Raising children can be a challenge. Raising children to have a heart for helping others, a ‘servant’s heart’ if you will, is altogether more difficult. They are much more interested in being served than serving. Honestly, if I had to guess I’d say most of us are wired the same way. (I’m looking in the mirror here, folks!) Over time I’ve become increasingly concerned and focused on insuring Matt and I are raising kids who are grateful, appreciative, kind and benevolent. Anything contrary to the entitled creatures everyone believes the generation following their own to be.
I have the benefit of working in a career field that allows me daily access to psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists. I am not too ashamed to admit I have used this accessibility for my personal benefit since I became a mother. I’ve voiced my concern to these friends more than once, as well as to my husband, parents and anyone else who will listen. I also apparently felt it necessary to subject you to the topic via my blog….in the hopes that my incessant pestering of my educated friends might help a few of us along the way!
The following are a few tips I’ve snagged in my search and surveys for answers on how to create appreciative, benevolent kids:
Five Ways to Create a Servant’s Heart in Your Children
- Exposure. To the degree that your child can handle it, share details about other areas of your county, country and world. Expose your children to the way other people live. This has been incredibly important in our home. It is a blessing my children have not faced hardships many other kids in our nation face. However, this can make it a challenge for them to be grateful for the fulfillment of their basic needs. It is difficult for my kids to understand severe poverty when they are still confused as to why I won’t let them have an iPhone 6 like a few schoolmates. Recently, our oldest child started the lovely habit of complaining about what we were having for dinner. This went on for several nights until I decided to sit him down and share a bit about what children in other parts of the world would be having/not having for dinner. I worked hard to have this conversation in a loving manner (although I’ll be totally honest in saying I was more than a little annoyed after the third night of this argument) because I felt it was important for him to understand he could survive another night of pot roast. Miraculously, he did survive and our conversation opened up an opportunity to watch some brief videos about Haiti. I’ve felt an increasing sense of appreciation from him for the simple fact that we have food in the fridge. Icing on the cake has been no more complaining about pot roast. Win.
- Involvement. Even if it’s a small task like making a meal for a friend during a time of need, let your kids know what you’re doing so they can participate. Make them a part of the activity so they can understand the importance of the act and appreciate the blessing of serving someone else. Recently we made a meal for a friend/neighbor who had surgery. I included the kids as I prepared the meal and had the oldest go with me to deliver. It’s never too early for them to understand that life is about community and loving our neighbors. In this case very literally! My oldest and I were able to talk about the weeks following his baby brother’s birth and the friends who dropped off delicious food for us to enjoy. He was reminded of how special it felt to be loved and got a taste of loving someone else at the same time.
- Think small. When hit with sassy mouth and ingratitude from one of my children, I started off with visions of dragging our entire family across the world to work in remote villages. (I tend to go to extremes in my immediate thoughts….fortunately, I do settle down a bit before I act on them!) Foreign travel is entirely impossible in this season of our life. Given our overall family behavior, they’d likely send us back before allowing us to cross over their border anyway. While we can’t currently relocate to another country, we can ‘adopt’ a child from another country through an established, reputable organization (we like World Vision) and work as a family to draw pictures and write letters to this child. They will be delivered with a monthly sponsorship check. We can also shop together as a family for items needed at our local food pantry because their is much need right in our backyard. (Evansville Christian Life Center is a local favorite.) Our youngest daughter always feels it’s important to donate lots of marshmallows.
- Think bigger. Perhaps you don’t feel capable to coordinate a huge event yourself but you likely know one or two or ten other moms who would love to get involved! Do you have children with an entrepreneurial spirit? Let them set up a lemonade stand. Encourage them to enroll in a local 5K to benefit a local philanthropy. The more the merrier in these instances and group energy leads to greater accountability. If your kids only collect $10, it is still $10 more than that organization had previously. With any luck you will have created some momentum and stirred a desire for a continued giving spirit in your kids!
- Write a check. There have been times in life where I’ve felt less than super about simply donating. I know others who have devoted their careers to serving and sacrificing. They’ve been in the trenches, so to speak. Friends who have actually moved to foreign countries. Individuals who have worked tirelessly to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Meanwhile, I’m double checking to make sure the pen stroke is firm enough to transfer to the carbon copy in the checkbook. Not quite the same level of involvement. However, in time I’ve realized that donations keep the wheels turning. These missionaries need financial support. Money talks and walks and buys necessary supplies. So write that check….but incorporate a fundraising type system in your home before doing so. Establish chores or set a task list where your kids can earn money to donate to the cause. I’m always amazed at what my kids can do even at a young age. Folding towels, wiping tables, refilling dog dishes and cleaning the dinner table are easy tasks for even a four year old. There is also a sense of accomplishment and pride that exists in our house when the kids earned the money themselves! It’s going to mean a whole lot more when your child gives that money rather than simply watching you do it.
Think small. Think big. Bottom line, get your kids thinking about the bottom line of a favorite organization and jump in to help. Here, near or far away there are organizations aligned with almost any interest your kiddos might want to benefit. Our oldest son helped me open the mail this week and noticed a sponsorship request envelope from World Vision. He was captivated by the images of children with “skinny arms” and it led to a discussion on exactly why these kids don’t have the same nourishment he and his siblings do. He called for his sister to explain the situation to her and they began devising a plan to help. Oh, hallelujah! Glimmers of hope that their little hearts are headed in the right direction! Now, if I could just work on their listening skills……..
Happy Good Willing, friends! I’d love for you to report back and tell me what you did to make this Good Will Wednesday a great one!