6 Beautiful Ways to Encourage Kids to Serve
The wind howled. Hail poured down. It was the first big storm this fall and the kids and I were happily cooking and laughing together. Then, we spotted him: the neighbor’s gardener fighting the storm in attempts to finish his work. Immediately our heart felt for the man who persevered despite the hail's assault. My two year old suggested we help the man. But what could we do?“Make him warm!” Tony exclaimed. And with that the boys' suggestions came pouring in. A few minutes later and we trekked out in the cold armed with smiles on our faces and a warm drink in our hand. And while he did not understand our words, his smile showed his gratitude.
I am blessed to have children with incredibly beautiful hearts. Yet it is up to my husband and me to guide them towards continual growth. Part of that growth is fostering a passion to do things not only for yourself or those you love, but also for the greater good, to serve those around us even when it is not noticed or not rewarded, and to care for our planet which they and future generations will inherit. There are many ways to do this.
Here are some of the ways we implement service in our family.
#1 Making Time: When I was in junior high, I heard a mature woman’s confession of her use of time. She woke with just enough time to get herself ready and out the door. When a friend called, needing her help, she had nothing left to offer. As a mom it is hard to carve out extra time while hustling with my kids. Yet we cannot recognize or act upon a need when we barely have time to care for ourselves.
#2 Encouraging Good Citizenship: I recently read a book about a man's experience in the Soviet Union. In the midst of great hardship, the people still took pride in serving one another. In fact in Europe it is rare to see a mom struggling to get a stroller down the stairs or a teenager sitting on a bus while the elderly stand for people value contributing to the common good. Likewise I encourage my children to offer their seat to those in need and to take pride in safely contributing for the greater good.
#3 Taking Time to Notice: Awareness is the first step in serving. My kids and I have frequent dialogues about little ways we can help those around us. These include cleaning up more than our fair share of toys, bringing out-of-place books to the librarians, and turning in lost items. We also take the time to be grateful when others do similar things for us.
#4 Listening to Others: Recently my four-year-old noticed a need at church. When he brought it to the attention of the Children's ministry director she told him she's been meaning to buy wood glue and fix it, but has not got around to it. As soon as we got in the car he asked if we could stop and get wood glue on the way home. He now knew how to fix the problem and was ready to tackle the issue.
#5 Take Action: While awareness is the first step in service, it is worth nothing if you do not take action. Work with your kids and supply them with the tools needed to be successful. This could be as simple as holding their hand or translating toddler as they return a missing book, writing down a child's words so they can make a card, or supplying them with a screwdriver and screws to fix a neighbors fence. Find your children's passions and assist them in fulfilling that need.
#6 Model Behaviors: This recent quote circulating around social media inspires parents to live their best: “Your children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.” Our actions are one of the greatest influences in our children's lives. So read this article again and think of ways you can do each of these points.
The more you value service, the more likely your child will see the importance of it. How are you going to work toward the common good today?
Antoinette is a wife and mother of two young boys. In addition to her experience as a parent, Antoinette draws valuable insights from her many years as an elementary school teacher and her masters degree in education. She also offers interactive lessons for preschool and early elementary aged children on her Etsy store, Reason2Discover.