“Let Me Take a Selfie” – It’s a song, it’s a phrase, and it can actually be reflective of an entire society. It is not like selfishness is anything new under the sun. It is a part of human nature and can be seen in history since the beginning of time. That said, there is something unique about the current egocentric tide as we are raising kids in a selfie generation.
Let me begin by saying that in young kids, being egocentric is a developmental phase. It is completely natural, and yet it might concern you. Just because you see this character trait in young kids, don’t panic. This egocentric behavior is part of the preoperational stage and is present in kids between ages 2-7. It is very challenging for a child of this age to imagine life from another person’s point of view. According to the phsychologist Piaget, children assume that others see, feel and hear exactly like that child does. They’ll need to be taught through the phase and this doesn’t give us an excuse to not parent. However, be encouraged that what you observe does not mean that your child has a stronger than normal propensity to selfishness. I want to give you some tools for raising kids of all ages as they struggle against selfishness.
Tips for Raising Kids in a Selfie Generation
- Ask “How would you feel…” – I ask this question of my kids often. You’ll have ample opportunities to pose the question when navigating sibling and friend relationships. A child won’t share. A good response is, “How would you feel if you were at a friend’s house and they wouldn’t share their toys with you.” A child hits their sibling. You could ask, “How would you feel if you had been punched by your sister?” The response, as they reflect, is normally, “That wouldn’t feel good,” and I often find that kids can quickly apologize and change their response. This simple question helps them learn to walk in another person’s shoes.
- Model selflessness. – Kids are watching you. When they see you sacrifice your agenda for them or another person in your community, they learn. Your words can line up with your actions as well. You could say, “I know we were going to the library today, but I found out that Karen’s family is very sick. What if we worked together to make them some soup instead?” There’s a balance to find in how selfless you are with your kids. You want to teach them independence and don’t want to be doing things for them that they can learn to do for themselves. However, if you have an attitude of wanting to serve your family – letting others go first, sacrificing your agenda for your spouse or kids, and taking care of the house business without complaining or arguing, you have a leg up in teaching your kids to be more selfless.
- Talk about selfless people. – Point out what you see other people doing that models what it means to serve others. We have had many friends and family sacrifice for us. Make a big deal about that. Read and talk about Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice – how he came into this world “not to be served but to serve and to give up his life as a ransom for others.” Follow the online communication and pray for missionaries that are sacrificing much to be on the field helping and serving others. Read about historical figures that accomplished what they did through love and selflessness.
- Teach them about need. – Kids are so unaware of what is going on in the world. There is a healthy level of shielding our children from the atrocities happening in the world. However, we need to expose our kids to injustice, the poor and the hurting. Kids need to be aware that, if they are growing up in the United States and have a healthy family, they are among the privileged. There is a verse that says, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” – Luke 12:48. To instill in our kids that there is real pain in the world and that they can be part of the solution is a great way to raise kids in this selfie generation.
- Volunteer together. – Many people are hands on learners. You don’t always learn by listening but by doing. Be a family that serves together. Go on mission trips when you can. Find ways to volunteer in your church or community. Look for homeless shelters, soup kitchens, clothing donation facilities, or places that provide care packages for foster kids or orphans. If there is a natural disaster like an earthquake, flood or tsunami, learn about it with your kids and find ways to donate.
- Give them ownership over how to serve. – Kids are amazing at coming up with ideas about how to help others. Certain life situations resonate with different kids. You hear stories of kids who start a coat drive or raise money for certain disasters. Let them come up with ideas about how they can make a HUGE difference on the world despite their size. Learn hear about how we did a school supply drive with our kids and were able to provide many needy kids in our area with the supplies they would need for back to school. The kids were an integral part of that.
- Limit exposure to media. – Obsessing over celebrities is not healthy. You’ll have to find the right balance of what is allowed on phones and other internet use. Having the conversation with kids about the potentially egocentric world of Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Periscope or whatever the new latest and greatest social media avenue is, is super healthy. Remind them that it is called “social media” for a reason. It can be used in a healthy way to take an interest in others and foster healthy relationships, or it can come all about us. Our family wants to keep our computers centrally located so we can stay on top of healthy computer usage.
- Take advantage of my character development series. – Did you know I have a character development series that I have created? We work on 52 traits, one for each week of the year. Each character trait has 8-10 lessons associated with it. Our lessons on thoughtfulness come to mind, but there are a number of the other traits available that address the topic of thinking of others.
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We are egocentric people. I would say that selfishness is the root of all of my discontentment in parenting or marriage. I have not arrived, but it’s an area I want to continue to work on in my own life and in the lives of my children. As in most of parenting, it takes intentionality. I hope you have found my ideas for raising kids in a selfie generation helpful.