Monday, 8 July 2013

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How Do You Teach Your Child To Be Sensitive to the Feelings of Others?


JN and J helping to wash the car at the summer house when we had more time while on vacation...
Of course, it took Daddy longer than usual.
But it is important learning that we need to spend the time to teach.

Does your child respond sensitively to the feelings of others?

According to the book "Let the Child Come Along the Virtuous Way" based on the series Growing Kids God's Way, here are the barometers:

1. When your child's neighbor is thirsty, will your child offer him a drink?
2. When your child's neighbor is hungry, will he give of his food?
3. When your child's neighbor is alone, will he give of his friendship?
4. When there is a new child in class, will your child be warm and friendly to him, showing caring and compassionate gesture?
5. How in-touch is your child to the feelings, hurts, pains and needs of other children?

How do you instill a consideration for otherness in your child so that he/she responds sensitively toward the feelings of his peers?

Three ways:

According to the author Ezzo & Ezzo, there are 3 ways:

1. By parental example and instruction in the formation of proper habits.

2. By placing your child in an environment that will encourage service to others, for example family-care household chores

3. By encouraging your children

1. By parental example and instruction in the formation of proper habits

What about ourselves? How do we measure up against these barometers? Are we setting good parental example, one that is genuine?

We need to work on setting a good parental example. We are all fallen creatures and we need God's help in our own character building. Things will come our way that frustrate and agitate us, and we need to deal with them in a good manner. Just this morning, we already had an encounter.

In cultivating a servant's attitude, my family and I have a lot to learn. I am ashamed to admit that I am the selfish one. We need to set a good parental example, but we are not there yet. But looking forward, we will do our best to set a good example. One of the best thing of having a child is that it helps us to continue on working on refining our character, since we want to set a good example. We need God's wisdom and grace. We need God's forgiveness. We need our children's forgiveness for not setting a good example at times. We need to forgive ourselves, and forgetting behind, and looking forward to try again until it becomes our second nature.

2. By placing your child in an environment that will encourage service to others

According to the book, include your children in the experience of serving others daily. It may seem overwhelming, but we can take comfort that we can start from the home.

How can this be done?

The author teaches that we can include our children to whatever extent possible given their age, in helping to secure the welfare of your family.

I quote from the book:

"Researchers from Toronto, Canada and from Macquarie University in Australia studied children from families who were given daily chores and those who were not. Their research pointed toward some interesting conclusions.

Children who performed household chores showed more compassion for their siblings and other family members than children who did not share in family responsibility. Even more interesting was teh fact that not all chores are equal. The kids who did family-care chores like setting table, feeding the cat or bringing in firewood, showed more concern for the welfre of others than children who had only self-care responsibilities, such as making their own bed and handing up their own clothes.

Such research validates the obvious. Whenever children participate in the care of others, they grow sensitive to human need."

What are some suitable family-care household chores?

Here are some examples of 10 suitable chores:

1. Setting or clearing the table.
2. Helping with the weeding of the garden.
3. Helping to water the plants.
4. Helping to prune the plants.
5. Helping to hang the laundry.
6. Helping to fold the clothes.
7. Helping to wash the family car.
8. Helping to feed the family dog or cat.
9. Bringing firewood in every day after school.
10. Helping to bring the garbage out.

3. By encouraging your children

Sibling relationships are the first peer relationships most children will know.

For examples:

1. Encourage them to be happy when something wonderful happens to a sibling or friend, such as when one receives an award, wins a board game or has an opportunity that the others do not have.

2. When it is one child’s birthday, the siblings do not need to receive a gift too. That only robs the birthday child of his special day. It teaches the siblings to selfishly look forward to a day of gifts rather than a day of celebrating the birth of a friend or a sibling. The children will receive a gift – each one on their own birthday.
I quote the author:

"Children by nature, can be tje cruelest members of any society. But children whose hearts are properly shaped can be vessels of honor used by God, bringing mercy to those who know no mercy and grace to those who know no grace.

To have your son or daughter reach out to another child for no other reason than the love of kindess brings God's confirmation to the heart. In that moment, your child's kindness touches the throne of God because his actions please God."

In so doing, we are actually teaching our children to cultivate a servant's attitude to be like Christ.

The Bible says to us in the following verses. Incorporate these Bible verses when teaching and encouraing your children, and yourselves.

Leviticus 19:18 instructs, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Philippians 2:3 tells us to esteem and regard others higher than ourselves.
Colossians 3:13 instructs us to be, “Forbearing with one another.”
Romans 12:9 says, “In honor giving preference to one another.”
Romans 13:8 instructs, “Love one another.”
Titus 3: 2 instructs us to be courteous to all men.

Lesson I take away from the above

J in general is a generous, kind and gracious boy. Yesterday, we got compliments from a friend for his good behavior - for not running around, holding mommy's hands on the pedestrian path, eating quietly at the restaurant. But the compliment brought a little guilt as I felt that I have actually slowly been neglecting this area. Unknowing to my friend and myself, we might have already reached a peak and on our way on a downward slid in this area. We have started out well for the first three years of J's life. But life's priorities creep in (work, academic pursuits, swimming class, piano class, sports,  Sunday School, travels, leisure activities, etc. etc.) and as J gets older and has more capability for academic work (Maths, Science, geography, Chinese class, English class, etc. etc.), we can all more and more activities start fighting for our time and attention and we have not been so sensitive towards the character development of this area.

In managing work and family life, we have outsourced many things in order to free up time for the family. We have outsourced cleaning to helper and cooking to restaurants/take away places. We go on relaxed vacation when we are not working. They are all well and good, but it has given us much less opportunities to practice the family-care chores. These chores have values on their own, and we might have ironically teach self-centredness in our children in the process of outsourcing these chores.

J doesn't need to do much to care for the family, since we outsource so much of them. I see my nephews and nieces in Singapore. Practically all family-care household chores are outsourced to lived-in domestic maids. Instead of helping, they have someone at their call to do everything for them. Our family needs to re-analyze the balance in this area.

If you are a SAHM, you are blessed, because without outsourcing all these chores, you are in the best placed position to help your children. Don't look at the double-income household who have the extras for vacation and outsourcing the chores and discount those housework and your presence at work with the children.

For me, aside from academic, these are the lessons on character building that I should spend effort and time on. I am still learning to strike a balance, and prayerfully I will gain the wisdom to strike a balance. For what is the gain of academic achievements of J, if J is not sensitive to the feelings of others?

It does not mean that the academic pursuits are not valuable on its own and should be abandoned, but that character building also requires time and effort and should not be relegated to the last place. It may be best not to have the highest grade in the whole class, if it takes all the time in the academic pursuits to reach there, but to have time to teach character building.

I feel hypocritical to write such a post. I have to admit that I have not mastered it yet. Our family has not mastered it yet. I wrote this post to teach myself. As we attempt to teach it to our children J and JN and also the children we come into contact with at Sunday School, we need to work on ourselves in setting a good example. I am working on myself. We are working on ourselves. We hope that you will be patient with us and forgive us, as we take steps forward and yet stumble backwards at times, when we make mistakes, when we fall back to showing inconsideration to others time again and again, be it judging others or not showing grace to others, as God compassionately and gently leads us back to His path.

Here is the book Let the Children Come Along the Virtuous Way by Ezzo & Ezzo:


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