The World Doesn’t Revolve Around Your Child (Or Mine)

 

I’m going to say something that flies in the face of everything our culture stands for:

The world does not revolve around your children.  Or mine.  Or you or me, for that matter.

There, I said it.

I read an article on Friday that really made me think.  This article claimed that modern American children are, as a whole, the most indulged, spoiled children in all of history.  Prince Charming and I were talking about this and we both tended to agree with this statement, but we also recognized that we (the adults) are indulged and spoiled as well.  It’s no wonder that our children are when that is the standard that we have set.  And it certainly is hard not to be self-consumed and over-indugled when everything around us screams “IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU.  GO ON, PLEASE YOURSELF THIS VERY MINUTE.  YOU DESERVE IT”.

(One of my biggest struggles is selfishness and self-consumption, so this post is really just me processing through all of these thoughts swirling in my head.  After all, need this lesson more than ANYONE!)

The trends in parenting are so interesting to me.  Less than 100 years ago the parenting pendulum was more on the “children should be seen and not heard” and border-line neglectful side of the pendulum.  One-hundred years ago, children were expected to work on the family farm or at the family business.  Life didn’t revolve around them, in fact young children were probably sometimes seen as a hindrance to the work that needed to be done.

Fast-forward to 2012, where our society tells us that we aren’t “good parents” if our entire lives don’t revolve around our children. After all, it is our responsibility for ensuring they are happy, smart, and well-adjusted with a room full of toys at 2, a car at age 16, and fully-paid college tuition at 18.

As with everything, there needs to be a balance.  We need to recognize that our children are gifts from God, priceless treasures that should be loved and nurtured, molded with loving discipline and guidance, and showered with our love (not things).

But that doesn’t mean that we need to entertain them for 8 hours of everyday and base everything in our lives around their needs, wants, and desires.  We most certainly need to spend time playing, teaching, and reading to our children but we also need to teach them to be thoughtful of others and outwardly focused.

There’s a problem with this “theory”, however.

We can’t just go on, living life normally in the way society tells us to.  You see, our children get their cues from us.  They model what they see us do.

If we are constantly feeding our own desires, that’s what our kids are going to think is “normal” and “right” to do as adults.  So we need a reality check on our own hearts before we start making any progress towards raising thoughtful children.

The truth of the matter is, the world doesn’t really revolve around us or our children.  It revolves around the sun Son, just as it was created to.  

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”  -Psalm 150:6

God’s mission needs to be our mission and the mission of our families.  Rather than spending all of our time trying to entertain our kids and think of what other ways we can indulge them (and ourselves), we need to be thinking of how we can show our kids what it means to “Love the Lord our God with all our heart and love our neighbors” as Matthew 22 tells us is the greatest command.

 

What are some tangible ways that we can help our children be thoughtful of others, even while living in an indulgent society???

 

Photo credit (prior to the text)

Comments

  1. says

    *whew* This is so good, Jenae!

    It’s hard b/c my goal in life is to make sure my kids “turn out right”. And I spend my life giving to them. But oh, I don’t want to turn them into little coddled kids who can’t do anything by themselves!

    I remember when Lydia was little and she’d ask me to fast-forward songs on the CD player to get to her favorite. I never would b/c I didn’t want her getting her way in every little thing. I know that is the littlest thing, but I could see it clearly then, that she got whatever she wanted simply b/c she was my only and she was little. The older she gets, the harder it is to judge what should be “given” to her and what she should learn to do herself.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!
    a

    • says

      It is SO hard…especially since it seems to go against what even our own instincts tells us is “good parenting”. Pouring ourselves out for our kids is the first step (at least for me) of overcoming my selfish nature. But I think God wants us to go a step forward…by pouring our lives out for others as well, something I pretty much stink at.

      Thanks for your comment, Amanda! I ALWAYS value your feedback!

  2. says

    Love this post! My hubby and I were just talking about this same thing as we were returning from a mission trip this last week.

  3. Megan says

    I believe parents spoil their children because they feel guilty. I find many parents neglect their children emotionally because parents of this generation believe the world revolves around them, not their children. They go out, spend money they don’t have all while their children are home with a babysitter. They in turn run to Walmart the next day and buy them the newest toy out of guilt. I believe your children should be the center of your world. They need love, nurturing, education and spiritual guidance. All of that is a time consuming, hard task. They need a solid home with values and beliefs. People have children and expect the rest of the world to raise them all so they can go to happy hour after pulling a ten hour day at a job. Parents are the self-entitled ones creating monsters out of guilt and not wanting to take the time to raise their children.

