Merribrooke’s Reads: Raising Unselfish Children In A Self-Absorbed World.

I’d like to start a new segment of the journal called Merribrooke’s Reads. Reading has been a favorite past-time of mine since I first learned how to read. I’ve since developed from Amelia Bedelia and Junie B. Jones, and I would love to be able to share some of my favorites with you. Part of my hope in starting this segment is that it will encourage me to make more time for reading. I just finished a book, so I figured this is a great week to start.

Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World by Jill Rigby is my most recent read. I remember seeing this book when I worked at LifeWay, long before my children were a thought in my mind. The title caught my attention then and I stored it away in the back of my mind. In the spring semester of this year, our lovely pastor’s wife, Donna Gaines, was teaching on gratitude during our women’s bible study. She highly recommended this book as a tool to begin teaching our children gratitude. I added it to my kindle list then and just finished reading it this afternoon.

As I was reading, I kept leaning over to Josh and saying, “This book is SO good!” It truly is. (Editor’s Note: She really did. A lot.) I highly recommend it for parents with children of any age. It blessed me with rich spiritual concepts as well as countless fun and simple practices to implement with my children. Let me summarize for you, while strongly encouraging you to read it for yourself.

Chapters one and two serve as the foundation for the rest of the book. Rigby introduces the concept of teaching your kids to look at life through a window rather than a mirror. While the world emphasizes the importance of instilling high self-esteem in our children, the repercussions of that philosophy are having a profound effect on our children. Parents bend over backwards to give their children the world, teaching their kids “It’s all about you!” and the result is a selfish, greedy, unforgiving generation that can never be satisfied because they deserve the world. Rigby challenges us to take our children to the window rather than handing them a mirror. Teach them that they are a small part of a big world created by an even bigger God. She says,

“And the amazing thing is that when children look through the window at the world beyond, their own image is reflected back to them in the glass—but it’s in the appropriate context, as part of the world, not the center of the world. When your children look beyond themselves, not only can they see others, they also find their purpose in serving others. They find respect for themselves as children of God, and this enables them to step into the world beyond the window to love others as they have been loved.”

Wouldn’t that be wonderful! I pray that my children can see themselves as a part of their Father’s work in the world as they serve others out of the humble love that’s been poured out on them.

The following eight chapters dive into how to “take your child to the window.” Rigby begins by emphasizing the importance of asking the Lord to rid you of all selfishness in your own life. We can’t teach selflessness to our children when they see selfishness in us.

She encourages families to build a parenting plan that starts with a goal. If you don’t have a goal you end up wandering aimlessly. She examines motherhood and fatherhood according to two biblical parents, Hannah and Joseph. As one of my personal favorite biblical women, Hannah serves as a powerful model of selflessness.

A later chapter focuses on giving our kids what they need, but not always what they want. Teaching children the importance of patience and earning the things they desire builds Christlike character in our children as well as a healthy sense of self-respect.

The following chapter teaches us how to instill God-confidence in our children. Rigby defines God-confidence as:

  • “Knowing who you are and whose you are.”
  • “Not thinking more highly of yourself than you should.”
  • “Choosing to be obedient to God, no matter what the costs.”
  • “Accepting your call from God.”

In order to help us instill God-confidence, she gives practical ways to help your children learn to listen to God’s voice and recognize his hand in their lives. For example, she suggests teaching your children to pray for God to help them love a difficult person, and then reminding them to listen for God’s voice guiding them to love that person.

Chapter seven focuses on teaching your children to have compassion. She gives scriptures to pray for your children as well as conversations and activities you can have with your children at every stage. Model compassion, love them compassionately, and they will learn to extend compassion to others.

Following that chapter, Rigby discusses the importance of teaching your children to forgive. Selfish people nurse wounds and hold to bitterness, while selfless people extend forgiveness as they understand how greatly they’ve been forgiven by a perfect God.

Part three is the final section of the book. In this section, Rigby focuses on the importance of teaching our children selflessness by teaching them to give back to their communities. She talks about teaching our children the importance of serving the needy in our communities, as well as the privilege of taking part in a democratic system. Rigby shares a powerful testimony of a young soldier she met in an airport who testified that serving his country rid him of the selfishness he proudly clung to before enlisting.

For the sake of length, I didn’t summarize every chapter. However, Rigby also focuses on being a “developer parent” who gives her children appropriate responsibility, building family togetherness, and instilling generosity and gratitude in the hearts of our children.

Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World is a book I will continue to refer back to throughout my parenting journey. I’m praying that the Lord uses the spiritual truths to convict me of my own selfishness, as well as equip me to train my children in Christlike character. I pray it blesses you as it did me.