Habits of Mind: Friday 50 – Humility
Humility is a habit of mind that can help our kids find security and happiness in who they are as people and the role they play in others’ lives. It is a characteristic that can seem difficult to develop as it requires balancing the competing need to build your child’s sense of self worth and achievement, while tempering this sense of self and achievement with appropriate perspective and the ability to express humility. This tug of war is beautifully captured in the Serbian proverb “[b]e humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.”'Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.' Serbian ProverbClick To Tweet
Author C.S. Lewis wrote that “true humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less”. As a father of two developing #epic kids, some of my proudest moments have come when my kids have helped build others up by being humble. This isn’t a natural way of thinking for kids. We all come into the world needing to be the center of everyone’s attention. Our very survival depends on this.'True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.' C.S. LewisClick To Tweet
As our kids mature, they need our guidance to move out of this ego centric state to a state where they understand that they are part of many different circles of influence that radiate out from and overlap theirs. They influence and are influenced by everyone in these circles: family, friends, school, teams, clubs, and community. They need our help to think about how to humbly yet confidently operate within their world of “circles” and about what humility looks like, sounds like, and feels like.
We live in a time where it is very easy to find examples of arrogance operating at the highest levels of politics, sports, and entertainment. This may be because we are at a point in history where, at least on my small slice of the globe, we can express our opinions so freely and easily. The ability to shout our opinion to an audience of one or one hundred million via the web is simultaneously coupled to a decline in the acceptance of absolute truths. This can leave us with no measuring stick for what is true, good, or right other than ourselves.
As a younger man, I have been guilty of believing that my way of thinking and acting was not only the best way but at times the only sensible way of being. This lack of humility created significant problems for me in my personal and professional life. I didn’t have trusted mentors in my life at the time to point this out to me so my journey was harder than it had to be, simply because I needed to learn to be humbler. As a result, I am on guard for expressions of arrogance from myself and my kids, and look for ways to help them through learning about humility.
Gordon B Hinckley challenged us to help our kids understand that “being humble means recognizing that we are not on earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others”. I also love G.K. Chesterton’s quote about humility’s role in developing #epic kids” “Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley and only small things from the peak”.'Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley and only small things from the peak”. G.K. ChestertonClick To Tweet
Here are 11 suggestions for helping our kids develop the habit of humility:
True Humility is a lifestyle. It is not an on again, off again way of being. Never underestimate the power of example and modelling for your kids. Be humble and let them see and hear you being so. Our kids are always watching to see of our actions and words align. Never underestimate the power of what we model for them and how we do so.
Build up your kids and encourage them to do their very best.
Humility comes from a position of strength and belief in one’s own efficacy and worth. Help your kids achieve things in life confidently but with the perspective that along with their success comes the responsibility to handle themselves with class and humility.
Expose your kids to great teachers, coaches, and mentors.
Our kids’ schools, churches, community and sports organizations have excellent mentors that can help our kids learn about being humble. Seek these kinds of people out for your kids to work with and help them reflect on the lessons and examples of humility in action.
Communicate to your kids that they have inherent worth.
Our kids need to understand that we love them simply because, they are who they are. They need to feel and know that our love and their worth as human beings is not a result of their accomplishments, looks, talents, etc. Teach them to expect to be treated kindly and with respect and how to appropriately respond when this does and does not happen. Teaching our kids to be humble doesn’t mean we teach them to be pushovers.
Teach your kids to express thanks.
A sense of gratitude is critical building block of a humble heart. Our kids need practice in saying thank you and won’t always respond appropriately to situations where they should be expressing thanks without our guidance and support. Help them understand how and when they need to express gratitude in a genuine way without being prompted to by you.
Coach your kids through how to apologize.
Being able to say your sorry is an important component of humility. It can cause kids, and adults, a great deal of anxiety to have to own up to their mistakes and take responsibility for them. An apology needs to come from the heart and be delivered from a place of humility to be genuine and meaningful for all parties involved. Like all things we need to help our kids learn and understand, apologizing isn’t a natural or easy thing to do for them. Our example and modelling is critical. When you make a mistake as a parent, own up to it and apologize. Talk with your kids as you apologize and help them see not only that you are truly sorry, but also the way that you apologize and attempt to make amends for your words or actions.
