It’s Titus 2 Tuesday, and I’m answering this question submitted by a CultivatingaHome reader:

“I have a child who is easily offended and is having trouble being genuinely happy for another sibling’s successes. I know the root is a selfish heart, but I’d love some help with training.”

You are not alone in having “the selfish sibling.” We’re all selfish and are easily offended, want things our way, and not always happy with the success of others – particularly if it’s something we would like for ourselves. The Bible says,

Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Here are some practical steps to deal with the heart of “the selfish sibling.”

1) Teach child that our aim is to please the Lord. 

II Corinthians 5:9 (The Message) Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions.

2) Base parenting on Scripture and focus on training to the child’s heart. 

Consistently address the heart, because “out of it are the issues of life.” Put aside your own agenda and “stop the world” to deal with specific targets of character. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, afterall He gives it liberally to all who ask

  • Jealousy displeases God and leads to envy and discontentment.
    • James 3:16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.
  • Put off jealousy.
    • I Peter 2:1  Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
  • Put on love.
    • I Corinthians 13:4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.
    • Romans 12:15  Rejoice with those who rejoice.

3) Train Ahead and Role Play.

Talk with your child BEFORE the next situation occurs. Avoid being dramatic “We need to talk!” Instead, find private time with just the two and speak lovingly. Think of yourself as a mentor and guide your child through this. Pray about the timing and your tone. (You can read more about training ahead in the blog post here.)

Succinctly and lovingly share your observations. Explain the “root” sin. Teach him what he is to put off/put on. This could be put off jealousy; put on love. Or put off praising self; put on wanting best for sibling. Guiding him through this process of applying scripture is very valuable and is giving him wisdom from which to draw in making future decisions. Here are some sample situations you could role-play:

  • Sister gets the part in the musical he wanted. “How could you rejoice with her?”
  • Brother wins the board game. “How can you put off being upset and put on congratulating?”
  • Sister gets to sit in the car seat you want. “What can you do to put her above yourself?”
  • Brother gets to go to an event and you don’t. “How can you handle this according to God’s word?”
  • Brother says something ugly and hurtful to you. “How can you handle this lovingly and honoring of God and him?”

Confirm his understanding of the lesson taught. “So, what will you do the next time your in a situation in which someone else gets more, is favored, gets what we want? What will you do the next time your in a situation in which you feel left out, or lose?”

I’ve found one built-in way to continually train ahead to the heart is through a daily devotion time with the kids using Proverbs. I am intentional to target the character that needs addressing in our home. I read a verse, give practical examples for different age levels, and we role play.

4) Plant situations to monitor application.

Intentionally put him in settings where you can monitor, at a distance, his understanding and application of the lessons just taught. You could arrange for a game time with siblings to see how he handles winning and losing. Be strategic. Have them play within earshot so that you can swiftly and privately address issues. If he says, for example, “You cheated” (showing he is a poor loser),  calmly call him to another room, address the root of selfishness, what to put on in its place, then send him back. Repeat as often as needed. Note, this should not embarrass him nor bring attention to the situation. You’re mentoring. Keep that in mind.

5) Teach child to observe the sibling’s interests and to do good. 

Notice the unique dynamics and interests of the sibling. Mentor your child in this process of putting off self-focus to see ways to put on being others-focused by being a blessing. Point out opportunities to cheer for the sibling, to make a big deal about an accomplishment, to delight in making the sibling’s favorite meal, to participate in her favorite sport or activity. Look for times to rejoice with, encourage and affirm with sincere words. This focus will also enable him to have spot on ideas for gift-giving and serving.

Rhonda trainingtakesconsistencyandaplaceofpriority ellis

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  1. peggy hamrick

    Rhonda, this is wonderful advice. Excited about 2nd chances – getting it right with grandchildren!
    Keep up the great blogging!

    • Peggy, I bet you’re loving on sweet baby James right now. Thanks for your continued friendship and encouragement to me. Love you.

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