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Raising Selfless Kids

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
July 1, 2022 6:00 am

Raising Selfless Kids

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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July 1, 2022 6:00 am

Blogger Sami Cone offers parents practical advice for teaching their children to overcome selfishness in a discussion based on her book, "Raising Uncommon Kids".

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Be present to understand what it is that moves your child, and then equip them so they can help others in need. Well, ways you can help your child become less selfish by seeing the needs of others.

That's Sami Cohn, and she's on today's Focus on the Family with your host, Focus President and author, Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. Hey, John. I think every parent wants their child to have a selfless giving heart, but the problem is they come out of the birth canal pretty selfish. I mean, that's the bottom line.

It's like, me, me, me, me, me. And, you know, the truth is we as parents are kind of like that as well. And the really hard thing is how do we, as sinners, teach our children not to sin?

And that's a real task. And we're going to talk about the art of parenting in that regard today with a very good guest. Sami Cohn is a money-saving blogger and a college speech professor and a media personality in Nashville, and is the mom of two. She's out with her first book.

It's called Raising Uncommon Kids, 12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids. Sami, welcome to Focus. I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me. This is your first time, right? This is my first time out here, although I feel like I know you all already because I love to listen, but it's a treat to be here.

It's always fun. But, okay, I've got to get right down to business. We have some desperate parents out here that have nothing but selfish kids. What's something I could do today to help my kid to be selfless? Turn the mirror on yourself.

Is that right? It's the answer that, you know, parents don't want to hear. And really, I hate to disappoint anyone right off the bat, but this isn't a book that's going to be a quick fix for your kids. In fact, that's the problem that we have and that I see in my own parenting and with a lot of parents in this generation is that we want that quick fix for our kids.

Quick, what can I do? Well, the reality is they're watching you, parents. They're seeing what you're doing and you're right. We are selfish, right? So the best thing you can do is not try to make your kids all of a sudden to be these altruistic kids that give up their birthday parties to help build wells in Africa, but start at home.

Start modeling the behavior you want to see. Well, in all seriousness, it's a funny topic, but it is the thing that is so appropriate to teach your child. But we are selfish as little human beings, aren't we? It's kind of like it's sin nature showing itself.

Well, absolutely, but that's the thing. You don't tell your kids. Let's boil it down to real practical because I don't want anyone walking away from this thinking they're not going to get some practical tips. You don't tell your kids, oh, you don't feel like making your bed today? Don't worry about it. You don't feel like, you know, saying yes, ma'am or yes, sir. That's okay. Don't worry about it. You don't want to, you know, exercise?

It'll be fine. We have to choose these things, right? And as parents, it's our job to fill in the gaps with our kids. So when our kids either don't feel like doing something or maybe just haven't had the experience to know what to do, it's our job to put our arms around them and shepherd them into that role.

So the first thing that we really need to do is let's focus on what is the culture of our home? You'll notice in the book, compassion is the 12th characteristic I talk about, and that's the problem is that we want that quick fix of selflessness and compassion. But our kids don't know how to respect us as parents or be kind to their siblings or even sometimes what it means to really love God.

And until they understand those characteristics, selflessness is way far in the distance. What about I'm thinking and I want to push a bit on this idea that modeling is it. It's a good start. But I know a mom that I have in mind. She's got four grown boys now. She is a sweetheart. This mom and dad, both of them are just the sweetest couple.

She was a schoolteacher. And I would think, at least as an outsider to their family, wow, those are great parents. But the kids gave them a run for their money.

I mean, these boys were pretty tough on them. And so I was curious, is it just modeling? Is it that simple? There's got to be more to it. Let me clarify, then, because you're right.

It's not just modeling. But what I learned for myself is that a lot of the quote unquote selfless things I was doing, I was doing in private. Think about it. When I tithe to our church, it's online giving. My kids aren't even seeing me when they're in church with me. They don't see me put money in the plate. When I was volunteering, I was doing that myself. They weren't alongside me. All of these things that I was doing to help others, they weren't witnessing it. So it's not just about talking sweetly or talking respectfully. What are you doing to involve your kids? And really, the whole genesis of this book was in this moment where I thought my daughter was being so incredibly selfish. And I realized what makes my heart bleed or what I care about isn't going to be the same thing that she cares about. And that's how we got to this point in the first place. And in that regard, what were some of those examples? How did you bring your kids in to see the bigger story and be a part of it?

