The Secret to Instilling Humility in Children
Source: Posting by: Dar ul Muslimeen, Dodoma, Tanzania. March 23, 2014 | Article adapted from Sarah Radcliffe

A humble person is not someone who thinks he's nothing. He knows he's something, but he recognizes God as the source of his greatness. Thinking one is something without recognizing God as the source leads to arrogance.

Take pleasure not pride
We want to teach our children that they are special, talented, skilled, and everything wonderful, but we also want to teach them that all these are a gift from God.

Children should take pleasure in their accomplishments, not pride. Your son could have used his physical ability and strength to be a bully in the schoolyard, but instead chose to participate and excel in sports. Your daughter's academic accomplishments means she used the brain that God gave her for something good. Both children should take great pleasure in that.

Humility engenders respect for others
Since the humble person recognizes his inner strengths, he has the confidence to recognize greatness in others. An arrogant 10-year-old thinks he's better than his friends, because (for example) he is such a great reader, whereas the child who has humility knows he's a great reader but also recognizes that other kids are good at things like sports, math, science and history.

It's the small-minded person who puts others down. Really big people make others feel big too. We all want our children to know and appreciate who they are, and to respect others.

Knowing one's place
If I'm not an electrician, I cannot tell my electrician how to rewire my socket. I could make suggestions, of course, in a polite and modest manner, as in, "Excuse me Mr. Electrician, is it possible that you forgot to put the connector wire in the socket?" Since the electrician is the expert in this situation, it's right of me to ask him, rather than to tell him. It would be rude and out of place for me to tell him how to do his job.

A child must respect the experience, knowledge and maturity of those who are older than he is. This attitude can be instilled in our children by teaching them three simple words: "Is it possible...?"

For example, when a mother is trying to help her daughter with her math homework and makes an error, her daughter, instead of saying, MUM, YOU'VE GOT IT ALL WRONG!" should say, "Is it possible you're making a mistake, Mum?"

"Is it possible...?" turns vocabulary that is arrogant into a vocabulary that shows respect for a parent. This is an invaluable tool for building humility.

Admitting mistakes
A final aspect of humility is the ability to admit our errors.

The arrogant person can do no wrong, while the humble person admits his mistakes freely. More importantly, the humble person always keeps in mind the possibility that he could be mistaken. The arrogant person accuses others of having done wrong without any evidence. The humble person asks in a polite manner.

Tools for instilling humility in children
  1. The best way to our teach children is by example.
    An arrogant person can never teach humility. Since being a parent means we're in a position of authority, it's easy to slip into arrogance. "HOW DARE YOU DISOBEY ME!" is not the right way to react to a child who is not listening. Our job is to teach patiently and respectfully. The very manner in which we deal with our children's misbehavior can be one of the strongest tools for teaching humility. When we educate quietly, without yelling or insulting, we model humility.

    Children are people too, even when they disobey you. Speak gently, maintain your dignity and theirs. If you think that the only way they will listen is if you yell, then you are not disciplining properly.
  2. Kids should ask, not tell.
    Parents must not only model behavior, they must also verbally teach it. When a child raises his voice to a parent, he must be corrected. Teach your children two rules: ask instead of tell, and speak in a pleasant tone of voice.

    The three magic words are: "Is it possible...?" The question helps to foster humility in a child. It is important that children realize that adults, particularly parents, have a different status than children. Adults have more experience, knowledge, and authority than children. It is beneficial for children to look up to, rather than across, at adults. It enables them to learn the art of learning from others. An arrogant child can't learn from anyone.
  3. Don't tolerate disrespectful speech.
    The young child who is rude and disrespectful will grow into an even ruder teen who may actual

The following five-step program will help correct speech errors and foster respect and humility. Start with the first step and only proceed to the next one if necessary:
  • TEACH the child what you mean by "respectful" speech. Use examples and role-playing.
  • REMIND the child to use respectful speech and model it for him.
  • PROMPT the child during occurrences of disrespectful speech with: "tone of voice," or "speaking quietly please," or give the child the first few words: "Mummy, is it possible you forgot...?"
  • BLOCK disrespectful speech with: "Would you like to try that again more respectfully please?" As soon as the child corrects himself, the parent offers generous praise.
  • DISCIPLINE if necessary. When the child speaks disrespectfully, the parent might say something like, "We've been working on speaking respectfully for quite a while now and I think you know what you're supposed to do. From now on, if you raise your voice, use impolite words or demand instead of ask, you will have to write out the rules of respectful speech ten times." (You can choose another suitable consequence, of course.)
When teaching a child to speak with greater humility and respect, be patient! It can take many years for children to really integrate these speech patterns into their automatic behaviors. Consistency on the part of parents greatly speeds up the process and leads to an overall positive relationship.

As your child grows and learns to speak in a respectful manner, he or she will naturally come to speak to everyone like that - to adults and to peers. Humility will become a way of life. You, the parent, will have given your child a priceless gift, the gift of humility.