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Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World Review by Lisa Kjeldgaard

By Jill Rigby
Manners of the Heart
215 Royal Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Like you, I have many goals for my children. Raising kids who genuinely desire to serve others as Christ did is very near the top of my list. The title of Jill Rigby's book, Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World, caught my attention immediately, and the wealth of great ideas kept me engrossed throughout the entire volume. The 268-page book contains 12 chapters divided into three sections: "Reassessing the Goal of Parenting," "Bumping Your Child off Self-Center," and "Rebuilding Our World."

The section entitled "Bumping Your Child off Self-Center" is the real meat of this book. Beginning with a quick quiz to determine your own generosity quotient, the first chapter in this section gives a clear biblical justification for selflessness. Using the examples of Hannah and Joseph, the book provides simple numbered bullet points to help parents learn to model the very quality we're hoping to develop in our children. With discussions on various parenting styles, guidelines for decision-making freedom, lessons in developing patience, and tips on learning responsibility, the next chapters offer vast ideas for developing these characteristics in our children. The concept of "Developing God-Confidence" really caught my attention. Do our children really know Who they belong to and Who they are fighting for? Sometimes we can get so caught up in daily living that we lose our eternal focus. From there Ms. Rigby gives great practical ways to help your children become more focused on others and less focused on themselves in the chapter called "Developing a Passion for Compassion." A wonderful month-by-month guide filled with suggestions designed to build family togetherness made me realize that I could be much more intentional about planning ways to serve with my children. Instructions on forgiveness, generosity, and gratitude finish out this section of the book.

I must admit that I was feeling a bit smug as I read through the suggestions in this book. Many of them are things my husband and I have already built into our family culture. However, my smugness quickly turned to a realization that we still have a lot of ground to cover; many of the traits in this first column are things I'm struggling with in my children.

  Selfish Child Unselfish Child
  Demanding Empathetic
  Arrogant Grace-filled
  Holds grudges Forgiving
  Unappreciative Grateful
  Stingy Generous
  Lazy Helpful

However, I'm filled with hope as I see many God-honoring activities within these pages that are simple to implement even in my large, overly busy family. Each chapter is filled with many lists of things to try, always broken down by appropriate age levels. There are highlighted boxes of additional information scattered through the writing--some filled with Scripture, some with statistics, and others with tasks to try. There is a tremendous amount of encouragement and optimism in Ms. Rigby's writing that I appreciate, especially in the midst of realizing I've missed many opportunities to model selflessness or purposefully train my children.

The book concludes with a section on how to help change the self-absorbed world we live in with great ideas for serving your community and world. Three appendixes are included, one of which is a list of movies with a purpose: recommended movies by age with discussion questions included.

I was incredibly blessed by Ms. Rigby's writing and am already planning a re-read of this work. This time my computer will be nearby for note taking and scheduling the ideas I hope to implement in my family. If you desire to raise children that are others-centered, I know you'll be encouraged and challenged by this book.

Product review by Lisa Kjeldgaard, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2009