My son is four years old and he’s got a ton of energy. I love him to death, he’s just amazing and great… and exhausting. He doesn’t really like to share his toys with his little sister and isn’t the biggest fan of having to obey his mom and dad (even though they’re amazingly brilliant and wise, of course). We’ve been talking a lot about needing to share and be gentle when you don’t get what you want.
This leads to a conversation he had with my wife (his mom) the other day, completely out of the blue while they were doing something:
Son: It’s really hard for me.
Mom: What is, honey?
Son: I’ve been thinking about it. It’s hard for me to when my friends at school say “no” when I ask if I can have their toys.
Mom: Oh… (dumbounded that a four-year-old was psychoanalyzing himself like that)…
Yeah… that conversation actually happened the other day. But it got me to thinking – how much different is he really from the rest of us? I’m just as selfish as he is – I don’t like it when I don’t get my way; I don’t like to take orders from other people when I’m in the middle of doing something I like doing; I want what I want when I want it. I’ve just learned how to cope with the reality that I can’t actually get/do what I want all the time, and I’ve learned how to mask my selfishness so it doesn’t look as ugly as it really is.
So here’s my latest daddy lesson that I think is good for all us parents to remember (whether your kids are young like mine or teenagers, or older): You’re just as selfish as your kids are. Maybe you’ve learned to suppress your selfishness and God has changed your heart, but by nature you’re every bit as selfish as your kids are… they get it from you! It’s our job as parents to model SELFLESSness to our kids.
While our kids need to learn to obey their parents, we also need to show them what selflessness looks like when we don’t get our way either.