    • Crystal G says

      You said exactly what I was thinking. We do spoil them.. with STUFF. As a whole, we don’t really spoil them all that much with attention or emotionally. Kids my son’s age watch TV an average of 5 hours a day. That only drops to 4 hours for school age children who are, for the most part, out of the home another 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Add video games and the fact that I see more and more parents buying very young ones… very expensive hand held video game systems, and the face to face time diminishes even more. And a key difference between the farm days and the days now, is there are a lot more families where there are two parents working. A lot more stress coming in from outside sources, and a lot of people are just ill equipped to deal with stress and wind up taking it home with them. Even when you’re at home, your mind is somewhere else. We feel guilty because we’re spread too thin. I don’t think kids are spoiled because we revolve our world around them at all, they’re spoiled and bad behaved because we’re not dealing with their issues, their feelings, we’re not there to discipline them, and even when we’re there physically, we’re not emotionally because we’re not even dealing with our own. We’ve placed a higher importance on stuff, than internal happiness. We value stuff more.

      • says

        Actually 100 years ago many families were two income families with the exception of the very rich. For poor women there was no choice to stay at home with their children since they needed money. However the children weren’t being babysat or in daycare instead they were being put to work as well. Here is an interesting article that discusses myths of the past (http://www.stephaniecoontz.com/articles/article10.htm).
        I do agree however that children watch WAY too much TV these days. I didn’t know the statistics but 5 hours a day is insane! My son is two and sleeps 12 hrs at night with a 2-3 hr nap during the day. If he watched 5 hours of TV there would only be four hours during the day that wouldn’t be spent sleeping or watching TV! However we’re only the other end and he gets about an hour a week, which even that makes me feel really guilty and like a horrible parent.

  4. says

    Ahhhh, I needed this.

    I am a firm believer in gentle discipline and parenting. However, I’m currently trying to “revamp” and find a happy medium. My understanding of being a wonderful mom was to completely unselfish. I’ve went hungry, held my pee, suffered, and held my children until my arms were shaking… all so they’d be sure to know how much I loved them.

    I can see the (not positive) result in my 3yr old :( I just spent an hour doing pretend play, reading, and crafting with him during his little brother’s nap. I told him that I needed some alone time and that he was welcome to play beside me. He’s currently pitching a fit and pulling at me to play some more. I’m trying to explain to him that “mommy wants to be happy, too”.

    I don’t want to go on and on. Your post just came at a time when my husband and I have decided to take a step back and re-evaluate our roles as slaves for a 1 and 3yr old, lol.

    • Shirelle says

      Neysa, I think it is very brave of you to reevaluate your situation and take your child’s well-being into account.

    • Casey says

      I am right there with you. I also have a one and a three year old. I do try to make sure I let them know when I need time to do thi gs aroud the house or talk to my husband. They of course get upset, especially my one year old, the I feel guilty. I have to remind myself that my priority is first and foremost love and serving the Lord, then my husband then my children. One thing I really want to do better at is taking my children as we serve others.

    • says

      I have had a similar experience with wanting to be “unselfish” with my kids but then finding that it backfired in a way that wasn’t helpful to them… with my first born I always tried to model “selfless sharing” with him. When we played together if he wanted a toy I had I ALWAYS gave it to him. I basically taught him that everything belong to him and if he asks, then he should expect to get it. With two younger siblings now, this doesn’t really work well! I’m starting to play differently. If I’m playing with a car beside my children and they ask for it or try to take it away, I say “Mommy is playing with the car right now, I will share it with you in a minute.” I definitely want to model selflessness with my children, but it is certainly a challenge to make sure that we do it in a way that doesn’t spoil them or make them think the world revolves around them. I totally understand your struggle in finding balance Neysa!

  5. Shirelle says

    There is a huge difference between your children being the center of your world than assuming your children are the center of the world. Just about everything I do, I do for the betterment of my children (my personal and public children). But that is not EVERYTHING. I have fun for myself which isn’t for my kids, but keeps me from becoming a pent up maniac. And neither of my children are monsters, although my son’s very active imagination gets him into trouble. I agree, parents are the creators of these problems. I see it all the time when conferencing with parents with child present or even watching the interactions with younger siblings during the conferences. There is a lot of damage being done when kids are made to believe the world revolves around them, because it absolutely DOES NOT.

