When my brother and I shared a bottle of soda back in the day, we had to line the glasses up and measure to the tee.
As the older, more selfish and dominant one, I would quickly take a sip if there was any squawking from my brother about me getting more. I usually won and he gave up, deciding to just drink his soda an move on.
I oughta be ashamed.
We didn’t fuss a whole lot about who was getting more and what wasn’t fair because we lived in a different time then.
But kids do fuss, don’t they? They are growing up in a time where we are not only celebrating differences but at the same time, we are accidentally promoting selfishness.
I read an article recently where a parent was listening to two kids fussing about which one had more ice cream in a bowl. The parents responded by saying that if the siblings really cared about one another, they would make sure their sibling had what he or she needed instead of worrying about what they themselves personally had.
That may be a big chunk for a kid to chew on, so you might have to repeat that a few times.
Being kind to others, being happy for others and celebrating when a sibling, friend or colleague gets something is something that does not come easy to us. Adults struggle with it.
I’ve known a person for years who wears their heart and feelings on their sleeve. Actually, he wears it on his face most of the time. Those family and friends who know this person have discussed it, come to terms with it, and decided to love the person anyway.
For some reason, this person is just your jealous type – especially when it comes to things the rest of us have. Stuff. We have especially noticed it when it comes to homes, cars and children.
This person has a visible scowl when any of us talks about getting ahead. This person will not compliment a new home, a new car, or any accomplishments of our children. This person will barely discuss any sort of “getting ahead” aspect of our lives.
If we talk about a job promotion, we see the scowl or even a change of subject. This person will completely ignore us if he feels threatened. This is especially true if any of our stuff or kids outshine this person’s children.
At times, little negative comments are made. It happens so often and has been a part of our lives for so many years that we have all just decided to live with it.
What is interesting to me is that this particular person will go on and on, showering compliments on you regarding things you are doing that they have no interest in.
“You are so good at mountain climbing!”
This person has no interest in athletic things and does not feel threatened by our mountain climbing. Of course, I use mountain climbing as an example to protect the innocent as well as the guilty.
It all boils down to us being selfish and envious – even of people we love very much. Part of that is human stuff. I mean, we are born sinners who have to battle our evil selves every day. We can’t let our guards down, because the selfish part of us will win every time.
“Selfies” are everywhere. T-shirts with all types of sayings celebrating uniqueness. I’m especially not fond of calling girls “sassy” and other such monikers such as that; let’s stop celebrating selfishness. We have bumper stickers telling about our honor students and we shower our kids with accolades.
But we have to make sure we celebrate who children are and not what they do. This will help them on the road to selflessness.
And let’s make sure we celebrate the right behaviors that promote positive results.
We need to reinforce the idea of doing well in school, studying and doing our best, but we also need to tell our kids how we expect them to behave. I heard of one mother who said although she encouraged her children to do their best and try hard, she expected them to be the kindest child in class rather than the one with the top grades.
As always, I blame poor parenting as the cause of selfishness among kids. While much of our early struggles with selfishness are somewhat innate, selflessness can actually be taught as soon as a kid starts knowing what “stuff” is.
Do not accept the BS you hear about kids “not knowing how to share yet” and how kids can’t understand it until they are age 3; as I said, capital BS.
You can start teaching your kids what it means to share from the get-go, and by the time they are old enough to interact with other kids, they will understand.
Do not underestimate your little ones; they are sponges and they can learn good behavior from an alarmingly early age. These parents who sit and watch their children not sharing and throwing fits, yet do nothing, are imbeciles.
And furthermore, they struggle with sharing themselves. I’d almost bet on it.
You see, we as adults don’t share. We don’t share our time, we worry about our own comfort, and we are downright selfish about so many things.
If we want our kiddos to be selfless, we have to model that behavior. Our kids have to see us giving up things for someone else. Our kids have to see us giving to the needy, volunteering with a charity, and so on. We need to take our kids with us when we help others. And we need to make sure we are showing them we are doing it for the right reasons; not to promote ourselves and feel good about ourselves.
You see, being selfless involves giving of your full self, including how things make you feel.
Selflessness doesn’t come easy, and some of us will spend a lifetime learning lessons about it and striving for it.
I’m talking about this columnist. What a struggle and what lessons I continue to learn.