3 Good Things to Remember about the Importance of Training Your Children to Help

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Do you have any little people in your life—sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or neighbors? Children can make the world so much sweeter and brighter, but let’s face it: they can also make our homes quite a bit more disheveled! Currently being in the throes of raising five children has helped me appreciate how incredibly fast an otherwise clean home can become a complete jumble in a few short minutes.

Assessing how I ought to confront such messes has helped to give me perspective on what it means to afford my offspring the best childhood possible. My children spend considerable time each day climbing trees, playing dress-up, and pretending to be bank tellers, cowboys, and ladies-in-waiting. While striving to give them the richest and most joyful upbringing possible, I have found myself endlessly making beds, sweeping crumbs, and picking things up off the floor—all without much assistance! This just didn’t seem right.

After all, Proverbs 22:6 states that we are to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Adults are to train up children in the way they should go, and when they are old they “will not depart from it.” It finally struck me that all training for life really does begin during one’s youth. Embracing this proverb, I decided to make a change.

1. Even if it’s easier to do the task ourselves, it’s not necessarily the best for our children.

I remember the day I determined to teach my firstborn how to clean her own room, rather than to continue to do the task myself. Her room wasn’t particularly out of control, so I knew her little four-year old self was capable of tidying it with some assistance. Although I could have accomplished the goal in minutes, I instead sat on her bed and began directing her to pick up each article of clothing and every out-of-place toy and put them into their designated locations—one by one.

There was nothing particularly lovely about this process. I thought my daughter was capable on her own of figuring out which clothes were dirty and which were clean. I also assessed that she should have been able to determine which items belonged on the bookshelf and which belonged in the toy bin. It seemed in the moment, however, that she was quite clueless about these things. I wound up uncharacteristically and painstakingly giving her my undivided attention and instructed her how to put away each of her belongings. A task that would have taken me five to ten minutes took closer to forty minutes that day; but it turns out that in the long term, the extra time was worth every second.

That afternoon I felt as though I had wasted my time. The end result was a less-than-perfectly-made bed, clothes that were not quite neatly folded, and so on. Within a short period of time, though, I realized that my daughter now knew where her things belonged. I could direct her to pick up her room and put her clean clothes away and—eventually—the job would get done!

2. Training children in the way they should go takes lots of valuable time.

I know this isn’t rocket science for some, but I now observe many parents idolizing a busy schedule or preferring the perfectly made bed and cleaned room rather than valuing the life skills involved in training children to be responsible. If I catch myself being lenient in this area, I reflect on whether I’m choosing the most expeditious path or whether I’m encouraging my children to become conscientious, helpful adults, roommates, and spouses. After all, for each task they never learn to do for themselves, I am putting the burden on someone else to teach them down the road.

The beauty for me of this learning process has been to see how naturally children aspire to be contributing members of their families, churches, and schools. When given the chance, so many young ones will jump to help another when the opportunity presents. I’ve learned that I simply need to find the timeand the patience required to facilitate these opportunities.

All of this applies very directly to my hospitality endeavors. I can let my children tinker around with a toy for a little bit longer and watch me sweep the floor or set the table before company arrives, or I can give them life skills and involve them in the practice of welcoming another family into our home by giving them age-appropriate tasks, so that they feel they’ve been a part of the process.

3. Children are far more capable of helping the family than we realize.

My 7, 9 and 12-year-old daughters can now do much to help me in the food-prep aspect of hosting. The oldest now regularly walks into the kitchen when all of her schoolwork is done to ask me if she can bake something for an event coming up. I can let her pull up a recipe and walk away now, knowing that something delicious will come out of the oven within the hour. This is the same child to whom I had to point out clothing food spills and dirt stains and direct each item in question toward the laundry basket or clothes drawer, depending on what was appropriate. She now seeks out myriad ways to assist others because she finds inherent rewards in doing so.

This is my way of saying, take heart. The little ones in your life are honestly looking for responsibility and direction, whether they know it or not. They want to be given a part of the family duties, and they will find intrinsic rewards in being allowed to complete some of those tasks on their own. I’ve witnessed that giving children a happy upbringing includes helping them learn to recognize the needs of those around them and to do something about it.

While the Psalm 22:6 passage charges me to train up my children in the way they should go, I take heart and comfort in the biblical promise found in Galatians 6:9 that says, “and let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

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Susanna Hodge blogs at The Hodge Lodge at www.thehodgelodge.com. This article was first published under the title "Training Children to Help."

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