Instilling the Value of Service in Our Kids

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Charity, service, helping others. Whatever name you give it, service is a value that every parents wants instilled within their child. We want to raise children who believe in assisting, in lending a hand, and in putting in the time and/or the hard work in order to do so, because if we do not have charity, we are nothing (or so says Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:2).  I certainty don’t want to raise nothing kids who have faith and hope, but don’t give a darn about anybody or anything else. I want kids who understand the value of service. Our family believes in doing just about everything together, from the simplest of shopping trips (i.e. returning an item) to the grandest new adventure. We like doing everything together. And service is certainly one of them. No matter how young our children may be, or if they fully understand what we are doing and why, we bring them along and serve beside them. Service is a value that is never too early to start instilling within our children. Because service is the root of charity, that pure and noble virtue, the pure love of Christ, which never fails.

Our family is often given opportunities to serve, often through church assignments, friends, strangers, and even within our own family too. When my husband and I serve, we often like to bring our children with us, so that they, too, can serve.Instilling the Value of Service in Kids - How one family is working together to serve.

Service Opportunities at Church

The church we belong to, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has stopped hiring people to clean their church building so the responsibility now lies squarely with its members. Once a quarter, our family is assigned to clean the building (along we a handful of other families). And we always bring our children along with us. We give them little jobs to do (clean the glass, vacuum the floor, sweep the gym floor). Once each month, my husband and I are to visit with families to see how they are doing spiritually, emotionally, financially, etc. It’s called Home Teaching for him, and Visiting Teaching for me. While we don’t usually take our children with us (though I sometimes do), we let our children know that we are going out to administer and serve others.

And sometimes our church has a special service project or activity going on that we bring our children to. In the fall, we were asked to do some landscaping at the church building, removing old mulch, and putting new mulch down. We brought our children, Michael being strapped to my chest in a baby carrier, and raked up mulch for a couple hours. Another time, I brought my children with me, my baby again in his carrier, as I took a group of 8-12 year old girls around on a hot summer day to pick up garbage along the road. My children diligently and carefully picked up trash for the hour we were out in the hot sun, doing a better job than some of the big girls even!

Service Opportunities for Friends

And then, we once dropped off some food for a friend, who was feeling less than stellar at eight months pregnant. We were all in the car, running errands, and didn’t stop inside, despite our daughters best friend living there. We explained to them that we were offering a service, we were giving to them, feeding them a meal, because we love them. For that same friend we helped rake up their leaves, letting our children play together as us adults got to work blowing and raking leaves. While our children had fun, they also saw the hard work their parents were doing in order to serve another.

Service Opportunities for Strangers

My husband is especially great at serving others he doesn’t know. He will often give money to a man on the side of the road, or give someone gas at the pump who asks for a gallon or two. This winter, he helped several people who were stuck in the snow. One of those times our whole family was in the car. As my husband leapt out our suburban to push a truck out of the snow, I had the privilege of telling my daughters that their father was helping another, a stranger, who needed help. I told them, that in life, we should always be looking for opportunities to help another, in whatever capacity we can (as long as it is safe for us to do so – the caveat my husband made sure I added in there).

As a family we have since memorized the scripture “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17 from the Book of Mormon), and have had many great conversations about how we can help others. My daughters have brought up their father’s service in the snow that night a few times since. Our children are impressionable. They need to see their parents joyfully serving others in order to value charity themselves, in order to instill within themselves the value of service.

I know one time I gave a stranger a ride in the rain (I blogged about it too), with my children in the car with me, as we headed to play group. Every time my husband and I give service to strangers, I am reminded time and again that there is much to be thankful for in this world, and so many wonderful people out there who just need a hand, and that strangers are just people we haven’t met yet.

Serving Within Our Family

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that service and charity must begin at home. I cannot tell you how many times growing up, I heard my mother share that quote, “Charity begins at home.” While she may have just been saying it so we’d pick up our laundry or bring our dishes to the kitchen, I believe she is right. Charity and service need to begin at home. It was this realization that prompted me to write the post “Let us not be weary in well doing for our children.” How can we expect our children to want to serve others, when we don’t want to serve within our own home? If I want values to be instilled within my children, as opposed to being forced upon them, then I need to model good behavior myself. My example, as their mother, will speak volumes more than my words alone.Join the Mommy and Me Service Challenge!

Mommy & Me Monthly Service Challenge

I signed up with the blog Trust Me, I’m a Mom to do a monthly service project with my children (and you should sign up too! It’s free and easy!). January’s theme was TOYS! My husband and I have always tried to limit the amount of toys our children have, even though they don’t actually have that many toys. But, we feel like less is definitely more. So, before Christmas, we boxed up and towed away some of our children’s toys and gave them to Goodwill. We gave away our daughters’ kitchen play-set, among other things. When we dropped them off, we explained that since our girls no longer played with them or needed them, we were giving them away so that someone else could use them. While our daughters do sometimes talk about how we took their kitchen set away, I more often hear them talk about how they don’t want this or that toy anymore and that we should give it away to someone else!

The reason I believe so strongly in instilling the value of service in my children, while they are still so young, is because I need to prepare my children to make sacred covenants when they are eight years old and ready to enter the waters of baptism for themselves. Because at baptism, we covenant to bear each others’ burdens, that they may be light; and mourn with those that mourn; and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. I have personally made those covenants at my own baptism as well as in His Holy Temple. I pray that over the coming weeks and years I will have many more opportunities to serve right alongside my children  Because, our simple gestures of service, of kindness, of love, and of charity are often the very tools that God uses to bless his children here on earth. We can be his angels, his saints, his disciples. I know I have been blessed by the love and service of others, and greatly desire to do the same for others.

How have you worked to instill the value of service in your children?

More Posts about Instilling Values in Kids:

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  1. says

    You know, you’ve given me something to think about here. Service was a big part of my family growing up, and I plan on making sure it is for my daughter too (she’s just two now). But I hadn’t really thought about service for friends or family. I like it.

  2. says

    We are actually trying to do a service project at our house each month:) Thanks for linking up to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party. I have pinned your post to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Board.

  3. says

    When I was a kid one of my first service opportunities was at church as well. I think that instilled the value of service into me. In junior high my neighbor and I dressed up as elves for 3 years in a row and went visiting at a nursing home. I think volunteering not only helps the community but helps the soul.

  4. says

    This is definitely something I want to work on with my kids at very young ages. My son already is learning about doing this for us and we are teaching him manners with it since he loves to help so much. These are some really great ideas you’re sharing though that I could use as they get older. Thanks for sharing this one with us at Countdown in Style too 🙂

  5. says

    Unfortunately I haven’t. As I keep seeming to have children, I’m having problems finding a routine, including getting involved in service. Thanks for the reminder and linking up with Countdown in Style. I hope you come back on Friday to see if you were featured.

  6. says

    This is such important stuff. Truly. It’s also very hard, I think. We have to go directly against our human nature to put others first. We also have to make the time and use it wisely. I think I’m going to look for something to do with my girls this week or next. 🙂 We’ve recently had them pick out toys to donate. I was happily surprised with their willingness to give up their things.

  7. says

    It is so powerful when we take the time to teach kids how to recognize opportunities to serve! Sometimes, I have to stop myself and listen to them to help them act on their own promptings to help another. Glad to find you!

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Sheila! I love your point about stopping and letting them help another! I try to do that, especially when one my girls earns a reward and the other doesn’t. I don’t let the one who received the reward from sharing.

  8. Lauren says

    I have a question about the scripture you linked to. How can one “bestow all my goods to feed the poor” yet “have not charity”? Is it the question of humility and kindness that makes the difference?


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