“Is there anything I can do to help you, Mom?”
He says it for the third time that day. This time, I don’t have anything for him to do.
“Relax. Go do something you want to do.”
His frame is tall. He hovers over Jeremy and I both. Did he, a lanky sixteen year-old, just ask what he could do to help?
When our three oldest kids were small, Jeremy had this notion to teach them to help me while he was away at work. I was weary and the kids were at an age where they were able to start giving a little.
He came up with a plan to pay them $1 a week if they asked me if there was anything they could do to help at least ten different times in that week. Sometimes they’d keep tally for themselves on the fridge, sometimes they’d keep tally in their minds. Sometimes we’d forget to pay them. But they never forgot.
We did this for a few years until it became a way of life and we’d all sort of forgotten about it.
Over the years, helping each other grew to be a major part of our family culture. Before we serve ourselves, we serve someone else.
None of us are perfect, nor do we always interact selflessly. But helping is a way of life around here.
Do you know what the best part is? Five children have come after the original three and we haven’t had to pay them one cent for them to start asking what they can do to help. They’ve seen it modeled. They were born into it.
Even though the days of getting paid to remember to offer help have long passed, our teens and preteen still want to help out. They still want to lighten the load of their parents and siblings even without a dollar amount attached. This amazes me.
It humbles me.
It excites me.
Isn’t this one of our key goals as parents?
To see our children work to lighten the load of another right now in our families and in their world, and on into their future?
If we want to see it, we have to teach and model it. We have to talk about it. Our kids will rarely default to serving on their own.
With that in mind, can we sit with the fact that there are droves of teens preparing to leave their nests who haven’t the slightest idea about how to serve and lighten someone’s load?
They know iPhones they don’t pay for, spending money that comes at no cost, free reign of the internet and all that comes with it, unlimited gaming, cars they didn’t buy, and an entitlement they will carry with them into the world as they expect to get their needs met rather than meet the needs of others.
This gives me an ache in my soul I can’t seems to shake.
Kids who are handed everything won’t magically start working for things.
Kids who aren’t taught to serve won’t magically start meeting needs.
Kids who know no boundaries won’t magically stay within guidelines once they hit adulthood.
We, the parents must foster, teach, and model the behavior and traits we’d like to see in our kids. There’s no guarantee they will stick, but it’s our responsibility to pass them along.
What can we do to foster a culture of selfless giving in our families right where we are?
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