We all want to teach our kids to put others before themselves and treat others the way they want to be treated. But how in the world do you do that? That is, how do you do it without using “that” voice: the condescending, “feel guilty, feel very guilty, and now do what I tell you to do out of robotic obligation” voice?

Recently my husband brought me a gift. The box was white, rectangular, and had an apple on the top. I couldn’t have been more excited even if it had been a jewelry box.

It was a new iPhone. We didn’t really have money to spare for it, but he knew I had been longing for a phone with a better camera for family pictures and also for a year-long volunteer project I had committed to that needed to be done with excellence.

Four days later when I pulled my brand new phone out of my purse to check the time, there was a hair-line crack on it, top-to-bottom. I was so upset, especially when I found out there was no repairing or replacing the phone without incurring a substantial expense.

I. Was. Devastated.

Later that evening, my daughter confessed that she might have been responsible for the crack when she snuck into our room to see my new phone and dropped it face-down on the floor. Anger and disappointment flooded over me.

As a family, we had been focusing on loving each other by treating others the way we wanted to treated. This helped me craft my response. I want to help be a “learning tool” for the kids.

So, I took a deep breath, swallowed the “I’m so disappointed in you, I can’t believe you did that, you broke my new phone” speech that had welled up in my gut and instead spoke my “lesson-teaching” words.

“It’s okay. I forgive you. I’m so thankful that you were honest with me. And you’re so much more important to me than a phone.” And at that point I couldn’t finish my sentence because I had to fight back unexpected tears. All of a sudden I realized that I truly meant the words I had originally intended to be a lesson to my kids.

Although I had aimed to set an example and to be a teacher in that moment, I was the one learning the lesson. Teaching our kids to love others starts with us. And it’s something we will always be learning and re-learning together.

Anything that we are attempting to instill in our children must genuinely be a part of who we are, or what we are attempting to live out, especially when the floor cracks the iPhone, because the floor will crack the iPhone.

When we respond in love, we are setting the ultimate example for our children to put others before themselves and treat them the way they want to be treated.

And when the day comes that you back your car over their precious texting machine, maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear: “It’s okay, mom, I forgive you. And you’re more important to me than my phone.

(This article was originally published in July, 2012)