I’ve had something on my mind and in my prayers the last few weeks, and I would love to get all of your input on it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how self-happiness-centered Ali’s life is. Which is wonderful – I love seeing her happy – but I want to make sure that her life isn’t just filled with happiness, but with the true joy of knowing and living for God.

I know, she’s only two, but the thing is that so far, most of her life has revolved around her. How can I start teaching, at her age, that our life doesn’t revolve around her, but it revolves around God? How can I model this for her and teach her how to live it?

We read the bible and pray every night, we talk about God all the time, we pray at meals, we go to Church and Bible Study, we talk about how God wants us to share, obey, be honest, be sweet, etc, but how can I show her that it goes so, so much farther than that?

I have been praying about this and trying to think of creative ways to do this that a two year old can grasp, but have so far come up blank. However, God DID give me a good passage as a starting point for what I’m trying to accomplish:

1 Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Now let me clarify that we are by no means and in no way “rich”, and I certainly don’t mean to imply this by quoting this passage. However, in Ali’s little world, she has everything she wants. We have annual passes to McWane Center and the Zoo. She has tons of toys, books, and dolls. Her world is filled with “stuff” and “fun”.

But I want her to understand that those things aren’t the be all and end all of life. Because making her happy at all times shouldn’t be my goal. My goal should be to show her how to have true joy by her relationship with Jesus and by serving other people in Jesus’ name.

So this passage has a few awesome pointers to framework what I’m trying to accomplish:

  1. Do not put your hope in stuff, but in God, who gave us the stuff for our enjoyment.
  2. Do good.
  3. Be rich in good deeds.
  4. Be generous and willing to share.
  5. These things will lay up treasures in heaven and allow you to lay hold of life that is truly life.

So how do you apply these things in real life for a two year old? I am going to be studying and praying about this for the next few weeks, and I will report back to you my results. However, I would LOVE to hear your input about how to start making Christianity real on a practical level at this young age.

What have you done?

What good creative ideas do you have?

I would cherish any and all of your thoughts and direction on this issue.

10 thoughts on “Teaching Joy, Not Happiness

  1. I think it’s great that you are being proactive in this area. Isn’t it so easy for our children to think life is centered around them because we want to give them a great life? And I know we want to give them perhaps what we might not have had.

    One thing that I was doing for a long time, and haven’t done most recently because of our move, is provide a meal for someone in need. The need might be a new baby has arrived, someone is ill, or another reason might be that a move is taking place. I usually prepared the entire meal from “soup to nuts”, and then took the children along with me to deliver it to the family.

    After settling into Michigan 5 years ago, we joined a small group. When we wanted to build a wooden swing set in the backyard, the other families came and helped out. It was amazing. I think coming together in community to spur one another on is a great testimony to the kids.

    Okay one other idea… every Christmas we bake tons of cookies, box them up and share them with neighbors along with a Christmas card that has something about the true meaning of Christmas.

    I hope this helps.

  2. You can encourage her to do something for Daddy. Share how much we love and appreciate Daddy, so we want to do something special for Daddy; maybe taking him a snack, a magazine or newspaper to read,etc. Then Chris could encourage her to do the same for you. You are already giving her some jobs/responsibilities i.e. picking up her toys and helping at the dishwasher with silverware. Make sure she understands how this helps mama. When she has a friend come over, you and she can plan together which toys the friend might want to play with and have them out and ready. Main purpose is to train her to think of others and desire to serve others instead of just being focused on her wants.

    I liked making charts to hang on the fridge. I always made charts, whether for attitudes, jobs, helping others,etc (whatever needed working on in our family). When a child gets to put stickers in a box, they see some type of accomplishment and it helps you to remember to recognize their small accomplishments. Usually, after a few weeks the behavior you are trying to encourage then becomes a good habit and the child doesn’t even expect the sticker or reward anymore.

    Just some ideas. Mom

  3. As she gets older and more aware of her what her life is like in comparison to others, she’ll realize that your family serves and loves the Lord and hopefully she’ll follow right along.

    As far as things you can do now, my daughter (who will be three in a month), a friend of ours and I volunteer at a nursing home once a week. We started out going in for two hours, but I found that she gets antsy after about the first hour so we cut it down to one hour. Regardless, the residents LOVE her so much and they appreciate the time we spend there.

  4. Hmmm, this gives me some good things to think about. From my personal experience one of the best ways to teach children that they are not the center of the world is siblings. If there arent’ any siblings, then being around other children and being there to correct and discipline (and disciple) would be a good way. More than one two year old should give you plenty of opportunities for all three. I think the nursing home idea and involving her with serving others (such as the meal idea) is great.

  5. We have this too. Tons of stuff, everything the boys want. I’ll be interested to hear what you come up with.

  6. Get her involved when you do things for others–like the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox program. (It’s a Baptist thing…not sure of your affiliation…but we save Happy Meal toys and buy crayons, bubbles, jump ropes, etc., to send to kids in other countries to share the love of Christ with them. It encourages my kids to think about how good they have it and how it is important to think about the needs of others. They have learned to unselfishly give and to share the Good News through this experience.

    Something a friend did–and I wish I had–was to sing “This is the Day that the Lord has made” every morning. It started the day off on the right foot by realizing that we have a reason to rejoice and be glad every day.

    Something else that worked well for my 8 year old was just the simple act of cleaning out her closet and toy chest to share with a family that had 2 foster children. She kept saying “I don’t really need all this stuff when so-and-so doesn’t have anything. I bet this is what loving your neighbor means, Mommy!” It was a great object lesson. You will run across more and more of those as she grows.

    I love that you are making such an effort to raise her up right! I wish there were more Moms like you!

  7. What about going to a sick children’s hospital to visit kids? Or have her pick a toy or two to give to those less fortunate?

  8. That is a tough one, even with a 4 year old. My son is brilliant at sharing his toys when friends come over, but has a hard time when we bring up donating things we don’t use/need anymore. He has a hard time parting with things. At this point, we haven’t pushed it much. Someday he won’t have a hard time parting with toys he played with as a baby, and better to give with a happy heart than to stress about it.

    BUT, at Christmas time, we took him to the toy store and had him pick out a toy to donate to Toys for Tots. We were impressed when he chose something that was on HIS Christmas list and put it into the donation box.

    He also wondered if sometime he could go over to the house of the little boy who would receive it and play with him. :-)

  9. This is exactly what we are trying to work on! I very much want to teach joy over happiness. These are all good suggestions and it sounds like you are doing a lot of good things with her already! I’ll be interested to see what else you come up with!

  10. Thank you all SO much for putting the time into these answers!! These are some great ideas and I will definitely be using them!

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