In the beginning, I did everything myself.
Mama was faster. Better. And more efficient.
I did things right. The way things should be done.
Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.
And, as a “shining model” of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps?
More is caught than taught, right?
But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.
Sure, I was growing a ton by giving to them, but what were they learning? To receive. Not necessarily the hardest lesson for a child to learn. Maybe I thought I was blessing my children with all my constant pouring out and cleaning up after them. But in the process, I was depriving them of the opportunity of serving their family.
Our children had yet to learn the beautiful lesson of blessing others.
Now just to be clear: this wasn’t about making my life easier. It wasn’t about them doing more so I could do less. This wasn’t about me at all. It was about them and what they needed.
And what they needed was to learn to have a heart to serve.
Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others
Start by letting them work alongside you. Then, as you go along, teach them more than the mere skills of service, but the spirit of service. Talk about how pleasant it is to serve your family…as you’re folding clothes, baking muffins, or cleaning up the yard. It’s not only a job to be completed, it’s a blessing to be offered.
Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. To me it’s obvious that her little brother should have his face wiped up, but it’s not as evident to her young eyes. I have to point it out and then give her a chance to care for him.
Or prompt with, “Do you think your sister might want a glass of milk too?” rather than taking care of it myself. Although that would be easier and faster (and less chance of breakage).
Or, “Wouldn’t it be nice for daddy to come home to a clean house? Let’s surprise him by picking up the toys.” Rather than simply ordering the living room to be picked up.
Let them enjoy helping out. Show them the rewards of their service. “Isn’t it wonderful to be able to bless others by serving them like this?” Encourage them to see that helping others is not only the “right thing” to do, it’s a joy.
Instruct them in how they can be a help to you. Train them to ask, “What can I do for you?” Not waiting to be told what to do, but to actively look for ways they can help you. Then let them feel your pleasure when they’ve served you in some special way.
Cheer them on as they learn to serve. Take a moment to recognize their effort to help – no matter what the result. If they’ve spilled something or broken a glass in the process? It’s not nearly as important as them trying to help. What we care about is their heart to serve.
So this mama is not doing it all by herself anymore. We’re working on serving together. Yeah, it’s slower, messier, and less efficient.
But, oh, so much sweeter.
*What are some of the ways you teach your children to serve joyfully? Questions or challenges you’re facing?
Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women