Sure. So if I can, what I realized is that we had pictures of our compassion kids on the fridge, right? And I was doing the typical, you know, you need to eat your food because Gabrielle and I usually don't have any food to eat.

Or, you know, be thankful that you have us because they don't have parents at home. I was doing all the typical, you know, they have to walk to school five miles uphill both ways, you know, that whole thing. And it wasn't budging. And like I said, I really wanted to have one of those, if the listeners could see, shake my daughter, you know, by the shoulder moments. And I had to literally leave her room and I fell to my knees and I don't hear God all the time. And I said, God, you've got to give me something because I don't know what to do with this child.

And he put this parable in my head and I went back in and fast forward. Basically, what I said to her was that, you know what, Gabrielle might not have pajamas. And she sat up in her bed and you would have thought I had just told her she hadn't eaten for a year.

And I was like, wait, that connected. It didn't matter that she didn't have food. Not that it didn't matter, but to her, she didn't resonate with the fact that she didn't have food, didn't have parents, didn't get to go to school. But when I told her that she might not have pajamas, she was like, we've got to do something, Mom. We have to help now.

I'm like, really? And that's what started my wheels, trying to see what moves the needle for me is not what's going to move the needle for my kids. And it's not going to be the same for both of my kids. So when I talk about modeling, it's you have to show them that, A, you have to take action, but then it's our job as parents to find out what makes each of our children tick. Because then they are going to be able to show care and concern not only to you as parents, siblings, neighbors, but then other kids that need them around the world.

Well, it makes a lot of sense, although was that more or less a shot in the dark or were you going through different things very intentionally or was it accidental that you mentioned pajamas and she responded? No, to me, because my kids feel like superheroes in their pajamas. It's the first thing they do when they come home from school. So they love pajamas. They love their pajamas.

You know, think about it. They get pajamas, you know, at special occasions or cousins hand pajamas down to them. So that was really meaningful to her so that I knew enough about my daughter to know that that was something. And honestly, I think it was a little divine nudge from God to know that that was something that was going to make a difference. But whether your kids love animals or whether your kids love basketball, whatever it is, find a way to serve in those areas. Yeah. And in your 12 traits, that's your heart in the home.

You're kind of describing that. The second one you mentioned is your attitude toward others. And you talked about, which I thought is a brilliant thing, because so often we get bogged down in the busyness of life. We don't have time for others, those outside the family. But what you did in your yard really spoke to my heart.

What was it? Well, I think it's really important, especially in today's day and age, we don't always know our neighbors. We're very quick to drive into the garage, close the door, and that's it. Let me just ask you, as you're listening, do you know three of your neighbors? And that should tell you the test. Continue.

It is, right? So we just moved a few months ago, and so we decided to just set up some lawn chairs in our front yard. We put out an old table that I could find in the garage. I said, kids, grab some snacks. So it was potato chips and lollipops. I mean, we're not talking fancy here. It's not farm fresh stuff.

No, no. This wasn't a big predetermined spread. And we literally went on social media. There's an app that we use to connect with our neighbors. And we went and knocked on some doors and said, we're going to be outside. We'd love to meet you. And literally, I mean, the chairs didn't even match.

I think I found some music on our phone. But we just made ourselves available, and that was the trick. Sometimes we just wait for the perfect moment or the perfect opportunity to move, when really you just have to make yourself available and serve where you are. And that day, it just looked like sitting on some lawn chairs on our front yard. You know, Sammy, one of the things when you look at it, the culture seems to be getting worse and worse, coarser and coarser. And one of the stories you shared in your book in this regard to your attitude toward others really caught me. It was your daughter who saw a girl coming to school in the same outfit each and every day.

