It’s easy to say that we ought to teach our children to love others more than their prized possessions, but to reach their hearts with this message is a difficult matter. We love stuff. We are a culture obsessed with our belongings. As parents we have eighteen years to counterbalance this overbearing message of consumerism with our own guidance toward the opposite shore of valuation; that our relationships with people are immensely more precious than our possessions. With this mindset in hand (and the grace of God), we can break the grasp of materialism on our families.
I don’t write this article as a parent who has successfully instilled this lesson in her children. I write as a fellow journeyman, intent on teaching my children to love one another. Sometimes I am overcome with joy at their lovingkindness toward each other. Conversely, I am often dismayed by their vehement hostility to one another. I pray for them and teach them as we continue on our lives together.
How to Encourage Relationships
- Encourage Children to Spend Time Reading the Bible – Only God can change our hearts to love what he values, pushing away our innately selfish desires. This conversion only comes through an understanding of God’s greatest gift to us through the loving sacrifice of his son. Our hearts will begin to transform when we understand this offering on our behalf.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2
- Pray for Your Children – Only God can change our children’s hearts. As the creator of everyone and everything, he is the most capable and willing helper that we can entreat.
- Demonstrate a Love of People – Children naturally model what they see played out in front of them. Little eyes are constantly observing our relationships as we interact with our spouse, friends, and others with whom we come into contact. It’s immensely reassuring to know that simply having healthy relationships and valuing them over possessions helps our children to do the same.
- Spend Time Together – Homeschooling automatically means that we have lots of time together, but even families who spend the majority of the day apart can make family time a priority. Our culture values quality time over quantity time. I challenge that notion and counter with the idea that a healthy family results from oodles of time spent existing and interacting with one another. Sometimes family time means all of us sitting down to a meal together. Often this exercise involves an older child teaching a younger child a new skill (i.e., chess or skiing).
- Encourage Intergenerational Relationships – Whether it’s fishing with grandpa, speaking with an adult family visitor, or engaging with their teacher, children learn volumes through interacting with adults of all ages. If you don’t live near elderly family, consider volunteering at a retirement home or ministry. Perhaps you could bring meals to shut-ins.
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. – C.S. Lewis
- The preferred game at our house that all the children can play together is Spot it! The older boys also enjoy backgammon and chess, while the younger children love to play checkers.
- Minecraft has been a huge talking point at our house, allowing the children to interact over a common interest. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear the kids discussing their current Minecraft projects.
- Building Strong Sibling Relationships at Raising Olives – Kimberly (a mom of 11) describes how she encourages healthy relationships amongst her children.
- If getting everyone to the table together means using paper plates, that’s OK with me! Seriously, sometimes you just need that little extra helper. Tossing these in the trash saves me five minutes or more that I can spend playing with my kids. My inner hippie screams a bit, but I still consider these a great purchase 🙂
It’s possible to teach children to value relationships over possessions. With the grace of God and a desire to see our children transformed, we can break the grasp of materialism on our families and change our culture.
How do you encourage your child to value people and relationships over possessions?