Teaching children to serve

Children can be pretty egocentric. (Grown ups too, but that’s another story.)

In view of this, one of the things we emphasize repeatedly in our family is the importance of serving one another.

By the way, when one does not have paid domestic help there are endless opportunities for each family member to serve one another. This isn’t saying I don’t sometimes wish the bathrooms would just wash themselves of course!

Mostly, the older children have been great at helping the youngest with things. Putting on his shoes, getting him a bib or some home made yogurt drizzled with honey.

The real job lies in encouraging them to serve when they don’t feel like it, or when it is inconvenient to them. I have learned that instilling selflessness in a child is a process that requires patience, consistency and discernment – knowing when to encourage service and when to leave it alone because he or she is tired, etc.

Last month it was Sweet Man’s birthday and it was a wonderful occasion not only to celebrate but to put service into practice.

The kids wanted to get their father something and I suggested rather than buying him a gift, they could serve him instead. Together, we came up with some ideas on what he might like and then got down to making a stack of coupons.

Child's art

Child's art

Child's artChild's artI got the kids a box and they put them all in with a hand made birthday card. Puppy stuck a message on top and voila! it was perfect.

Child's art

Sweet Man’s favourite by far was the back massage. It involved him lying face down on our bed with all 3 kids standing on his back and walking all over him. Sweet Man said it beat any professional massage. It was so good he wanted to convert his tea and clean room coupons into back massages. The whole thing had been such a gleeful affair the kids were more than happy to oblige.

A few days after Sweet Man finished redeeming his back massage coupons, I was pleasantly surprised when Puppy and Lamb made a birthday box for me even though it wasn’t my birthday. Nestled among an assortment of coloured paper was a coupon. Puppy said I deserved it for all the hard work I did serving them as their Mama.

Child's art

I haven’t redeemed the coupon yet, but boy I am sure looking forward to it.


“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Related posts: 10 ways to help my kids enjoy housework; Bunnies in training; Puppy’s revelation; When I am home.


  • Valerie
    November 10, 2012 7:44 am

    We did this too when our children were younger, for Daddy! 🙂 Serving is definitely something we encourage and teach (and show by *doing*!) With our big kids being so much older, they are able to help tremendously, with the house, with their toddler brother, etc, but had we not raised them to do so, they’d be much different! They are willing to help (not at all moments – like in the middle of a show or something) and we’ve taught there should be no complaints. We ALL help each other! Oh, and I LOVE the drawing of serving tea! It’s adorable when the sizes of people are so different!! 😀

  • Mama J
    November 10, 2012 3:57 pm

    Thanks so much for that perspective. The building blocks of selflessness and helpfulness begin when the kids are young and I look forward to reap the fruit of that training when mine are older, as you are reaping now! And yes, I love the drawing of serving tea too. As much as the body massage!

  • newtorontomom
    November 11, 2012 10:29 pm

    thank you for the follow!
    My husband can hardly wait for Timothy to grow old enough to be able to walk on his back :)))

    Write more about teaching selflessness. My parents failed to instil it in me and it brought a lot of grief into my life. I learned it on my own, eventually – but I still have to force it; it doesn’t come naturally. SO I don’t know how to teach my son!

  • Mama J
    November 12, 2012 12:54 am

    Selflessness doesn’t come to me that easily or naturally either. I sense an internal struggle much of the time whenever I go down hands and knees to wipe the crumbs off the floor after every single meal. Including after some snack times. It’s also partially related to my journey in finding contentment as a stay-home mother so I’m definitely still a student of the subject. You’ll certainly be reading more of it in the future – warts and all!

    Sweet Man guarantees that back massages by little feet beats professional massages hands down 🙂

  • Stacey (@Staceysmoments)
    November 14, 2012 10:25 am

    What a beautiful idea! I think it is so important to teach children to think about others and this is a perfect way to begin! Thanks for sharing.

  • Mama J
    November 14, 2012 11:04 pm

    Thank you for the thought. I also remember what you once said about giving children the “gift of siblings” and how that helps them to learn how to share and serve. Love that phrase!

  • twisteddomesticgoddess
    November 16, 2012 10:37 pm

    I love that you’re teaching your kids to serve! This is so important!

  • Mama J
    November 17, 2012 2:00 am

    Thank you. It is also a privilege and super hard work.

  • christine@TheAums
    November 20, 2012 2:04 am

    I love this, plain and simple. How wonderful that you shared it because no doubt you are inspiring others to serve as well.

  • prince n princess mum
    December 21, 2012 3:43 pm

    Nice concept. I like it!

  • Mama J
    December 22, 2012 3:19 am


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