Teaching Children the Importance of Sacrifice

In an article about helping children learn to sacrifice, author Duane E. Hiatt wrote begins by stating how infants are “self-absorbed, uninhibited, spontaneous, [and] sit in the center of their own universe surrounded by mirrors that reflect their cuteness.” While these characteristics are expected and even necessary for survival in an infant, these are not desirable attitudes to deal with in teenagers. What does Hiatt suggest to turn this attitude around when it is no longer necessary or helpful to you or your child?  He suggests that parents should actively help their children turn the “mirrors of self-importance, self-concern, and plain selfishness into windows to look out on and respond to the needs of others.” To assist our efforts as parents to encourage our children to look beyond themselves, Hiatt goes on to offer the following principles:

Enjoy your successes. Every now and then, you’ll witness your child exemplify the character traits you are trying to instill in him. When that happens, revel in your victory. Your child isn’t perfect and won’t always make good decisions. However, when you actually see a glimpse of the responsible, caring adult your child will be one day, be excited and proud–of your child and yourself. Clearly your efforts have not been in vain so praise your kids for their efforts and keep up your efforts to instill integrity and other good values in your kids. 

Cheer for your children. Our children do try and we need to praise their efforts. According to Hiatt, “honest compliments are easier to come up with when the children’s sacrifices fill real needs and not parental make-work projects.” This implies that we need to have opportunities in our homes for children to be able to fulfill real needs, even if it is as simple as doing the dishes or taking the trash out.

Build togetherness. Choosing to take time as a family to sacrifice and serve others can be a great blessing to families. The Hiatt family consisted of 15 children, so there were often times the family had to do without. What mattered most to them was that they were able to enjoy quality time with each other. Hiatt said, “What might seem to some people a sacrifice of privacy was and is to them a blessing of companionship.”

Build traditions. Make a habit of spending time together. Make it a tradition to serve a different family each month. Build service activities into your holiday traditions.

Give for the fun of it. The Hiatt family had the tradition of “no paybacks.” When siblings did something nice for one another, they wouldn’t keep tabs on who owed who what. They served one another for the fun of it, for the love that grew for each other from that service.

Work Together. Choosing to have the family work together can be established while the family and children are still young. Parents don’t need to pay their children to work, but can find other rewards to encourage their children to participate in the work that needs to be done.

The world today of selfies and the focus on “me” does not make it easy to raise children who are not self-centered. Following these principles can help children and families learn to serve each other and look to help those around them.

Image from: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02018/autumn-tidy-3_2018420b.jpg

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