That really gripped me. Talk to me about that and then talk about why we need to be observant. Right. Well, sometimes action means just stepping back and observing first, listening, watching, because we're so quick to judge. And sometimes our children feel like that's a pre-born trait, too, right, is that characteristic of judgment and fairness and righteousness. And so we had started a new school, and I guess she'd been watching this for two weeks, and she said, Mom, this girl's coming to school in the same outfit every day. And she was a little embarrassed for her. Yeah, that's tough in a public school. It is, and especially she was in fourth grade at the time, so that was just when bullying is kind of starting to take place. And she was witnessing some of those kids picking at her. So you could see this internal dialogue of I don't think that's cool, but I don't think it's good to pick on it.

What do I do? And I love that she felt comfortable enough to come to me to say, what is this? And I said, you know, I don't know, but here's what it could be, or what do you think it could be?

And saying, you know what, it turns out she didn't have enough money to have new clothes every day, and neither did her siblings. And so sometimes we look at, we hold our hands out to God and say, is it this or this, when really there's some other possibility that we haven't fathomed, good or bad. And so with bullying, sometimes we think, well, there's the victim and there's the bully. And with this, we were able to have a dialogue and say, you know what, the bystanders, 70, 90 percent of us are the bystanders in that situation.

Are we going to make a choice to do something or to just stand back and ignore it? And so in that instance, I can't say she became her best friend or that they run in the same crowd, but she was able to start a dialogue with her where other kids wouldn't even talk to her. She didn't ask her, why do you do that? But she just started a dialogue because everyone else was afraid to even approach her. And so sometimes it's just a matter of teaching your kids just to take a step forward so that someone else feels comfortable then coming towards you. And in so many ways, that needs to be taught.

And what I mean by that is modeled back to your original point. I think kids do see that you have to have a sensitivity to those people around you. And it's an important thing for a parent to teach a child, but they got to see you model it, don't they?

They do. And they have to see you get outside of your norm. That's you know, we're talking about being busy and sometimes we just get so rushed in our routine that we fail to see what are the other options around us. And if I could diverge a minute, there's a friend that they said, what does church look like? Asking questions about what does Jesus really want us to do? And he was talking about they went and fed the homeless at this motel one Sunday. And he brought these, they made these brown paper bag lunches and he went to hand it to a homeless man.

And the guy's like, no thanks. He's thinking, it's our friend Tim, and he said, dude, you're sitting here on a corner, take what I give you. And the guy said, well, what's in the bag?

And it caught him a pack. He said, well, it's a bologna sandwich on white bread with some mustard and mayonnaise. And the homeless man said, well, would you eat that?

And it just stopped him in his tracks. And he said, you know what, you're right, I wouldn't. And the homeless man said, well, what do you eat for lunch when you have a sandwich? He said, well, I get a sub roll with some turkey and lettuce and tomato and onion.

He goes, why do you think I'd be any different? And it just made us realize, what would Jesus want us to do? Does he want us to give our leftovers? Does he want us to give the broken toys and the scraps? Or does he want us to give something that we would love to receive and lavish on us? But your kids have to first understand what that lavish love is from God and feel it from us as their parents before they can even begin to fathom what that means to share it with others.

I mean, that is really good because that was one of the questions I wanted to ask you. What do you do with the guy on the corner with the sign in hand? And, you know, what we tend to do is we'll not every time, but we'll hand him a gift certificate to a fast food place as opposed to handing them money. But it always starts a dialogue with our sons.

You know, do we do something for them or are they just doing this as part of their corporate effort? This is what they do as a vocation. And it's hard to help your kids understand that when it's every corner. It's every corner, especially where we're from in Nashville.

It's the same thing. And that's why I don't think you can have a prescribed response. If we're really going to teach our kids what it means to pray throughout the day, as we're told in the Bible, and to be led by the Spirit, then we have to kind of take each of those situations as they come, whether that just means praying for that person as we see them, whether that means sometimes we do give money. Our kids have said, what can we give them? What do they need? We went and researched, what should you put in a quote-unquote homeless pack? There's actual research.