Don’t humiliate your kids.
A sense of humility comes from a foundation of security. It is never the result of “being humbled”, bullied, or “knocked down a peg” by trusted loved ones, teachers, coaches or mentors. If you find yourself doing this to your kids, remember that your words and actions can leave a legacy. If you find your child is experiencing humiliating treatment at school, on their athletics team, or elsewhere in their life be their champion and help them deal with it.
Teach your kids to be good sports.
While playing games around the dinner table, or participating in individual or team sports, demonstrating good sportsmanship is an important aspect of living in a humble manner. Recognizing that it is never ok to break the rules, belittle others as you play, or gloat about winning. It’s also not ok to lose perspective about losing and act in a way that doesn’t honor themselves, their family, their team or their sport. Have your kids try to empathize with the kids across from them on the floor, on the other side of the game board, or on the other bench and ask them to imagine how they are feeling. Be happy for their successes and considerate regarding their defeat. This isn’t to say your child shouldn’t be excited in victory or disappointed in defeat, we just need to help them learn to temper and express their emotions in a humble way.
Help your kids to become and stay learners / be coachable
Our kids need to be willing and open learners. They need to understand that no matter how much you know and can do now, there is always room to learn more and get better. Being coachable can open doors for our kids in many different realms of learning from the classroom, to the court, to the job site.
As parent, we can help our kids develop a humble and coachable nature by being positive. When our kids look to us for feedback, or coaching, or help in learning they are far more likely to respond to our ideas if we use positive language and deliver our feedback from a place of positivity.
Second, praise their effort as well as the result. Praising one without the other can leave our kids with an incomplete understanding of how to work towards being their best version of themselves. Effort is critical but so are results. We can help our kids understand how to be humbly be proud of both. Kids will inevitably fail as they try new things and push themselves to get better, don’t let these failures dominate your feedback to them. Talk about how even when your kids don’t achieve the result that they would like to see, yet, there are always small victories to celebrate as they put in the effort.
Third help your kids understand that there are things to learn from every teacher and coach. There will always be people who mesh better with our individual learning style or who we just connect with better as human beings. As parents, we have the responsibility to help our kids navigate the world of coaches and teachers, and protect them from abusive or truly harmful situations. We also have the responsibility to temper our natural protective instincts in some situations and ask our kids to look for what they can learn, and how they can grow under the guidance of their coach / teacher, and support our child and their coach as they work together.
Find ways to serve with your kids.
Work with your kids in situations where you can serve others. Look for opportunities to help people in your community. Shovel snow/cut grass for your elderly neighbours, volunteer with an organization that serves the less fortunate, coach, mentor, and give back to others. Help your kids understand that all people have value, even those who may need our help in the moment.
Let your kids see you helping, even with small things around your community and try to show them that you are humble enough to do what needs to be done. Approach these opportunities to serve from a place of humility yourself and look for ways to learn and grow as you do so. Talk to your kids about what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed as a result.
Have a zero-tolerance policy for disrespectful attitudes and behavior
Children should never be permitted to behave rudely or use inappropriate language. Expect them to speak and behave respectfully from an early age. Make it clear that you will genuinely listen to them and consider any complaint or objection they may have; as long as it is stated respectfully.
They will come to understand that you, like others in their lives, will not always act on their objection or complaint. This deliberate approach and practice helps them learn to raise their concerns in a respectful manner with you, their teachers, coaches, bosses, etc.
Do not let disrespectful expressions from your kids slide. Address them directly and appropriately. Let them know you understand that they might see lots of examples from the world around them of people expressing themselves in disrespectful ways. Let them know you believe and expect that they can do better, be better, and that you will help them learn.
We can help our kids develop a humble heart and spirit as they grow and develop under our guidance and care. This will ultimately help them in all aspects of their lives from family, to school, to teams, to work to intimate relationships. We must be humble and genuine of heart ourselves and live this out loud for our kids to see, feel and hear. I’d love to hear how you approach developing and encouraging humility in your kids as I am certainly humble enough to know, I don’t have it all figured out.