  6. Christina says

    Wow, I really enjoyed reading your take on the article you mentioned. My husband and I read it as well, and also agreed as you did. As teachers we both see it often! We are always keeping these issues at the forefront of our minds. Our son is only three, but we are trying to ensure that he has an understanding of needs of others. We are trying to encourage him to do little things such as picking a toy to donate when he receives a new one, cooking his favorite bread or dessert, and serving it to others and just taking enjoyment in the happiness of others. We also work with him on waiting his turn to speak, allowing others to go first, etc. Some of these seem like common sense, but so often we see children who have difficulty with thinking of others at all. Hopefully with God’s guidance we will raise a son who is able to have a compassionate and giving heart despite all of societies cues. Thanks for touching on this important issue and reminding us to keep working at it!

  7. Tia says

    One of my biggest goals as a parent is to treat my children with respect. Teach them the way to treat others, by our examples of selfless service to each other in our family. Teaching them constructively and to be independent. Pointing out to them their inherently good qualities, while praising their hard work and choices when over coming a difficult obstacle. Parenting has pushed me further in my own self growth than any other thing in my life. My immediate instinct is to hover but I force myself to let them discover. Thanks for the chance to reevaluate my parenting today.

  8. says

    Great post. Parenting is a fine balance between supporting and encouraging our children, giving them opportunities to grow and develop while ensuring they don’t become self-centered.

  9. says

    Hi Jenae,

    The first question I would ask is whether these “world revolves around my child and I” parents are tv or non-tv viewers and what affects that has on the way they perceive parenting and engage in it.

    I’ve read research that shows non-tv viewing families report higher amounts of activity, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Further, children who are non-tv viewers, by the age of 14/15, report that they are happy to be non-tv viewers.

    TV is a very dramatic part of our culture.

    Thanks!
    –Paul

  10. says

    I’m trying to learn how to correct my little, little daughter (who’s almost 2 years old) with Scripture as I point us both toward the Lord regarding our selfish tendencies. I found that it’s been helpful for me to remind her in child-friendly 2 year old language that the Bible tells us “Do not be selfish, think of others” (from Philippians). I’ve tried to reinforce this particularly at times when she needs to share or when she needs to not interrupt some work I may be needing to accomplish whether it’s washing dishes or cleaning a toilet! She has seemed to understand in a more general way what it means, and mostly I think using Biblical language to define our sinful struggles and to correct them Biblically is teaching big truths that will bear fruit in the future, Lord willing.

  11. danielle says

    Two simple things that we are trying to do regularly are a) discuss what we are grateful for and b) specifically pray for the needs of others during our family prayers. I think these two things help young children to recognize their blessings and see the needs of others. It’s just the beginning, but it creates the right mindset and is age appropriate for young kids. Thanks for your post!

    • Eileen says

      I’ve worked with young children from an early age in the public school system and have seen the gamut of parenting skills. I’ve seen parents who totally ignore their children for their own pleasure to those who over indulge their children and they are spoiled brats. At conferences I will tell them how well behaved their child is in the room and they actually ask me if we are talking about the same child. Too many parents are afraid to tell their child ‘no’ or to hold them responsible for their actions for fear that their child will not like them. The child rules the house. Throw fits until they get their way. For those willing I share a lot of parenting skills. And if a parent believes in God I add that part in as well. It’s very rewarding to hear parents say their life is happier at home b/c they have become the parent God intended them to be. I heard a statement that really clarified my goal as a parent. “Our job was to raise my children so that they are ready to become a productive, responsible member of society when they grow up.? If I pamper them now, let them get their way a majority of the time, not set up rules and guidelines and expect them to follow, never allow them to experience defeat or rejection or push them to their max at times how will they know how to do this when they are own their own. Will their employer treat them like you do? Would you want a spouse who has always had their way. I’m a firm believer that children have to be accountable for their choices. If they know the guidelines and choose to make poor choices they must deal with the consequences. Correction done in love and matter of fact with out anger is an amazing tool. The children in my room can receive time out or a loss of a privilege for their bad choice and still run to me with a hug and tell me they love me b/c they know I love them. When I hear children say they are a bad boy. Obviously from a parent. I smile and tell them they “No you are not bad, you are wonderful you just made a bad choice.” What a joy to lift that lie off their shoulders. I’m now 55 and would I have done some things differently with my son. Well, yes of course. I’ve grown along the way learned more but my basic philosophy is still the same. In addition, I have come to believe that when we have a difficult time setting boundaries for our children it is often b/s our children are our lives and not the Heavenly Father. They are filling a need that only the Father can fill. The more we know who we are in Him and live in His love the easier it is to discipline/guide/lead our children. The patterns we set with young children will follow them thru their lives. I love reading blogs where parents are including them in cooking, giving them age appropriate chores and setting guidelines. Blessing to all those raising their young children. Pray for Godly wisdom not just following the whim of something someone says on a blog.

