Developing Character Traits in Your Children: Being Other-Centered

Written by Ryan Evans on October 19th, 2016

The Scriptures provide countless examples and instruction for parents as we seek to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Such instruction begins when our children are little, and interactions at school offer numerous ways for them to practice, apply, and extend their learning in tangible ways as they interact with both peers and adults.

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This principle goes against the natural proclivities of not only our children, but (if we are honest) ourselves. Parents rarely have to teach their children to be selfish, but do often need to remind our children to “think outside of themselves” by honoring and serving one another. Being “Other-Centered” requires an awareness of others as we focus our attention away from ourselves, seeking to honor peers and adults with our attention, words, and actions. Below are a few small ways to teach this character trait regardless of how old your children are:

  • Look at others in the eyes as you speak with them. simple way to focus our attention on others is by teaching our children to look at peers and adults when they speak with them. I know a grandmother who is constantly telling her grandson, “Look at his eyes when you are speaking with him.” It’s easy particularly for younger children to be shy or avoid others, but training in this small area helps our children be intentional in focusing on other people. Though a seemingly small thing, this is something children can practice multiple times every day.
  • Greet other people by name. Along with looking at people when they are speaking, teach your children to greet people by specific name. (Actually, you may need to start by helping them learn names of others; this too is a way to honor other people.) School offers a wonderful opportunity to learn names of people outside of our close family circle, and use these names as they greet or respond to someone. Saying, “Good morning Mrs. Kniss” in the hallway or “Hi Paul” to a peer in the classroom shows honor. We all like to hear our name spoken in a greeting, and teaching our children to use names sends a message that we care, and that other people are important.
  • Say “Please” and “Thank You.” This may seem too obvious, but as parents we often get too busy to remind our children of these basic courtesies. Lots of examples here: Teach your children to say thank you to mom for the dinner she cooks or the lunch she sends to school. Have your child thank his coach after every practice. They can thank their teachers at the end of class or the end of the day. Children can thank the doctor or dentist (yes, even the dentist). At school, children can practice in the hot lunch line to say please and thank you (sometimes even the older kids forget these basic protocols). These small social graces show honor for other people.

Of course, we as parents play an important role as we seek to model for our children ways to be other-centered. By working on faithfulness in these small things, we pave the way for God to create opportunities for our children to be faithful in the larger things.