Recently I was chatting with a great friend who is an amazing lady with three small children. This lady is an inspiration at what she tackles and undertakes with three little kids and the example and legacy she is modelling for them.
We chatted about the community garden this lady had set up and how her three little children were excited at the beginning but now found it ‘boring’ and seemed to complain whenever they had to go to help at the community garden now.
We brainstormed a couple of options but it also then caused me to reflect on my journey with my kids. I have such high expectations and want them to get into service projects and helping others as much as I do but sometimes their attitude just downright stinks.
We found it challenging for the first five years that my family served on the Healing Rooms at Church. Once per month for 3 ½ hours we would all be involved with usually only one other child. Princess loved being around this other girl and they became friends and had fun but Matey had no-one. Those mornings driving 45 minutes to get to Healing Rooms always started with the whinging of “Why do we have to go?”. Now that there are at least 15 kids/teenagers on the team, the most common comment to start our trip is “I wonder which kids will be there today?” It makes a huge difference!!
Looking back on my own experience with my kids is that to begin with, it can be exciting to begin a project but that excitement very quickly fades. My suggestions for anything you undertake in this arena are:
- Do it with another family. This is especially true when you have teenagers. We often muse that we can get Princess to do anything as long as one of her friends is there. When I reflect on my life, though, I find that is true of myself. I love ministering alongside my friends. It makes it so much more fun.
- Keep it short. Short bursts of service make it more manageable and will keep their attention span more easily. Half an hour is a really long time with toddlers.
- Have a set day and time if possible that you do the service activity. This way, the kids know that it won’t be sprung on them suddenly at other times.
- Inject some fun into it or plan something fun for afterwards. We usually incorporate food into it somehow & that has been a huge motivator in the past for our kids. Even now, we still try and go out to lunch with another family after Healing Rooms and other serving events.
- Help them to contribute in a unique way. Eg in a community garden, let them paint rocks and wooden stakes at home that they can put in various positions in the garden. Make a ‘mud kitchen’ with an old sink and old kitchenware where they can create and pretend to cook. Let them be the one to harvest the vegetables and help to cook them at home. Let them be responsible for cutting the string to tie the vegetables to the stakes.
- Encourage ownership by letting them choose a task that they can complete all on their own. This becomes their task as long as they want it.
- Look at the atmosphere you are creating. Is it fun doing the activity? Have fun music playing etc to lift the atmosphere.
- Include them in the decision making. Ask for their feedback on how to change things to make it better. You may well be surprised at what they suggest.
- Make sure your children understand that there is a purpose to the activity. Talk about why you are doing it.
- Celebrate achievements or good things happening. Eg do something special the first time you harvest a crop at the garden.
I would love to hear how you have motivated your children and teenagers to serve. Please comment below so that we can all be helped by your ideas.