      • says

        I completely agree…we need to be on our knees DAILY as parents, asking God for guidance. Raising children is the absolute MOST IMPORTANT thing we will ever do!

        I’m not exactly sure what you meant in your last sentence—if you’re referring to me, I didn’t write this on a whim. It was HARD to write because it is HARD for me to put into practice. But I also think it is important to recognize that God expects us to teach our children how to care for others, and the best way we can do that is SHOW them and be the example.

        • Eileen says

          Jeanie, I’ve just began following you so I would have not basic of knowing who you really are and certain have no right to criticize. I’m sorry I didn’t word that very well. I was just encouraging all the readers to pray and ask for godly wisdom.

          • says

            No problem! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your thoughts! :) I just didn’t want anyone to think I wrote this flippantly…I really wrestled with this one. But, you are exactly right…EVERY PARENT needs to seek wisdom first and foremost from God! :)

  12. Julie says

    Thanks for sharing! I must really need to hear this because that is what out bible study was on at church yesterday morning! I am a teacher so I have the summer to enjoy my little girl! And I feel it’s easy to get wrapped up in each other and ourselves over the summer months because it is naturally a time to relax and do whatever we want! But it also needs to be a time of praise and reflection of what time God does give us!

  13. says

    Hear hear! This post resonated with me on so many levels: acknowledging that I’m not a “bad” mom if I don’t dedicate every waking breath to my child and that, in fact, balance is the goal; that putting theory into practice is always the hard part! While I have lofty ideas about how I can (and should) help the world, my 2.5 yo is still at a place where things have to be tangible to really sink in with him. We thank the policemen and firemen we see at the grocery store; if I take food over to a neighbor, I let him help prepare it and carry it; we work on helping out at home and sharing with friends. It is baby steps now, but I hope it will build the foundation for a life that looks outward instead of inward.

  14. says

    I’ve been fighting with this issue big time lately. I read Radical and then Kisses from Katie recently and both really made me think about this a lot. Thanks for pointing it out to others and for encouraging us

  15. says

    Great! I agree, but I think it is hard sometimes not to focus on your kids and what you should be doing for them. Maybe having your kids help pick out things to take to donation would be a good activity to help them realize that there is more to life than their family unit.

    thanks,
    Jamie Carbone
    http://parentingathomemamas.blogspot.com/

  16. Lee says

    I have always tried very hard to teach my children that they are responisble for their actions, thoughts, and even happiness. My children do something children these days seldom do (and I encourage!), they get bored! I allow them to get bored and I don’t try to help them find a solution to it. It encourages them to think critical. I also don’t resolve all of their disputes. I don’t hand them their lives on a silver platter, and they also know that my life does not revolve around being their constant companion or playmate. My job as a parent is to raise my children to be capable adults. I believe this culture of I have to do ‘X” for my child or they will be incomplete is ruining an entire generation (or 2). All I ever wanted as a child was gymnastic lessons, I never got them and I got over it!

    The only problem I had with your article is when you wrote..”One-hundred years ago, children were expected to work on the family farm or at the family business. Life didn’t revolve around them, in fact young children were probably sometimes seen as a hindrance to the work that needed to be done.”

    These children were not a hinderance, they were labor! Parents did not have children then for the reason we do today. They had children and expected them to help the family as a whole. This was not neglect, it was preservation. it gave children a sense of belonging to the world. They knew if they did not do their part they may not have enough money or food to survive. What roles do children do now?
    I

    • Eileen says

      I was raised on a farm and had a lot of chores and it gave me a real sense of family. I think the key was that we all worked together. I never felt I was doing all the work while my parents were taking it easy and I think that is the key. I also go the switch once in a while when I didn’t listen and I’ m perfectly normal now. lol I love what you say about your children having to figure things out for themselves and problem solve. If we do everything for them they have no way of learning how to do it themselves.

