My daughter couldn’t decide what choice to make. It was a simple choice I gave her. I wanted to make her help out, but I knew it would be better to give her the opportunity to make the better choice on her own.
Don’t we all struggle internally at times with knowing the right and selfless choice, but wanting to make the selfish one instead?
One of the greatest things our kids can learn in these growing up years is choosing to help others out of love and not because they have to do something.
Gathered around the table eating lunch, I told my kids I thought it would be great to clean up the house for when dad came home. I told them they didn’t have to help, but it would be a great help if they did.
One of my daughters was in. My son took a second and then said he’d help. My other daughter, not so much.
Isn’t it so easy to make the selfish choice? To do what we want, and not look outside of ourselves?
And, isn’t it hard not to step in and try to convince our kids to make the better choice?
But, what I am seeing more and more is that that approach just backfires. Our kids need to have the freedom to make certain choices at times and then to experience the results of them.
That’s the only way for them to grow.
As we were finishing lunch, she said she had some things she really had been wanting to do. I said that was fine. My other daughter piped in and said she didn’t want to help either, but knew it was the right thing to do so that made her want to help.
I saw my daughter’s internal struggle with what choice to make.
I know this is such a “small” choice, but these “small” choices set the stage for bigger choices later on.
Many times, I do tell everyone I need their help with different things and don’t give them a choice. They help out with chores and in many other ways. But, as they’re getting older, I’m trying to teach them the value of making the better choice of helping others out of love.
My daughter said, “Do I have to?” I said, “Nope,” and “I won’t make you feel bad about your choice and I won’t say another word about it. It’s up to you.”
And, she asked, “But is it the selfish thing to not help?”
I wasn’t going to lie and tell her it wasn’t selfish, so I told her like it was. “Yes, it would be a selfish choice for all of us to help clean the house for an hour while you go to your room to do other things when you can do that the rest of the day.”
It would have been SO easy to just make her help. But, that’s not what I’m aiming for. I’m aiming for integrity and my kids choosing to help because it’s the loving thing to do.
As Mother Teresa once said, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty, nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.”
When my kids get older, they’ll be making all of their own choices, so I want them to know what it looks like to make choices out of love for the Lord and love for others right now, while they’re in our home.
I told her that I can relate to how hard it is to try to make the better choice. That we all struggle with choosing to love the Lord and love other first because we’re human. And, I’ve failed in that area plenty of times. But, that the more we choose to love God and love others first, the more our hearts become like His and the easier it is to make the better choice.
She thought and thought and thought about what to do.
Then my daughter, said, “Okay, I’ll help,” in a moaning voice. I told her if she had a bad attitude, not to help because then it would be pointless. Help because you’re glad to help or don’t help.”
So, I gave her some space and she got a better attitude and was a tremendous help. She was exuding joy afterward. I asked her if she was glad about the choice she made.
And, with a massive smile she said, “I feel so much better that I helped. What an awesome feeling.”
She doesn’t always make that choice. I don’t always make that choice.
But in that moment, she discovered what it feels like to choose to love God and love others first and the joy that comes from selflessness and loving others as Jesus calls us to.
As they get older, if we can create more and more opportunities for them to have the option to make the better choice to love the Lord and love others, we should.
And, if they choose not to, that’s okay. It’s a learning experience.
We just need to keep sharing about Jesus and his selfless love, praying together, showing them what it looks like to love others by our example, and sharing stories of all God did, has done, and is doing for us, and they will be pulled closer and closer to the way of love.
Lord, help us show our kids what the better way is – choosing to love You and love others well. Change our hearts, Lord. Give us selfless hearts like You. Forgive us for our selfishness, and make us more like You. Help our kids to always want to follow you and to choose to love You and others first. In Jesus’ Name, amen.