Providing a service is just one way to teach a child how to love her neighbor.

How to Teach Your Children to Love Their Neighbors

by Melissa Lewis

Of course you want your children to be compassionate, loving little fellows who grow up to be compassionate, loving adults. You'll even reap the benefits as they care for their dear mama in her golden years. The truth is, the apple usually doesn't fall far from the tree, so if you're not loving toward your neighbors, then neither will your children. Take on this project as a family, because there's always room in the heart for more love.

Determine who your neighbors are. If you're a Christian who is teaching your children the commandment Jesus gave to love your neighbor as yourself, use His example of the Good Samaritan in Luke to help you. In this case, your neighbors are not just the people who live nearby, but everybody, including those who are different or who are normally considered enemies. You might subscribe to that idea as well without a Christian background. Perhaps, though, you literally mean your neighbors. If so, you'll focus on just those people who live near your home.

Teach your children who your neighbors are. Take a walk around the neighborhood, and if applicable, go to the mall, to the next town, the park or anywhere really. Say, "I spy a neighbor who has brown hair, wrinkly skin and a red skirt." Or, make a scavenger hunt and have kids find neighbors with different colored hair, race, type of clothes, size and age. Kids can also cut pictures out of magazines of different people to make a collage of their neighbors. Include magazines that have photos of people from other countries, such as National Geographic. For the neighbors who live close by, go out, knock on doors and meet them. Take their pictures if they allow. You can also take pictures of the houses. Go ahead and let them know that you are making an effort to meet and know all your neighbors. Then, put the pictures on a poster board with their names underneath so you can remember them, which is simple way to show that you care and love your neighbors. Write a few things underneath their names, such as "Widower. Has dog. Two children who don't visit." Add information under the picture as you learn them, such as, "Grandchild in Navy. Loves peanuts. Not a morning person."

Watch your own words, Mama, and your tone! The best way to teach love is to model it. Trash talking or fighting other people in front of your children shows them exactly what your heart is feeling about them, and it isn't love. If you have something negative to say, keep it to yourself, say it in private to another adult or word it in a such way that still shows love and respect. For example, if your child comes home with a frowny face on his handwriting paper and you disagree with such assessment, you could say in a nice voice, "I'm sorry Miss Jones thought your handwriting was sloppy. Mommy thinks it's wonderful, but let's see what we can do to make it better." If the situation becomes a problem, then go talk to Miss Jones in private. Don't say, "Don't worry Mikey. Miss Jones is crazy if she thinks this is sloppy. She obviously doesn't know what's normal for a 4 year old." And, don't say in a mad, frustrated voice, "Well! I'll just have to go talk to your teacher about this!"

Show love to your neighbors. This is not an activity, but a way of life. Don't just send the check every month to sponsor a child, but send letters and gifts as allowed. Show appreciation to those who serve you, such as the car wash, grocery store and fast food restaurants, even if they are rude to you. Bake cookies once a month and take them to a nursing home and spend time with the residents. Make an extra dinner plate for the elderly widower a couple doors down every Monday night and watch his favorite prime-time show with him while he eats. Volunteer as a family at the local soup kitchen. Rake leaves and mow the grass for a single mom at no charge. Jump at the opportunity to help others, such as carrying bags for someone in the rain, letting the woman in line with the screaming baby cut in front of you and giving money to the person who was a little short at the cash register. If these purposeful and random acts of kindness are a way of life for you, you are teaching your children true, unselfish, unconditional love.

About the Author

Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images