They need socks because they're standing all day. And so sometimes that just leads into a deeper dialogue. That led us to finding a ministry. You know, sometimes you just have to say, just like if you're looking for a job, do you keep it to yourself? No. You tell your friends, hey, you know what, I just lost my job. Do you know anyone?

Do you know of anything? You put it on social media. Well, I have a heart for the homeless, and so I shared that with an online small group I'm a part of. A member of ours in New Jersey said, oh my gosh, I've got friends in Nashville that run a great ministry. Plugged us in, and we were able to go, it's called Open Table Nashville, and we were able to go and help my kids and I with this homeless ministry. They welcomed my kids. A lot of times you don't see that. And the whole time there, I mean, they weren't woohooed that they were giving up their Friday night to go help the homeless, and they kind of had their arms pulled and saying, well, how long is this going to take, and what are we going to do?

I don't know. And there was a beauty in me saying, I don't know, we're just going to show up. Now let me ask you, we've talked about the positive nature of it. Have you seen a time when either you failed or your husband or the kids failed? No, never. Oh, you are that perfect family.

I love it. I've been looking for the perfect family. No, no, always.

I mean, that, you know, my freedom in Christ, coming to know Christ later in life, was that I didn't have to be a people pleaser. You know, we're going to fail. There's going to be those moments, and I mean, I think they happen daily, at least for me and my kids, of, didn't we just go through this yesterday? Like, I always feel like sometimes we get to that milestone. And we did that when I was, you know, our kids were babies.

I remember calling my husband, like, I found the perfect bottle that won't make them vomit everywhere. He's like, okay, dear, and then the next day it would happen again, you know? And I feel like we feel that there's a destination. And one of my mentors said, it's a journey. And that encouraged me and discouraged me at the same time to know that some of those battles that we fight, that we think we've overcome, are, you know, settled, but we come upon them the next day. But that's when I realized that I have to take a step back as a parent and realize that my kids aren't purposefully trying to drive me nuts, most of the time.

They're not on a mission to really push me. And as parents, we take everything so personally that our kids do, and that's where a lot of these battles come in. And I found that I have to step back, and I do this with my husband now, sometimes if we're in a, you know, heated discussion. Discussion, as we call it. What do you mean?

Yeah, sorry, that's right. John's got it figured out. We literally will stop and say, we're on the same team, you're not my enemy. We are on the same team, you're not my enemy. And I found things, simple things like instead of poking or pointing a finger, we've learned in our family to put a flat hand on an arm, just to say we're not against you, we're with you. And just little things that sometimes we have to give ourselves a time out and think, you know what? We'll come back to this tomorrow.

It doesn't have to be solved today. We have to be respectful, obedient, and honest, but we don't have to figure everything out today. You're listening to Sami Kohn today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and we're talking about Sami's book, Raising Uncommon Kids, 12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids. We've got that available.

Just click the link in the program notes. Let's go ahead and continue now our conversation with Sami Kohn. Hey, we covered your heart at home, your attitude toward others, and I want to move now to a third one, which is your influence in the world. And in fact, this was kind of local for you there in Nashville because you had that huge flood. In fact, I was down there not long after going to the Opryland Hotel, and they were in trouble.

And I think they were four or five feet underwater. So I remember that very well. How did your family react to that there in Nashville?

Well, several ways. The most interesting is that in our first year of moving to Nashville, we had to move three times. And so we were having a little pity party, honestly, and that was the year before the flood. And we were like, why is it so hard? Weren't we supposed to move to Nashville? Well, it turns out that we ended up in an apartment called Hill Meat, literally on a hill.

The two previous houses or apartments we had lived in were flooded. And so that was a great lesson, even for our kids at three and five at the time, to say, look, God knows what we don't always know. But then with these preschoolers, I thought, well, how can I help? You know, after we were able to get out and on the roads after a few days, what can I do with these little kids in tow? And so talking about modeling, I just drove to our church because I'm a frugal girl. So I had quite the stockpile of cleaning supplies and toilet paper and things that people needed because they'd lost everything. And I drove to the church and I dropped it off and I could have stopped there. But I said, well, do you need anything else with me and my minivan and my two kids? And they said, actually, yes, we need these supplies to be taken to kind of ground zero, as we called it. And we need you to shuttle back and forth between what was an auxiliary campus and our main campus.

