"If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. John 13:14
Children can easily become the focus of well-intentioned mothers. Wanting to meet their needs, win their hearts, give affection, speak words of life, give the best input and instruction and lessons, and before the family knows it, the child is the center of life. Now, moms do need to return their hearts toward home. But, Christ, His kingdom and His work must always be the center of our lives.
And if the reason we are staying home is to serve our and train our children for His glory, then we must always understand, He is at the center, and His kingdom work is at the center of our lives. Our children are not a big enough goal, only serving Him is big enough for a work of life.
We all know what it is like to be around a whiner or selfish person who has to be treated special, whose needs must always be met for them to be happy--the ones who must be in the center of attention. And perhaps you are married to a selfish person--or maybe you are one! But selfish adults come out of homes where the selfishness was not curbed or trained out.
Consequently, to really love a child, means to consider what is best for the long term character of the child. Because all of us are sinful and oriented to ourselves, a part of the training of a loving mom, will be to train her child away from his natural self and lead them and help them learn to give up their lives in service of others.
"Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend." John 15: 13
Our Master and Lord, modeled servant leadership by washing the dirty feet of his disciples--a lowly job, for sure. The creator of the universe bowing his knee to wash the feet of his own precious children that He crafted in the womb of their mothers. Truly this is a picture of parenting from Jesus that required reflection--only love could compel the God of the universe to humble himself in such a way.
Jesus reminds us, "I am humble and meek, learn from me." Learn from me--has he ever said that in any other scripture? Learn from me--if I the teacher and Lord bowed, then you should also do so.
So modeling servant leadership, speaking gently, loving others generously, giving up your time, your body, your convenience, your patience--if he did it, over and over again with the disciples, to show them how to live in service of others--he had compassion on them, then so we must do as mothers. It also means you must be spending hands on time with your children, not leaving them to one more dvd or cartoon or game boy adventure action software, but you have to plan, give attention to this, to build this into their lives.
However, when we look to Jesus' life, we see that he got the disciples involved. "You divide up the food and your serve them the fish and loaves." "You go two by two and proclaim the gospel." and so on.....
How do we teach our children to give up their time, their bedroom, their lives to others?
1. Teach your children to share from the very beginning. Teach them to give up something valuable. "You are such a strong boy and I can see that Joy needs your help. Would you please help her carry her box of toys to her room?"
"The mom and dad at this home only ordered 2 large pizzas, 10 people showed up at this Bible study that they were not expecting. Let's stay back and let the others eat first so that we can be sure there is enough for all the people who came. We can order a pizza on the way home."
"It costs a lot of money to order drinks, so we will just order one and share or just drink water." (I can still remember Sarah and Joel with big eyes at a party when someone gave them a soft drink of their own. "Mom, can we really have this all by ourselves?" The having to share and learning to give helped them to be more thankful. Children who have learned to not have all of their needs met, are always more grateful for a special occasion when they get something wonderful.)
Whatever ways you can, make sure that you do not allow your children to be the exceptions--the ones who demand that food be just right, that they have their own way, that they deserve every need met, every toy. I have seen so many well meaning families teach all the Bible studies, have their children learn all the AWANA verses, but their children's hearts were poor because they served themselves first.
2. Teach your children the stories of the little boy who gave all he had and fed 5000. Teach them the scripture about Jesus giving, and any other stories. Make them memorize scripture and songs that put this in their hearts. Train them with The 24 Family Ways to give them the language and values of scripture and servanthood. (24 ways on my side bar--a training tool for parents and on our web site."Show them that Jesus looked out on the crowd and had compassion--and say, "I wonder who needs our compassion. Let's look out for people God brings our way to encourage or to give something to."
3. Plan real things for them to do. Have them give up their rooms for company and sleep on the floor of your bedroom. Then praise them for giving and require them, gently, to share or give or serve. Let it be the oxygen of your home to pray for, love, encourage and serve others.Then make meals for those who are ill, where your children help. Have them make cards or pick flowers. Have them give one of their toys to a child. Let them be the ones who give the meals, cookies or whatever.
Have them save some of the money they are given to give to missions or the poor. Let them adopt a compassion child. Have them write a letter. Pray for God to show you ways to help them learn to serve, forgive, love, give beyond their selfish self.
I have always said to my children, "Selfishness is natural. Generosity is supernatural and comes from letting the Holy Spirit talk to us and teach us how to give. I just know He is going to use you greatly in the world." (and so on, fighting is natural, loving is supernatural--what choice will you make--to serve yourself or your flesh or to live supernaturally and become God's love and grace to a world that needs redemption.
From the time our children were tiny, we had them serving at our conferences. The 3 and 4 year olds learned to greet at the door with a basket of chocolates and say, "Welcome to our conference--we are so glad you are here." Or they would pass out notebooks or put hearts on the tables, or pray with us, sitting in our laps as we prayed for all the moms who would attend our conferences.
As Jesus took His disciples with Him everywhere He went and engaged the disciples in his work, so we took our children everywhere with us and they learned to work by our side. It is always more trouble to take your children with you or to come up with ways they can serve--as you will be much more efficient as an adult. But the work done by a child builds his heart self-image as "I am someone who has something to give."
If you love your child, and you want them to be unselfish in marriage, friendship, work, in all venues of life, then you must do the hard work of daily requiring them to grow a little stronger, give a little more and model to them serving their needs and loving them, so that they are familiar with how wonderful it feels to be served. It is a two sided coin---serving generously in their lives, requiring them and helping them to learn to serve others generously--the sacrifice of self and the validation of having loved another.
Teaching them to live like this takes years and lots of time and planning, but you will give them the gift of an unselfish heart and character that will give them contentment and self-control and a heart that serves the rest of their lives.