Children complain. They are children after all. But valuable skills and character are formed when we are prodded to do things like lessons or household chores. It may seem easier at the time to manage things on your own, but teaching these life lessons benefits everyone in the family and sets patterns for ongoing participation. Teaching children how to contribute to the family gives children both a sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of belonging by having a positive role in the family. Children feel good when given opportunities to contribute to family life.
Here are just a few meaningful life-long habits to help your children cultivate:
- Encourage your children to have a creative outlet. This may not seem like something to complain about, and often it isn’t at first, but later when there’s practice to be done or projects to be finished (or cleaned up) you may experience some resistance. It is important for every human being to imitate our Creator by regularly participating in creativity. After all, we are created in His image (Genesis 1:26).
- Teach your kids how to cook. I can’t tell you how often my grown children’s friends and significant others have benefited from the fact that they know how to cook and bake! It also helps to include menu planning and grocery shopping to the mix. Whether your child ends up living alone, with roommates or gets married, they will appreciate this ability later in life. Like many other chores, often this task is welcomed at first, but eventually loses its luster. However, the benefit to your child later will be great. They will save time and money with these skills, and their families will thank you!
- Teach your kids how to do laundry. I can’t tell you how many of my friend’s kids have gone off to college just to accidentally tie-dye and shrink most of their clothes! Showing good laundry habits saves money in the long run, as well as proving good stewardship over what God has given.
- Teach your kids to be hospitable. Encourage sleepovers, tea parties and bonfires, but encourage your kids to do the planning and preparations (with your supervision of course). Plant this idea by showing them great hospitality. We used to like to make a hotel suite for grandma & grandpa when they came to visit. We would place our prettiest towels on the bed, arrange a small coffee service table and even place mints under the pillows! It was such a pleasure to see my kids (mainly my daughter) do the same for their friends when they would come over.
- Teach your kids to pray out loud (and pursue other spiritual disciplines). Make faith part of the every day, and expect participation. Ask them to lead in family prayer. Ask about their daily prayer. Most of all, teach by example. Let your children see you pursue God’s Word and presence. Allow them to see you turn to God for small things as well as the big stuff. Car won’t start? Pray for God’s wisdom, and try it again. Rejoice when God answers prayer immediately! Be patient when He doesn’t. Establish a family worship time. This shows the family how to budget time for God into our daily schedules. Deuteronomy 6:7 says concerning God’s Word, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” According to this Scripture we are to thread our conversation about God throughout our daily tasks, proving Him to be important in every detail of our lives.
- Encourage your children to actively show gratitude. Ask your children to write thank you cards, bake cookies, write an email and do other acts of kindness in order to express appreciation for others. Make sure that this isn’t only done in response to a gift, but also randomly as a result of the gift of friendship. This will prove to offer multiple benefits as your children get older. For one thing, displaying gratitude will set them apart from their peers and co-workers allowing for promotion and appreciation in every area of life. Even more importantly, the habit of gratitude leads to a joyful life! What better gift can we give to our children than that of a life full of joy?
- Teach your kids how to budget. Your future sons and daughters in law will thank you for this. Especially when your children include savings in the budget. Even as adults we often cringe at the “b” word, but when we have a car repair we haven’t counted on, a home improvement to be completed or dream vacation opportunity, we will rejoice in fact that we have planned for these things.
- Teach your children to be generous. It is important to know how to budget and stick to it, but I feel it is even more important to know when to give to the point of sacrifice. There are key moments in life when God moves us to give up our vacation fund, or dip into our savings in order to benefit the Body of Christ or fill a specific need elsewhere. In order to prepare for a Christian conference, I once had the kids and I organize a garage sale for the sole purpose of being able to give more in the offerings. It is good for us to give not just our leftovers, but things we love and value as well. God always blesses in return, and we learn to trust God on another level as a result.
Teaching our children these kinds of lessons can be difficult now, but the fruits of these teachings will follow them the rest of their lives. These things hold value that children will appreciate and thank you for down the road. Pushing through the heavy sighs and complaints will be worth the success and joy your children will experience later. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” He. 12:11