  17. says

    After reading this I just want to stand up and say HALLELUJAH and AMEN! I don’t think you could have said things any better. I am a 63 year old grandmother with two wonderful grandkids, 9 and 6. I love them and basically they are good kids….BUT I can’t say I think they are angels and they are both pretty spoiled (with a little help from my husband and me!) I can’t say I agree with everything about the way my son, DIL, and their friends are raising their children. They have more toys, more movies, more video games, etc. than my son probably had in his whole childhood….and it’s not because my son & DIL are rich! Kids today are “given” too much and are not taught enough responsibility or enough good manners….in my opinion. I taught primary school for 31 1/2 years and I can honestly say that through the years I saw the downfall of the family and I saw parents going from “the teacher is always right…no matter what” (although I never thought I was always right) to “you don’t have to do what that woman tells you to do.” So, so sad. I do what I can to teach my grandchildren to be caring, responsible, happy people. This summer they are staying with me two days a week and one of the things we’ve been doing is “good deeds” for others. Hopefully it will be a life lesson that they will take with them as they grow. THANK YOU so much for your words. There needs to be change and we’ve all got to begin somewhere.

    • Eileen says

      You have hit the nail on the head, as the saying goes. We have to teach responsibility. Good luck with your weekly visits. I trust they will come away with some valuable lessons from a wise grandma.

  18. says

    I have sometimes thought about parenting techniques from 100 years ago, the techniques that produced “The Greatest Generation,” or our grandparents. They must have done some things very right if the majority of them turned out to be hard-working, dedicated individuals who then raised the baby-boomers, where it all kind of went down-hill.

    Anyways, when I think about life on a farm/family business, I think about how kids from a very early age worked side by side their parents, and parents did not cater to their child’s every whim, because business had to be tended to first. Kids had to learn to wait (i.e. the world did not revolve around them). A parent spent a great majority of their day doing laundry, cooking, dishes, sewing, housework, etc. Most people didn’t have electricity still in their houses at this point. So, with that in mind, I actually try to keep myself busy during the day. I don’t wait until nap time or when my kids are asleep for the night to clean or do laundry. I do it when they are awake. Sure cleaning while kids are awake is like brushing your teeth while eating an Oreo (totally stole that), but it shows that my world doesn’t revolve around theirs. I don’t entertain them all day. I ignore my children (note: NOT neglect them) and let them figure out what to do when they are bored.

    Also, we watch very little TV as a whole family, or my husband and I wait until the kids are asleep to watch any movies/TV shows. And my kids often watch educational movies we own, or an animated movie. We don’t have cable (or any basic service, so there is no mindless TV show watching. And I also find it is best, to watch the movie WITH your child when they do watch anything. Makes it feel more like a family event. (Though I’m not saying I always do that, but just feels like that’s the ideal way).

    I think as parents the amount of time we spend engaged in various medias/mediums and how we spend out time and energy will greatly affect how much our child do so too. And when we give small children too many screens, it is teaching a very real message that it is not okay to be bored. It is not okay to not be entertained. We don’t need “entertainment” or constant stimulation. We need to remind ourselves and our children of the beauty of the mundane, or quiet moments, or being bored and figuring out a way to fill it with MEANINGFUL activities.

    • says

      Katelyn, I love everything you said! As I think about Biblical times and how parents raised their children then, it is very similar to how our world looked 100 years ago…the family WORKED together because that is what they had to do to survive. :)

  19. says

    I got a big world map posted on our wall to teach my son, and self, where all of God’s people are- and to think about the bigger picture. I read “The hole in our gospel” recently and this theme came up too regarding our culture and how God would really desire us to be in our world mission field.
    Thanks for reminding me too that I don’t need to buy into the hype and guilt of being all about my kids and a bad mom if they don’t have everything they want.

  20. Ashley S says

    Thank you for this! So wonderful!
    Just yesterday my three year old and I went to Walmart to pick up some snacks for a family whose son is staying at the children’s hospital for a couple of weeks. Some of them happened to be some of his favorite snacks too, which made him upset that they weren’t for him. We talked about how we were obeying God by helping people who are sick. He’s only three so I know it didn’t completely register, but continuing activities such as this will eventually help him understand that we need to always be helping others and not just thinking of ourselves.

  21. says

    I completely agree with this post and this is something my husband and I have really been thinking and praying about lately. We don’t want to go back to the day where kids where “to be seen and not heard” but we also don’t want our children being spoiled like this current generation. For me the hardest part is trying to figure out how to make the change. How to go against the flow of our modern culture. It’s hard to find friends that feel the same way. Most of my friends do not and you go to their houses and the kids have piles and piles of toys. We just don’t do that here at my house. My kids have had a lot of tv time lately (I’m in an overwhelmed mommy rut) but they are also EXTREMELY limited on what they can watch. They also get plenty of play time inside and outside. It’s also hard to stay consistent in this battle. I think it’s definitely worth the fight though.

    Thank you for this post!

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