By Marilyn Boyer
Jesus said in Mark 9:35, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and se4rvant of all.” We must build a heart of service in each of our children. We can start right from the beginning. The family provides a training ground for service. We taught our toddlers to get diapers for baby sister, wash baseboards, throw away trash, etc. As I run my many errands, I take a different child with me and teach them how to shop and meet the needs of their family, how to put away groceries, weed the garden, keep the yard and house picked up.
Each family member needs spheres of responsibility. The family needs each member and each must contribute just as soon as they are able. It’s healthy and normal, and children need to know they are needed and valuable to the family unit. Let older children help to train the younger ones in chores, projects, tasks, etc. I remember when cleaning the bathroom was Nate and Josh’s job. I told them when they trained Matt and Emmy to clean the bathroom thoroughly, then it wouldn’t be their job anymore. Talk about motivation! Nate and Josh got to learn parenting skills by accurately training their younger siblings to do the job.
Train your kids with responsibility. We have a daily and weekly schedule for chores. Be flexible, but have a schedule so everyone knows what is expected of them. A schedule builds security.
Certain chores are done on certain days of the week. If it’s Monday morning, everyone does their Monday chores. Try to gear the chores according to a child’s skill level. Each summer, I reassign chores so everyone will learn all the different chores eventually. Train each child thoroughly in how to do their job. Don’t just expect them to know. Do it with them until they become proficient in it, and then afterwards occasionally help them just for motivation.
Make your instructions clear and easy to follow. Some children need more direction than others. For instance, I have one daughter who sees what needs to be done before I do. I have another daughter, however, who is very creative. She just doesn’t see the mess! I would walk in her room and she’d be sprawled on her bed, writing a story. I’d ask her why she didn’t pick up the mess before she wrote stories, and she’d say, “What mess?” She just didn’t see it. When dusting was her job, I’d keep finding things that weren’t getting dusted. I finally realized she needed help in knowing what to dust. So, for handwriting that week, I had her go from room to room and list everything in each room that needed to be dusted. She could then use her list to check things off and make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything.
Check up on them. If you don’t, they’ll try to get away with whatever they can. Call them back if the job is not done thoroughly, even if they’re already in bed at night when you discover it! Call them back as many times as it takes, and eventually they’ll realize they might as well just do it right the first time instead of being interrupted to come and complete jobs.
For spring and fall cleaning, I let up on school work a bit for a week and assign each child extra jobs for each day of the week. It’s different from our normal schedule and normally it’s kind of fun! We don’t pay the kids for doing normal chores. It’s just part of belonging to the family. We do, however, pay for extra chores, like cleaning out the shed, washing and cleaning the car, etc. That gives the kids a way to earn extra money. If they need money for something, they’ll ask for extra jobs.
We’ve always encouraged our children to make homemade gifts for friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters. To think of appropriate gifts and spend time and energy in making a surprise for someone is developing a servant’s heart. Rick and I still have plaster of Paris handprints hanging on our walls that the kids made us for Mother’s and Father’s Day. I had the kids make their dad a t-shirt one year with their hand and footprints all over it, and I wrote Psalm 127:3 on it.
I have kept a sampling over the years of papers, cards, and gifts the kids have made us, and I made two huge scrapbooks of some of the extra special ones. They are still very special to me. It almost takes you back to the day you received them to sit and flip through the scrapbook and to appreciate each one.
We were put on this earth to serve. Let us remember to communicate that to our children. We’re not here to entertain ourselves, as the world would have us believe. It’s only when we empty ourselves into the lives of others that we truly find what life is all about!