King of the World ! (Or not!)
|Bust of an Akkadian ruler, probably King Sargon|
Sargon of Akkad (c. 23rd-22nd Century BC), proclaimed himself "King of All." His Mesopotamian kingdom covered around 309,000 square miles.
|Zerubbabel shows a plan of Jerusalem to Cyrus the Great|
by Jacob Van Loon
Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, the same fellow who permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem, said about himself:
- I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters, the son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anšan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anšan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anšan, of an eternal line of kingship, whose rule Bêl and Nabu love, whose kingship they desire for their hearts' pleasure. (The Cyrus Cylinder, c. 538 B.C.)
Cyrus's kingdom was some ten times larger than Sargon's, including more than 3 million square miles, but only 1/3 the area of this guy's:
Genghis Khan (Vagobond.com)
As the founder of the Mongol Empire, second in size only to the far-flung British Empire, Genghis Khan arguably has the greatest right to such self-promotional titles. I'm not sure if this is one he gave himself or not, but some refer to him as "Emperor of All Men."
We might chuckle a bit to think of Sargon calling himself "King of All" when his kingdom was only a tenth the size of Cyrus' and 1/30 of the Mongol Empire. But how much more ironic is it that sometimes in our own homes we allow children to grow up who, while they may not claim such grandiose titles, in many ways behave like little emperors?
Sadly, due to their natures inherited from our father Adam, our sweet children seem to come into the world with some notion that the universe revolves around them. Now, I'd imagine that most of you really don't wish to aide this idea, but, should you for some reason desire to promote it, here are a few tips. (And since my tongue is firmly in my cheek, I'll offer some anti-tips as well.)
Six tips to teaching your child that he or she is the center of the universe:
1. First, act completely amazed at everything your little darling does.
You've never seen a more astounding painting! Her gymnastic tricks are amazing! No one has ever told more spellbinding stories! Clap for every single minute achievement!
We have an embarrassing 8mm home movie of our first baby playing on a homemade indoor slide. The camerawoman, his mother, can be heard cheering and clapping every time he does the slightest thing. Yes, excessive praise is particularly a danger for firstborns because we are so delighted with each new step of progress.
Anti-tip: You do need to be an encourager for your children! Don't stop noticing and telling them when they have done well. Especially commend progress in character issues such as working hard work, loving his siblings, obeying immediately, or taking initiative. But watch out for the over-the-top false praise that after awhile either goes completely to his head, or contrarily, makes him stop believing anything you say as he begins to realize that he isn't quite as awesome as you are telling him he is. As children grow, help them learn humility and to give glory to God.
2. Allow your little emperor to become or remain a picky eater.
Kings deserve to choose their own menus or decline to eat from the royal buffet!
Corollary: Make sure that when your little ruler is visiting another kingdom, he tells his hostess just what he thinks of her cooking, especially how it compares with that of his home kitchen, overseen by the Queen Mother.
Anti-tip: Do work with your children to teach them to eat broadly, including foods that "aren't their favorites." (We don't allow children to ever say they hate a food item, but occasionally they may tell us something isn't a favorite, if they do so politely and kindly.) Helping children grow in their food tastes is too long a topic to deal well with here, but quickly, here are a couple of things we did. Everyone has to eat a bit of everything served at dinner, with a few exceptions. We keep portions small for small people, and remember that children go through different growth periods where they may be more or less hungry. A two year old only has to eat two small spoonfuls of an unpopular item. Three for a three year old, and so on. If a meal is not finished, the child may not have any other food between meals, and the plate will reappear at the next meal. That only happened occasionally, and very quickly, even our pickiest eater, whom we suspect of being a "super taster" with ultra-sensitive tastebuds, learned to eat the food set before him cheerfully. And teach your children to respond to all food served with gratitude!
Anti-tip corollary: As sweet and loyal as it is for your children to love your cooking above anyone else's, you do need to teach them that it is not polite to share this opinion when they are away from home.
3. Your little prince must never give honor to adults as this is not befitting of his royal place. He can treat you as a peer and other adults as servants or possibly peers.
