Show your children that even the smallest acts of kindness count!
The chiming clock announced it was time to leave for church, and I was far from ready. Seeing my crazed preparations, my husband offered to iron my clothes for me. Our 3-year-old daughter, the connoisseur of conversation, approached him.
"Are you ironing your shirt, Daddy?" she asked.
"No, I'm ironing Mommy's shirt."
"Oh, did you think it was your shirt?" A small giggle escaped her lips. "That's silly."
"No, I knew it was Mommy's shirt," he said.
A puzzled expression crossed my daughter's face. "Then why are you doing that?"
"Because your mommy is a special person, and I like to help her," he answered.
"Oh," she happily replied, then skipped out of the room. "I'm going to go help my brother."
Be an Example
As our children's first teachers, we know that little eyes keep track of our every move. Even as you complete the most mundane tasks around the house, your kids are watching. Later, you may find your little imitator chattering into a plastic phone, cooking up meals in toy pots or pounding with "tools."
We know that our children imitate not only our actions, but our attitudes. And that can have its downside. We've all had those "Oh no" moments when we hear our children scold their siblings or friends in a tone we know they learned from us. But on the positive side, that same propensity to imitate can serve us well as we try to model, and in turn teach, an attitude of kindness and cheerful servanthood.
We all try to do nice things for our spouses and children. But even more important than what we do is how we act. The difference between "doing things" and "serving others" is a matter of attitude.
Think about the last time you cooked a meal or folded laundry. How did you feel about serving your family in this way? Were you glad to do it or did you feel resentful that you were stuck with this mundane chore? Naturally, none of us has a cheerful servant's heart all day, every day. But if we want our children to willingly reach out to others and show kindness and compassion, it's essential that they see us doing the same.
Make the Connection
To translate your example of servanthood into something your child can start doing intentionally, you'll need to help your child make the connection between action and attitude.
Your always-observant preschooler may seem to be an endless source of questions and curiosity. You can take advantage of her inquisitiveness to teach kindness. When she asks, "What are you doing?" instead of answering "I'm cooking," say, "I'm making dinner for you and Daddy because I love you."
Instead of saying "I'm working on the car," answer, "I'm fixing a problem so our family will be safe." This shows your child that what you do is not as important as the people you're doing it for.