Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others

Do you take care of all the cooking, cleaning, and other jobs around the house? As a shining model of service, do you just expect your children to follow your example? Yes, you may be blessing your family with your serving, but you also may be depriving THEM of the opportunity to serve the family. Children need to learn the beautiful lesson of serving others.

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.

Um. Problem.

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

Join her for this NEW series: Raising Heavenly-Minded, Down-to-Earth Kids

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  1. Lisa, this is a great article. I’ve fallen into a similar pattern and have also come to realize I’m not helping my kids by doing so much for them. I’m currently working on ways to teach them to serve more and this article is such an encouragement. Today they are learning to sort and fold laundry, 🙂

    1. Love it! Just yesterday we had a big Laundry Party (my kids ask why I have to call everything a “party”?) and they were learning some of the same skils. 🙂

  2. I wish I could have you come to my house and observe and help me find the missing element…..I have six children, 11,9,8,5,4,2 they all know how to clean the kitchen do laundry, fix small meals, clean up toys….ok so the littlest two are not cooking meals….I have the buddy system with the older ones paired up with the younger ones when it comes to meal times..breakfast and lunch….they fix their buddy the meal….the issue comes up when a third child comes into the kitchen and would like to eat, if it is not the buddy child of the older one, the older one won’t get them any food even though they are standing right there…. it’s become selfish and too much effort…how do I turn the focus back towards God and the joy of serving…..I have created a mess.

    1. Take heart, my friend! It takes TIME – honestly! Hang in there. It can be very hard work (and very discouraging), I know, but soon all these good seeds you’ve planted will begin to grow. I think our Enemy wants us to give up and think that “nothing is happening”, but don’t believe it. You are doing a good work and slowly, over time, it will bear much fruit. And just so you know? We’re still working on it over here too. 🙂

    2. I wonder if you have thought of mixing up your buddies to change things up? Or have a plan in place of a consequence if that happens again, like the one who was selfish gets to serve the child that he/she was selfish with for the rest of the day?

    3. Maybe talk with the older ones about following the SPIRIT of the law….helping and serving one another…rather than just following the letter of the law. Pray for God to give you some good verses and an object lesson or two to reinforce what you are teaching. (Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, maybe you could go so far as to wash their feet, (make it fun and special…look them in the eye, speak words of blessing as you wash) and give them a special little washcloth to hang somewhere to remind them that Jesus calls us to serve others. Challenge them to out bless each other. Just brainstorming….

  3. I can testify to their helpful servants hearts! They run in the door — a thundering herd– give me a squeeze and immediately ask, “What can I do for you, GrammY?” Every last one of them <3 Good work, Lisa and Matt.

  4. I call it, “having a spirit of excellence”. I’m not doing very well at getting my three to “see a need, fill a need” yet, but I’m not giving up either. 🙂

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