“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” — Romans 12:9-10
The Bible tells us that God is love. So many biblical lessons contain a message of love that they can be considered as separate topics – marital love, love in relationships and toward others, God’s love, loving your enemies and more.
One kind of love is being thoughtful and kind to one another and being of service to the needy. That selfless love is a key lesson we Catholic parents must teach our children so that they can be part of God’s love and contribute to the world. Still, it can be a tall order as kids are naturally self-centered.
A blog on the notimeforflashcards.com website states that until a child is confident in herself, it is impossible for her to look outside herself to be kind and thoughtful to others. Thus, the November 2016 blog says there are some ways we get them to see outside themselves.
- Encourage our children to be their true self. Value each child for who they are and see them as whole beings.
- Teach them about who we are and our family culture and family traditions.
- Value quirks, personalities, and differences in people. Read books that value being different and being yourself.
- Point out differences within our own groups, such as church groups and families, any group that children feel entitled to membership in. Discover that these groups are diverse. Help open the door to recognizing and valuing diversity in larger groups.
- Provide books that are inclusive, avoid media that stereotypes of any group of people, and when we see stereotypes or discrimination, talk about it.
Perhaps most important is to avoid equating ‘things’ with a person’s value. It’s also one of the most difficult lessons for kids, since they want to have the latest, biggest and best toys available.
“Kids love according to how they are loved,” says Katie Dawson, director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange. “None of it is any good unless it’s modeled. Parents need to pay attention to the developmental stages of their child and how they react to different explanations.”
Dawson points out that Saint Pope John Paul II said that the family is a school of love. “The fruit is borne if the family is directly connected to generosity, the parents love each other and their children,” she notes. “Children learn to put someone’s needs in front of their desires by watching their parents. Even though Father is tired, he serves his wife by having dinner ready when she comes home. Even though Mother is busy, she makes time to read to her kids at bedtime.”
Because children don’t always arrive at the conclusion to love by themselves, parents need to help them connect the dots.
“We call them to generosity,” Dawson says. “We don’t overburden them. But we can challenge them just above their comfort level. We can say, ‘Just like I get up and bring Mom a cup of coffee every morning to love and serve her, you can set the table before she returns from her chores.’”