Anti-tip: Children must first learn to honor and obey their parents, and then from there must learn to extrapolate this to other adults, particularly those in authority over them. Teach children to respond quickly when you ask them to do something, to obey without complaining, and to obey wholeheartedly. Responding to questions or commands with a pleasant "Yes, sir!" or "Yes, ma'am!" is a good way to show respect. Have your children call non-family member adults by Mr., Mrs., or Miss instead of by their first name. ("Miss Anne" is a very acceptable substitute when you want something a little more friendly than "Mrs. Surname.") Often as parents we do a decent job helping our kids learn to obey us, but forget to tell our offspring that when they are in Sunday School class or school, it is just as important for them to listen and obey their teachers. Usually this deficiency becomes particularly clear by about the age of 4 or 5.
4. Allow selfishness to rule between siblings.
Encourage competition between future heirs. Who says harmony should reign in the palace nursery?
Anti-tip: Children will squabble, and some pairs have more difficulties getting along than others. But you, dear parent, are responsible for the tone in your home. You do not need to allow bickering, catfighting, or outright brawling to become a defining feature in your home. Nip it in the bud. Teach your children to speak kindly to one another, to ask for things they want with words rather than by grabbing, and to be slow to anger. If your children are fighting over a toy, discipline them, and then remove the toy for a time. "You are loving your Legos more than your brother!" you say in shocked and disappointed tones to two young boys going at one another over a certain building piece. With some repetition of such types of situations, eventually they begin to see not only the folly of fighting over stuff, but actually the ugliness of the sin.
Jesus' admonitions to love our enemies hold for brothers as well: "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matt. 5:44) Having squabbling siblings do something kind for each other and praying for the other one regularly goes a long way in changing their relationship over time.
5. Under no circumstances should your princeling be expected to participate in the mundane household chores! This would be far below his dignity! And what are servants for, anyway?
Anti-tip: Helping with the routine functions of the house, beginning from the time they are first able to carry small items through when they leave home, goes a long way in helping children serve others and not stew in their own self-centered worlds. Leila who writes the delightful Like Mother, Like Daughter blog has a great post about how chores help kids become less selfish.
|A girl's daily chores, c. 1922|
6. Cosset each one of your dear princes and princesses, but make especial allowances for those who have a traumatic birth, special health needs, learning differences, or anything else that sets him apart from others.
Anti-tip: Clearly all of our children come to us with differences, and some of those differences are very significant. Sometimes this means we have to treat one child one way and another in a different manner. I'm not talking about legitimate things we ought to do to help each child grow in all the ways he needs to grow. (Luke 2:52).
But I've seen in myself the tendency to baby a couple of my children in ways that are unhelpful to them, and I think this is common and something to fight against. Our youngest son was born prematurely following a harrowing pregnancy, and he weighed a bit over 3 pounds. When he finally came home from the hospital, we all walked on eggshells because we were still traumatized. By the time he was a toddler he had earned the very fitting moniker "Velcro." At almost nine years old, we no longer coddle him because he was premature, but far too often he does receive different treatment as the youngest, and this is just as dangerous.
Another child of ours has dyslexia. Learning to read was painful, and now, years later, while a very thorough reader, this one takes longer at reading passages than the others do. I wanted to pursue obtaining permission for special time limits while taking standardized tests, knowing that the slower reading would affect the scores. Tim was adamant that we should not do this, knowing that this child must compete with others throughout life without receiving special allowances. He was absolutely right.
Moms, especially, want to always protect our children. When they are very small, this is right. But as they grow, we need to take our hands off and allow our children to face difficulties head on. This makes them stronger in the long-run and teaches them to trust in God.
No one wants to turn out little Napoleons. Instead of raising emperors, we desire for our children to learn to be humble children of the true King of the Universe, the King of Kings. We want them to love Him completely and to love their neighbors (and their siblings!) as themselves. And yet, completely without intending to, sometimes our actions inadvertently reinforce our offsprings' innate ideas that the universe does in fact revolve around them. But if instead, we work lovingly to help our children grow in compassion and understanding for others instead of seeking to please themselves, putting to death their natural desires, they will be much more of a joy for us, for others, and even for themselves. The teen years, another time of natural inward focus, will be significantly happier for all involved, and they will be far better prepared to one day be sacrificial husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and mature members of the body of Christ.
Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Rom. 12: 9, 10 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.
Philippians 2: 3-7 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.