How do we raise children who are selfless, not selfish, in a society that says it’s okay to be self-serving and focus on our needs first? How do we teach them to love their neighbors, and to be compassionate and caring toward all God’s people?
We begin by teaching our children the foundational biblical principles that Jesus gave us in The Great Commandments:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
Then, as we continue to share our faith with our children – as we teach them about God’s great love for us and introduce them to the great stories of the Bible – we show them how to apply the biblical lessons they’re learning in practical, life-giving ways!
For instance, we can teach our children to love their neighbors as they love themselves by helping them to recognize that others have the same basic needs and desires that they have. For example, when our children feel sad because they aren’t invited to a social event like a classmate’s birthday party, we affirm their feelings and then help them to gain a new perspective by transforming the situation into a teachable moment.
Here are a few creative ways you can reinforce loving others when they are focused on themselves (and their sadness in that moment):
- Plan an alternative event for our children and the other children who were excluded from the original event.
- Help our children do something nice for a neighbor who could use a pick-me-up, such as bake them a cake or cookies.
- Encourage our children to create gifts out of their unused toys, books, or games and give them to other kids who would truly appreciate receiving them!
Over time, as our children become more sensitive to the needs of those around them, they may surprise us with their creative ideas for helping others!
We also want our children to develop hearts of compassion for the sick, the elderly, and those with special needs. We can begin by teaching our children to be considerate of others in basic ways:
- Play quietly during hours when others may be sleeping.
- Pick up toys without being asked.
- Do chores without complaining.
- Hold doors open for adults.
- Help others carry packages when they see their hands are full.
- Be polite to everyone they meet.
Whenever possible, we can also encourage our children to find ways to use the special gifts that God has given them to care for others as well.
Finally, we can teach our children to be kind to others, to defend those who are being bullied, and to befriend those in need. We want to raise children who speak kindly about others – who don’t talk about others behind their backs – who are loyal, trustworthy, humble friends.
Above all, as we raise our children in the way that they should go, we can encourage them to model their lives after Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The Berenstain Bears Caring and Sharing Treasury
In my family we like to reinforce the lessons we’re sharing with biblically-based resources like The Berenstain Bears’ Caring and Sharing Treasury – a five-book collection of popular Berenstain Bears Living Lights stories that’s filled with wonderful examples of how children can show Christ-like care and compassion to those around them!
The Berenstain Bears’ Caring and Sharing Treasury is five books in one, featuring the following favorites:
- The Berenstain Bears Jobs Around Town: This book encourages kids to think about how they can use their God-given gifts when they grow up to do jobs that can serve the needs of others!
- The Berenstain Bears Get Involved: This book encourages kids to join groups that encourage both fun and serving the greater needs of others.
- The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors: This book encourages kids to look beyond outward appearances and teaches us what being a good neighbor really means.
- The Berenstain Bears Gossip Gang: This book teaches kids how hurtful and harmful gossip can be, even among the best of friends.
- The Berenstain Bears and The Biggest Brag: This book shows us how foolish bragging can make us look and encourages us to use our time more constructively.
The Berenstain Bears’ Caring And Sharing Treasury beautifully illustrates the values we want our children to learn. This latest collection by the creative writing team of Jan, Stan and Mike Berenstain is sure to become a book your children will treasure!
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What is your biggest challenge when it comes to raising compassionate and caring kids? Which of the stories in The Berenstain Bears Caring And Sharing Treasury do you think your child most needs to hear? Please share your thoughts in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!