Q: I've been struck recently by how our kids seem so ... self-centered, I guess. I really want to steer them in the right direction. Do you have any advice?
Jim: I think it's an unfortunate fact of fallen human nature that we ALL have a tendency to feel that the world revolves around us. Today's culture amplifies this problem by telling us -- especially impressionable children and teens -- to look out for Number One (and, dare I say, "build your personal brand"?). Parents have the challenging task of helping our kids look beyond their own interests and develop empathy for others.
As the host of a radio interview show, I've heard several guests suggest that one of the best antidotes for self-centeredness is to volunteer as a family. It might be serving at a food bank, donating items to a local shelter or hosting a neighborhood car wash and giving the proceeds to charity. Assembling care packages for the troops, picking up trash at the park, joining a church service project -- the possibilities are endless.
Volunteering can help children learn four valuable lessons. First, it helps them grasp that they're NOT the center of the universe. Second, it helps them gain self-confidence and teaches responsibility. Third, it familiarizes them with community resources and groups that depend on volunteers. And finally, volunteering helps children see and build relationships with positive role models -- men and women who are investing their lives in reaching out to others.
It's vital, of course, that we parents model self-sacrifice and service for our children. But it's even better when we can get our kids involved in the same activities. Volunteering will draw your family closer together -- and you'll quite likely make some lasting memories in the process.
For more tips on how to help your family thrive, go to FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: I love hosting our large extended family for Thanksgiving every year. The only awkward point (every time) comes when my father-in-law insists on carving the turkey. Unfortunately, he does a terrible job, and my beautifully cooked bird gets absolutely mauled! I don't want to insult him by giving the job to someone else. Do you have any suggestions for fixing this in a loving way?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: I applaud you for wanting to provide a special Thanksgiving experience for everyone, while also protecting your relationship with your father-in-law. Many of us neglect to appreciate the time, effort and love that goes into planning and preparing a holiday meal. That's an incredible gift, so it's a shame when everything is devoured and done in a matter of moments.
I wonder if that might be part of your frustration. It's important to clearly identify your feelings -- otherwise, resentment will only build. In other words, you won't achieve resolution unless you're able to articulate to yourself WHY this is such a difficult issue for you.
After you've explored your feelings and arrived at the heart of the matter, you might decide to stay with the status quo. But that doesn't mean you can't use the opportunity to create a "win" for everyone.
For example, you could initiate a new tradition of taking a family picture with the beautiful turkey before it goes under the knife. You might also further honor your father-in-law by publicly commending his carving leadership -- and expressing a desire that he preserve the tradition by someday conferring that responsibility to your husband.
All told, you might find that the sacrificial act of deferring to your father-in-law is actually an extension of what you're trying to accomplish -- serving your family while providing an atmosphere where a spirit of love and thanksgiving is felt and expressed by all.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at jimdalyblog.focusonthefamily.com or at Facebook.com/JimDalyFocus.
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