So for the next couple of days, I did that. And again, we weren't tearing down drywall or doing anything major, but it was a need that needed to be met. And so often, especially for kids, they feel like, well, I don't have time. I don't have, you know, money.

I don't have my own stuff to donate. But if you take the time to say, well, let's give what you have and let's do it now, what does that mean? You know, I'm thinking, Sammy, with young kids like that, you started early and modeled it early. And so as they become 11, 12, 13, they have a little more understanding of it.

What about the parents that have now the 13, 14, 15-year-old, and maybe, you know, they haven't done a great job in this area. They've been busy. Life is busy. We've run along.

Everybody's got their phone or whatever. We come into our garage. We go in. We quickly make dinner. We clean the house up really quick together.

And we're generally a good Christian family, but we just haven't done this. And now the 15-year-old's going, oh, man, I don't want to go volunteer down there at the soup kitchen. Come on, Mom.

I mean, come on. How do you, with slightly older children, begin to reorient them to these good things to become less selfish? Right. Two things that I will say that I hope everyone pays attention to. Number one, start at home. What does your family want to be known for? You can do that tonight around the dinner table.

If you've got a military family, get on Skype, whatever it is. Ask, what do you want our family to be known for? Have everyone throw out three characteristics and create a family mission statement from that.

Because how can you, again, give what you don't have? So start there and say, I mean, I don't care if you're trying to potty train a child or if you're getting ready to send them off to college. You have to focus on one thing at a time, right? Don't try to put all 12 characteristics into effect in one day. So what do we want our family to be known for? What do we want to focus on today? That's step number one. Number two is find out what moves your kids, a little bit what we were talking about before. If you see them on social media all day, instead of stealing the phone away from them, say, you know what? We're going to do an experiment, right?

This isn't a pun. It's an experiment. And for the next week, I want you to only post on Instagram or Snapchat or whatever the kids are using these days about a charity that you can help.

Because organizations are just fraught with ways. If you use this hashtag, we'll donate a dollar to a child in need or pick a, you know, a compassion or an Operation Christmas Child and post pictures of kids. So use where they are to help them.

You know what? If they love, like I said, if they love a sport, you know what? Let's organize a pickup game in the community and just say we're going to be here at this time and let's offer to go pick up the kids from the YMCA or whatever it is. Be present to understand what it is that moves your child and then equip them so they can help others in need.

That's a great piece of advice. Let me ask you about the mission trip. We just got back from the first daily family big mission trip in Africa and it was terrific. We went with an orphanage group there and they run schools and it was really great for the kids to see a different part of the world. Of course, this is Africa.

I think the impact will be lifelong for them. But talk about the need to introduce your kids and what would be the right age to go on a family mission trip. Right. Well, I think that's great that you went to Africa. But let me also say there's a need next door.

That's true. There's a need everywhere, sometimes where you don't expect there to be a need. You know, I found there's a little community garden where we just moved into. I thought, oh, I want to try gardening.

This is great. Well, it turns out it's for refugees, for these families that have been displaced. So, I mean, we almost have a mission field literally, figuratively, eight houses down from us.

And so we took what we called a mainland missions trip to a small town in Kentucky. And I'll admit, I did not have the best attitude. I was content sending backpacks. Oh, that makes me feel better. I'm not. I mean, I'm speaking. I wrote this because I need this. This isn't I've got it all figured out.

I mean, I think if you read the book, you'll see this is fraught with my failures. But we realized that we could actually, instead of just giving the backpacks or the gifts, which is what we had been doing, we could actually go hand deliver them to the kids ourselves. And I think you'll find there's more opportunities, even if it's not within your church.

Look in your community to see where can we actually do something like this. And so we drove the eight hours to, you know, the state just north of us to be able to do that. And we slept on a gym with no air conditioning and on the floor of that gym and we ate some strange lunch meat for a while. But you know what?

We were there. And it's funny. We talk about kids needing to know everything. My daughter was appalled because I was assigned the face painting duty. And she knows you don't have that talent. And she's an artist.

