Three Ways to Teach Children to Serve
Cultivating a heart of servitude is one of my top parenting priorities. It's so easy for the natural desire to act selfishly to take over. Selfishness isn't something that goes away automatically, but instead we have to work to mature our hearts and minds to do the things which are pleasing to the Father. We all have experienced at least once in our lives not wanting to give or do something for another person simply because of the inconvenience or because it meant we would be taking away something from ourselves. I know how hard that is for adults so I can only imagine the difficulty it is for a younger person even though children can be quite giving and nurturing.
I often cringe when I am in an environment where selfish behavior is running rabid whether it's my own or another person's. One thing I learned as a transient child is that I did want to be the type of adult I often saw. My desire to not be selfish was one of my greatest gifts from a not so great childhood. This doesn't mean that I always get it right, but it does mean I am more aware of my behavior and the behavior of those around me.
As the girls phased out of being toddlers, I realized that having a heart of servitude needed to be cultivated. Their childhood experiences were not the same as mine, and I knew I would need to be intentional in helping them think about someone outside of themselves. Over the years, we have focused on serving others in three simple ways.
Three Simple Ways to Cultivate a Heart of Servitude in Children
1. We began with serving those within our family. I emphasize team work to our daughters. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and in our family we make a point to help one another in our weaker areas. For instance, one daughter has a messier personality and can be easily overwhelmed by too many small tasks. We don't do her job for her, but we will help her to ensure that it gets done.
2. We serve those in our circle whether friends or family. In our early years of home schooling, we often had additional students. Some of the children simply needed a break from the school system. The girls learned early on that we must help those around us if we are capable. This wasn't always easy, but they learned how to serve others even when it is not easy. This is an important component of cultivating a servant's heart. If we only serve when it is easy or convenient then we are missing the point. This also helped me to teach them that serving works in conjunction with our faith. They know it is unwise to simply pick up tasks without prayer and seeking the Father's will.
3. We also serve those in our community. We began community service first by helping at our local food bank. The food bank had small jobs that we could do to help give back. The girls were 4 and 7 when we packed our first boxes. Now that the girls are older we have spent the past year serving meals on Saturday evenings to the homeless. This definitely takes them out of their comfort zone, but they look forward to serving weekly. Another serving opportunity we have taken part of is sorting clothes for the Salvation Army.
Teaching children to serve doesn't have to begin with getting out in the community, and truly it should begin at home with those closest to them simply because those closest to us can easily be taken for granted. I know that teaching my daughters to give and help others has been a good thing.
In what ways do you teach serving others to your children?