- (Photo: Courtesy Thomas Nelson)
Pastor Dave Stone is the best-selling author of "How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World." Stone is a father of three as well as the pastor of a 20,000-member congregation. He spoke with The Christian Post about the challenges of raising selfless kids and the influence of today's society.
The Christian Post: Where did the idea of raising selfless originate?
Pastor Stone: I've seen so many families where it's a child-centered home and everything revolves around "Junior." I don't think any parent sets out to raise a spoiled child, but if we're not careful, and society creeps in, it just kind of happens. We have to raise our kids with a counter-cultural mindset. The reason I wrote the book was because of the New Testament principle of honoring others above one's self.
I tell a lot of personal stories of things that have gone smoothly, and I share a lot of failures and mistakes we've made in the process. We see selfishness creep into the lives of our kids at a very early age. One of their first words is often "Mine!" To raise your kids to think of others, to share, ot reach out are radical thoughts but they are no different than what Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount. All the way through he's constantly telling us radical behaviors that mark us as Christ-followers. If parents model the way, your kids are more likely to be others-oriented.
CP: What do you make of the influence of society and technology on children?
Stone: I think what technology does is becomes a distraction and a crutch for a child. There are plenty of great and fun things, but the biggest barrier I think it is that it suffocates a family because it reduces communication within the family. A child never learns to have face-to-face communication: child looks down instead of in a person's face. Do a lot of your teaching around the dinner table-make it a technology-free zone. If your 12-year-old rushes through dinner, that's when you say, you have not expressed any interest in anyone else's life. Until you can actually communicate with us, you may not be excused. This is the time when we check in with one another; we want to drive that home.
CP: How do you encourage others to raise selfless children?
Stone: When people ask about raising a selfless child in today's culture, I say that they derive a lot of joy from doing things for other people. It may seem foreign to them at first, but then they'll find themselves wanting to do something for someone else. The 20-something culture seems to find enjoyment in selfless service. If you start serving with your family, it becomes contagious and other people want to do it with you.
"How are you going to shine your light today?" is the motto of one family. Whether they go to preschool, to grandma's house or elsewhere, that's the encouragement they hear. My wife, who often conducts a carpool, has an "encouragement jar" filled with chocolate; if the kids have encouraged someone, they get a piece of chocolate. "Be on the lookout" for people in need; try to find out what their story is. When that person lashes out or tries to get attention, try to find out if you can help him/her in any way. Look past the action.
CP: What about your own children? Would you deem them selfless at this time?
Stone: I've got two girls and one son ages 18-24, and this is a fun stage. We've gone through all the stages of parenting, teaching, coaching them though and are entering into the friendship stage with each one of them. My wife told me that our son had helped a stranger who needed gas; it's the little things where you can see that they've "caught" the learning … some of the most fun times are when you get told that you've done things right … that your kids listened.
You can order "How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World" on Amazon.com. To learn more about Pastor Dave stone, visit www.pastordavestone.com.