sending a friend a handwritten card that says: “I love you & am glad you’re in my life.”
Research has shown that altruism makes us happy, is good for our health, is good for our love lives, helps fight addiction, promotes social connections, is good for education and is contagious! Now that’s one ‘virus’ I hope that everyone gets!
So reward your children when they show compassion for others, and let them see your altruism toward others while encouraging the same in them.
Friends, what greater joy can there be for a parent than to see the blossoming of Christlike character develop in your child’s heart? Indeed, how beautiful it will be to see a loving person bloom and mature before your eyes.
And that, dear parents, is the highest goal and greatest calling of parenthood!
Christy Demetriades, Ph.D.