Yesterday I decided to tackle some overdue projects while home with three of the kids. Typically when I take such initiative with the kids awake it is highly ineffective, due to the distraction and slow process of trying to work with “extra helpers.” Surprisingly though for this particular task they were actually quite useful.
We cleaned and organized both of our pantry’s and I had the genius idea to use Katana and Kae as my “transport system.” While clearing out the pantry I would hand them everything from the shelves and they would take load after load and put it on the countertops for organization. Delightfully they came back with eager hands waiting for patiently for me to refill their hands with things to carry. Trip after trip of canned soups, vegetables, cake mixes, and sauces were artistically arranged on my countertops. It was obvious they enjoyed the praise of being helpful and were quite proud of the very full countertops they created.
Quite regularly I’ve noticed that my two year old especially loves to “help” with any and every task she can. When I try to sit down and read a book, she helps by reading book of her own (or turning the pages of my book). When I sweep, she wants to hold the dustpan. When I unload the dishwasher, she has her grabby hands pulling out the silverware and stacking them up. She’s quite the cheerful helper.
Somehow in these early childhood years, was children develop many seem to lose the desire to help others joyfully. While some would suggest this is due to the fact that children become increasingly selfish as they get older– I think there is much more to it. Honestly, toddlers (especially around the age of two) are probably at the most selfish age of their lives. In their little world, everything they see, touch, or want is theirs. As the “toddler creed” so simply says, “Everything is MINE.” Yet, from my experience with our three kids, it is this age of 2-3 when they imitate the most, exhibit independence and long to “help.”
I believe our little ones as they get older watch us and imitate our mannerisms and heart much more then we could ever imagine. When our children see that we spend most of our time on ourselves, pursuing our own interests, caring for our own home, cooking our own meals, tending to our own jobs, etc… they quickly gather who in our world takes ultimate priority. When our children see minimum (if any) of our time goes to helping others they inadvertently take notes on this life lesson. I’d like to suggest that our children often lose the initiative to be joyful in helping to meet the needs of others because they are taking notes from us as parents.
Its quite simple, if you want your children to have a soft, giving heart toward others– examine your own. If, like me, you find that the example you consistently set with your time and resources is not reflective of your convictions– begin to make conscious efforts to change. Provide a meal for someone in need. Donate a few hours of your time to help a neighbor with a project. Volunteer at a school, church, or organization. As parents, we need to make conscious efforts to teach our kids through action and speech that the world doesn’t resolve around us (or them).