Saturday, September 18, 2010

Being friendly

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” -Heb. 13:2

Teaching kids to be friendly neighbors is another “better caught than taught” lesson. Kids aren’t necessarily born friendly. In case you’re wondering, go spend some time in the church nursery this Sunday morning. Observe the babies. They are precious but observe their little natures. They mostly focus 100% on themselves and when their needs are not met, they don’t mind letting the whole world know about it!

Then shift over to the children’s department and do a psychological study on “innate friendliness in the sharing of toys.” It can get pretty brutal when it comes to sharing Legos.

Again, that’s okay, but as those beautiful babies and kids grow up, their innate selfish nature remains and needs to be retrained. Kids can be taught and, by far, their best teachers aren't at school but at home. As they observe mom and dad being neighborly, sharing and putting others first, then they learn to be friendly themselves. Only Jesus can heal sin nature, but it is the parents’ job to help develop a child’s healthy behavior.

No one was friendlier than Mr. Rogers. And my two kids watched him any time he was on TV. They loved watching King Friday and X the Owl, but most of all it was the smile and demeanor of Fred Rogers that caught their attention. He taught them that they were special and wonderful. Truth is, he taught me that too! I loved watching the show.

What was the key ingredient to the success of the Mr. Rogers show? He was friendly. He asked us at the beginning of every show if “we’d be his neighbor” and of course, we secretly answered “yes.” That’s how friendliness works. When someone is friendly to us, we tend to be friendly back.

So, audit time. How are you doing in teaching your kids how to be friendly? They are soaking up every encounter they see you handle throughout the day, good and bad. When you gripe about the waitress at dinner, they file that away. When you tailgate the car in front of you for going too slow, they file that away. (By the way, they might be driving slow because they’re on vacation and trying to relax. Let them). When you slander someone in a conversation with your wife, they file that away.

So be sure those files don't exist. Rather, give your kids good examples to follow. When you stop to help a stranded motorist, make an encouraging phone call to a widower or speak highly of a neighbor to your wife, that is all filed away by your kids too.

Jesus set the best example for us all when he lived out his challenge to “love your neighbor as yourself.” He loved the unlovely and set the bar for us to love unconditionally.

Be intentional with your teen to teach him to be friendly, neighborly and kind. If you’re that friendly, who knows? When you visit that nursery, you might feel like going the extra mile and changing a diaper!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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