Two children both wanted the F-22 cup at breakfast this morning. Since David went to get the cups, I allowed him to choose how to divide them up. I prefer to encourage them to be unselfish, rather than requiring it, since I think it means more when they have a choice. Sometimes I do ask them to allow someone else to have the best or first of something (particularly with guests), but this morning I didn’t.
First, I pointed out that it is loving to consider another person’s desires more than our own.
The response was Mom, I haven’t had this cup in a long time.
Then I pointed out that sister hadn’t had the cup either in quite awhile.
He responded with a question: Am I allowed to choose who to give it to?
I tried again. I mentioned that God’s standard of love is very difficult. We cannot love like God wants us to without his help.
He told his sister that she could have it tomorrow. At this, she wept.
After I tried to help sister respond biblically, I made the comment (addressed to nobody in particular) that being selfish might get us what we want in the first place, but it doesn’t really make us happy. My goal was to put a name to the feeling of guilt that I hoped was present in my son, just as I label concrete things for his baby sister.
Later I noticed that he was working quite diligently, with remarkable initiative. I think he was feeling guilty, and trying to feel better. I decided to ask him about it later.
I told him that I noticed that he worked hard getting things ready for Bible study. Then I asked about the cup incident. Do you remember this morning when you wanted the F-22 cup? Did getting it make you happy?
Truthfully, I expected a yes answer, but he said not really. When I asked why, he said that Bethel was sad. I told him again that we think getting what we want will make us feel good, but if we’re being selfish, we feel bad. We feel guilty when we have sinned.
I stumbled around some. I started to say that we cannot make God happy when we do good things, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. I changed my sentence to say that we cannot become right with God by doing good things. I still feel like I’m double talking when I talk about his position before God before salvation, and his position before God as a result of salvation.
Ultimately, I am thanking the Lord for this opportunity to talk about spiritual things, and for the evidence that his understanding of sin and guilt is growing. Without this understanding, God’s grace and the joy of forgiveness doesn’t make sense or seem necessary.
Shelley Gallamore says
I think you are being very wise to talk about the feelings and options but to allow him (and the girls) the choice. If you forced him to share every time at this age, there would be no learning about the difference between doing it right and doing it wrong. Understanding and acknowledging that sin will be huge in understanding the need for a savior.
Thanks for the encouragement, Shelley. I’ve gone from not wanting to EVER force a child to share, to requiring it some times. I’m still thinking about it, but it seems like the right thing to do.
Shelley Gallamore says
I often waffled on this point too. I see the point for both sides – go for the heart and teach rather than require. And the other side of forcing them to practice obedience. I tend to do a little of both and with preteens it seems we are relearning some of these lessons.
I think the comparison to obedience with teenagers is probably a good one. Generally, I think more active directing (forcing a child to obey and share) is appropriate for young children, when they are learning how to obey and share. As my mom says… you cannot force a horse to drink, but you can give him something salty so he will want to drink. 🙂