Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Teaching Children To Do Service

I have three sons.  My oldest and my youngest are both rather opposed at times to doing chores and other things that require hard work.  The instant I ask them to help clean, they suddenly have to spend a long time in the bathroom when they are actually reading, not cursed with a terrible case of constipation.  For some reason my middle son just naturally loves to help and work, so I wonder what I did differently with him, if anything.  Well, I think it's actually the way he is, but that doesn't mean I can't teach the other two to embrace work more.

Every year our congregation has a Father and Sons Camp Out, which is something the boys usually look forward to, even if it's pouring rain (which it often is).  This year they decided to add a morning of service to the trip, so their enthusiasm was lacking to say the least.  Our middle son was still excited to go as expected.

Last night my youngest son said he didn't want to do the part where they help clean and maintain the campground, so he didn't want to go.  He told me gleefully that he wanted to have a sleepover at his friend's house instead.  I said, "Excuse me?  No.  This is the Father Son Camp Out.  You should be with your dad."

I went to choir practice and when I got home late at night, my husband told me that our oldest and our youngest weren't going to go.  "We'll see about that." I thought.

My oldest got home from school first today.  I asked him, "What's this about you not going on the camp out?"  He was smart enough not to tell me he didn't want to do the service activity, but his excuse was still pretty weak.  He didn't want to share a tent with his brothers and he wakes up with headaches.  I rolled my eyes and knew when he saw how tough I was going to be with his brother, he would go voluntarily.

My youngest came home and he told me excitedly that his friend was going to ask his parents if he could go swimming with them.  I said, "That's nice.  Too bad you can't go."  "Why not?"  "It's the Father Son Camp Out."  "But I don't want to go!" he protested.

I replied, "You look forward to this every year."  "Yeah, but this year they attached something horrible to it!  They want us to clean!" 

"You know what?" I said, "That's all the more reason why you should be going!  You need to learn to do your part.  We have enjoyed the church's campsite multiple times and we get to do so because of the people who help.  If you don't go, you can do service for me at home."

"SO I DON'T GET TO DO ANYTHING?  YOU MIGHT AS WELL KILL ME IF I CAN'T DO ANYTHING!"

"I didn't say you can't do anything.  I just said that if you don't go, you get to do service at home."

He ranted and raved for probably an hour about how horrible his life is, sat on the couch for a while, and asked, "So if I don't go, I can't play with friends?"  "That's right ......."

He made a quick turnaround.  He was going to go enjoy making s'mores.  And most likely come up with some genius plan to disappear when there's work to be done tomorrow.  My hope is that he'll get roped into it and decide it's not so bad after all.  It's important that my kids develop a good work ethic and an appreciation for the work other people put into the many things that benefit us.  The next time we camp there, I would like them to feel proud that they played a part in making it such an awesome place. 

How do you teach your children to serve? 



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