As Christians, we have a responsibility to be helping hands — at home, at church, and in our community. And we have a responsibility to teach our children how to be happy helpers. So how exactly does one go about encouraging children to be helpful?
I haven’t figured it out exactly, but I think it comes through modeling. Teaching by example. If I am doing my best every day to be a helpmeet to my husband, if I am committed to help my church and my community whenever possible, if I can lend a helping hand to my little boy when he is cleaning off the table, or rinse a few of the dishes when my daughter is filling the dishwasher, if I can help put the laundry away, and cheerfully take my husband something he has forgotten — I hope my children will see the importance of being willing hands to help.
If I can take a neighbor a meal when they are sick, or babysit for a Mama with a last minute appointment, or show up at church to help pack meals for the hungry — I hope my children will see the value of being Christ’s hands in the community. If I can look a homeless man in the eye and hand him a bag of goodies made just for him, if I can help push a little girl on the swing even if she isn’t mine, if I can give the neighbor child a glass of cold water on a hot afternoon, maybe I can show Christ’s love in spite of my daily failures, my weakness, my humanity.
My dad modeled this for me. He will help anybody, any time. He will show up to help pour concrete at the neighbor’s house, build a firewall, plant tomatoes. My dad will come help you anytime he is able. When he has extra produce from his garden, he is very likely to leave it on your porch. If I needed help with Algebra, he sat down and endured my tirades. My dad lends a helping hand. It’s his lifestyle.
I’ll never forget the day my dad drove 2.5 hours to go pick up my boyfriend when his tire went flat on the way home from a weekend visiting at my home. Helping is just what he does. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with the heart to help others like my dad has. That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave my kids.
And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14
One of the things I have noticed about the way my dad raised us — he raised us to be helpers too. Not only did he set a great example, he also expected us to help out whenever we could. We were just expected to go help dig potatoes, pick raspberries, carry bags of produce to the neighbors, help run the clothing and supply closet after the tornado, do chores around the house, rake leaves for the elderly, and go with him to the nursing home to help cheer up the old people. It was the way we lived.
That’s another aspect of how I am trying to teach my children to be helpful. Besides setting an example (which isn’t nearly as good as my dad’s was) I also expect them to help. I was so blessed this week as I worked on revising this post – to notice the things my teenagers were taking care of. I got a pretty bad cold.
On the worst day, I did school with the kids in the morning and then spent most of the afternoon in bed and doing breathing treatments. My seventeen-year-old fixed everyone lunch without even being asked. My almost fifteen-year-old played LEGOs with the little kids for a long time and got onto them about coming into my room to pester me when I needed sleep. They took over for me!
I rested easy, knowing they were taking care of what needed doing. In fact, I did at one point ask to make sure they were going to take care of lunch, but at that point it was already done and cleaned up! Getting to this point in my parenting is amazing – seeing the things my children have learned well. I can certainly see so many mistakes I have made! But it blesses me to see how they are turning into helpful young men and women in spite of my failures.
I’m a work in progress. I am trying to figure this out. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately. How are you encouraging your children to be helpful?