Right. That's the one thing she's really good at. And she was almost angry. She was like, Mom, you have got to tell them you cannot do this. Like she thought I was really like pulling one over their head.

I said, they don't care. I just have to show up. So, you know, and my line was pretty long. I like to say for the face painting. How many how many basketball face paints did you do? Oh, my gosh.

They're like, I want the Kentucky Wildcat. I was like, we're going to have to be a little bit imaginative about that. Right.

I can do a heart. But I just said, sure. But that was that's why she was mixed. I kept saying sure to everyone. And I just they don't know. They can't see it.

It's on their face. Right. And she stood back and I said, Kara, just just be just look about observing. And she ended up playing with just a girl, one girl. And they might think, well, maybe she wasn't doing as much because it was just one child. But it meant a lot to that one child.

And so you're right. When we do a missions trip, it's really not as much for the people that we're helping as it is for us to see how that we can put our own needs. Well, that's the big benefit your children learn. I think that when you give, you feel better. There's something that you gain, which I think is much more than what you give. Right. And it helps you spiritually in a big way. Let me ask you this.

This is a funny story. So in your book, you talk about creating the yes day. Yes. And I love that.

So literally last night, I'm looking and reading through the book and the material. And I say to my boys at the dinner table, would you guys like to have a yes day? They go, yes. No, we don't want to. Yes.

That's unfair. And they just went off. And I said, I think you guys are missing the point. This is the yes day where mom and I need to say yes. And they went, oh, yeah, absolutely.

We want that. Yes. They thought they would have to do whatever they told them to do.

So that was kind of probably a selfish indicator, isn't it? Well, and, you know, again, it's just what are you doing to shake up the routine? Again, this isn't something that's going to last forever. But as parents, right, we're supposed to be turning this mirror on ourselves. So the yes day, again, is really more for us. The kids think it's fun. But is that going to scar them for life or is it going to change them?

No. But for you as a parent, I think what it did for me is that it helped me realize how many times I was saying no. And when you hear that over and over again as a child, it makes you resentful and it just makes you harbor bitterness, honestly. And so if you can take a day and again, don't make it a major school day or anything, you know, a day on a weekend. And we had a few parameters. You know, they couldn't ask for a million dollars or, you know, it was kind of like the genie wishes, right? You can't hurt anyone and you can't do anything crazy. But it just taught me to say, wow, these things that I would normally say no or not now to, like playing outside or making waffles for dinner. You'd be surprised at the simple requests that your kids have that we just learned to say no to. And so, again, training yourself as a parent to be open to what's not typically in front of you. Well, your book is full of great ideas. Raising Uncommon Kids, 12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids.

Sammy, this is terrific. Let me just wrap this with a scripture, because it hits me in Philippians there in, I think, the second chapter. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves. And that's what you're talking about.

How to train your children to do exactly what that scripture is saying. Sammy Cone, thanks for being with us. Thank you so much for having me. It's been such a joy.

What a helpful conversation. And that scripture in Philippians is so key to raising our children to think outside of themselves. It's a good reminder for us as well, isn't it? And let me just remind you that Focus on the Family is here for you. We want to help you be the best parent you can be and find the resources you need to raise your children lovingly and with truth. One of the ways that we can serve you is through our Live It Challenge, which provides monthly activities to help your kids build their faith and strengthen their relationship with Christ.

Also, we have Sammy's book, Raising Uncommon Kids, which is a fantastic resource to help you teach your children positive behaviors and attitudes based on scriptures. Donate today. Make a monthly gift or a one-time gift of any amount and we'll say thank you for joining the support team and enabling Focus on the Family to continue in our work by sending a copy of Sammy's book, Raising Uncommon Kids. Donate, get the book and check out our Live It Challenge.

All the details are in the program notes or call 800-AFAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. in first century Galilee. Experience the Savior through the eyes of his followers. You'll want to dive deeper into scripture with every page turn. Learn more about the chosen novel at slash chosen. That's slash chosen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-28 11:34:55 / 2023-03-28 11:48:44 / 14

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