The Make-Others-Happy Game


If you're a parent, I know you can relate. The kids are playing nicely for maybe 2 minutes until someone starts crying. "He did this!" "She did that!" They aren't sharing. They aren't being kind. They are exhibiting natural selfish behavior and it drives me nuts as the mom who is called on to intervene a few thousand times each day.

We've implemented numerous strategies over the years to deal with sibling rivalry but none of them have lasted or really helped with the root cause of the behavior... sin and selfishness.

Last month we read through Philippians during our family Bible study time. In chapter 2 verses 3 and 4 say "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others." This was a big challenge to me and got me thinking further about how my kids could do this in their relationship with each other.

Recently I read somewhere about teaching your children that everything they do is for someone else. They learn to read and write to be able to teach others some day or to be able to read to their younger siblings, etc. They color a picture in order to share it with someone else and bring a smile to their face. They clean up in order to keep anyone from tripping on toys and to keep mommy happy. It's the idea that everything should be done with someone else in mind, a servant-like mentality.

One day I pondered how this could apply to playtime. It's usually considered to be free-time at our house. A time when school work is done and there is no list of chores waiting to be tackled. The kids are free to simply play. How can this be done with someone else in mind? Is playing naturally a self-centered activity? Hmmm.

Thus was born the "Make Others Happy" game. I've started to tell the kids at the start of playtime that the goal of their play is to make the other one happy. To my daughter, I say "Remember to play whatever your brother wants, however he wants. Make him happy!" And to my son, I say "Play so that your sister is happy. Do what she wants to do!" This way they are both thinking about the other on, looking to the interests of the other instead of just their own interests.

When one does come running with a "He took my toy" or "She knocked down my tower" or whatever... I ask "Are you playing to make him/her happy? Remember that is the goal of your play." This shift in our thinking has cut down on the number of tattlings and arguments by at least 50%.

When our little buddy Eli came over for a day, I reminded the kids of this principle again. My son (age 4) especially struggles with letting Eli (age 2) play with toys in the way that he (Eli) wants to. By reminding my son and modeling for him how it looks to play "To Make Eli Happy" he was able to let Eli have the freedom to enjoy playing however he wanted. They both ended up much happier and enjoyed the playtime much more than when my son hoards the toys or wants to be the boss of Eli, telling him how to play with a certain toy.

It brings joy to my heart now to hear my son proudly proclaim "I played so sister can be happy!" or to catch them playing together in a kind, considerate way. I heap on the praise when I catch them in the act! And as the weeks have gone by, the kids are getting the hang of this more and more. Slowly they are realizing that everyone enjoys playtime more when they play to make others happy.

And isn't that the way life is? When we live with a servant attitude towards our spouse, our family, our church, we discover that joy can be found in looking to the interests of others instead of living life just to fulfill our own selfish desires. In that way, the Make-Others-Happy game is preparing my kids for life, as well as teaching them how to obey God and the Bible.

Thank you, God, for your perfect example of living life for others! We ask you to enable us to do the same. In Jesus' name, Amen!


Pamm said...

You rock! This is awesome. I've been thinking alot about how so much of the arguments between the kids boils down to selfishness. I'm going to think and pray some more about the Scripture you mentioned and "everything you do is for some-one else" attitude and see how this works for our family. Thank you for sharing!

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