How to Raise a Child Who Helps

We’ve all seen them, kids who clear their plates from the table and take them to the sink without complaint. Children who take out the trash without being told. Kids who genuinely seem to enjoy helping. How does that happen? A freak of nature? Here are a few tips to train your child to help.

  1.  Begin when your child is a toddler. When she’s taking the silverware out of the dishwasher as fast as you can load them in, compliment her. “Thank you for helping! Can you put the silverware back in the dishwasher for me?” Show her where it goes. Helping becomes a fun game.
  2. Give kids a voice in their chores. Write down the things that need to be done. Divide the list by the number of people who will be helping. Then let them take turns choosing the items they’d like to do. So, for example, you have four people in your family old enough to help. Divide your list of 20 items by four. Each person will do five chores. Have the youngest choose one item from the list first. Then the next youngest does the same and so on until all items on the list are crossed off. Obviously, not all chores will go on this list since you don’t want a five-year-old mowing the lawn.
  3. Take time to teach them how to do a job. It’s easy to say, “it’s faster to just do it myself.” Of course it is. But it doesn’t help your child learn or feel valued. Accept the fact that for a few years, things won’t get done as quickly or as well as they might if you did them yourself.
  4. Celebrate after chores are done. Give positive feedback or gentle correction if something needs more attention. “The bathroom you cleaned looks terrific! Oops! Looks like you might have forgotten to clean the mirror. As soon as you do that, you’ll be done!” To celebrate, choose a movie to watch together, go get an ice cream, take a bike ride, or call Grandma.
  5. Give age appropriate jobs. Nothing is more discouraging than always failing at something. So make sure your kids succeed far more than they fail. For a list of age appropriate jobs for kids, click here.
  6. Work together on some jobs. Sometimes a big job like cleaning a room is just too overwhelming. Help them do it if they seem to need a hand. And break big jobs down into small steps like make your bed, pick up your clothes, etc.
  7. For very young kids, make a list using pictures. Instead of just listing clean your room, give them specific directions like ‘pick up your toys’ and draw a picture of a teddy bear so they’ll know what that list item says. My kids loved having a list to work from that they could actually “read.”
  8. Show appreciation. This is a biggie. When a child helps in some way, whether asked to or not, thank them. Let them know you noticed and that their contribution is appreciated.

Raising kids to be helpful doesn’t come easy. It takes consistency, patience, and guidance. But I remember one day working in the kitchen with my ten-year-old daughter and realizing that her help was really helping, not hindering my progress. All those years of letting her work beside me were finally paying off. And it was worth it!

How do you get your children to help? How do you instill in them a good work ethic? What special tips would you add to this list?

Wisdom at High Noon

It was a showdown of the parental kind. Our pistols were drawn. Who would be left standing?

He sat across the table from me at the local luncheonette. It was a time for just the two of us, a lunch for my second-born son and me.

He was barely nine months old when he first crossed his arms, stuck out his bottom lip, and drew a defiant line in the dirt. I knew instinctively that teaching him to honor his father and mother would be at the heart of many of our confrontations. Sometimes I wanted to declare, “This house just ain’t big enough for the both of us, Partner.” And there were many times that we engaged in a face-off, each daring the other to make the first move. Yet, even I was startled when my five-year-old son gave voice to match his obstinate body language.

It was high noon. Peering up at me from behind his turkey and cheese sandwich, he made the challenge, “You know, Mom, I know I can do anything I want to do and no one can stop me.” I mentally stepped a few paces back and resisted the urge to fire back with my “Oh no you can’t just do anything you want to” pistol. I was tired of that argument anyhow. It never seemed to work and as I sat pondering my next move, I had a Holy Spirit moment–the kind where words start flowing out of your mouth and you recognize they came from a power much wiser than yourself.

“You know Ben, you’re right,” I hesitantly agreed. “You can do anything you want to do and even I can’t stop you.” But my next words came like bullets in rapid fire, only pausing enough to cock the trigger and take my next shot. “You can steal a piece of candy from the store, but I’ll make you return it. You can say something nasty to your little brother, and I’ll make you sit on time-out until you’re ready to apologize. You can…” The list of bad choices and consequences continued until I nearly ran out of ammunition. I took one final shot. “Ben, you can do all of those things, but there is one thing that you have no control over and that’s my love for you. I lowered my pistol into my holster. My opponent sat speechless. He had met his match.

The showdown ended. Oh there would be many more to come, with a strong-willed child that is one thing that is for certain. But the Holy Spirit would continue to be there to give me the words of wisdom and in the end, my son and I would both be left standing.

Father, you care deeply about each conversation we have with our children. Help us to listen for your wisdom. Amen.

Are You a Worry-Wart?

As a confirmed worry-wart, I will never forget what occurred one evening during my trip to a children’s home in Ghana this past January and February. I was helping one of the girls at the Home with her homework, when one of the little boys, Michael*, began to get very upset.

“I forgot my backpack on the bus,” he said in a panicked voice. Michael was the top student in his class, and I imagined his anxiety had something to do with losing his status if he didn’t get his homework turned in.

“Don’t worry,” I said, trying to calm him, “I’ll give you a piece of notebook paper. You can copy the questions onto the paper and do your homework that way.”

This reply did nothing to calm him; in fact, his panic was growing, and I couldn’t understand why when it seemed that I was providing him with a viable solution to the problem. Then one of the other girls said, “He’s not worried about the homework. He’s upset because the bus driver said that if anyone left their backpacks on the bus, they’d be caned.” (Caning is a common form of punishment in Ghana, at least at the schools that I visited.)

Tears had begun to run down Michael’s cheeks, and I could see his mind playing out the terrible scenario of what tomorrow morning would bring for him. I put my arm around his shoulder and said, “Michael, maybe the bus driver won’t see your backpack. Then all of this worry will be for nothing. You are so upset right now that it’s as if you are already receiving the punishment. And if you keep worrying about it, you will have put yourself through more pain than if you really do get caned tomorrow – because that will last a moment, while you’re worrying could last all night. So let’s pray that the bus driver does not see your backpack and leave it in God’s hands.”

We prayed together, and Michael’s tears began to slow. He still seemed to carry the burden of a marked man for awhile, but in time, allowed himself to play with his friends again and was able to sleep peacefully later that night.The next morning Michael raced onto the bus and found his backpack tucked behind one of the last seats. Moments later he came flying off the bus, backpack in hand, with a huge grin on his face.

“It’s here! It’s here!” he said. The bus driver had not spotted it! There would be no caning that day.

I wrapped my arms around him in a big hug and said, “See how silly it was to worry!” He nodded and went skipping up the bus steps.

I often think about this story and have to laugh, because I am a worry-wart myself. So really this is a story of one worrier (me!) trying to calm another. I know that most of my worry is wrong or unfounded – a complete waste of mental energy – and yet I find myself falling into it anyway.

Recently I heard a sermon about worry in which the pastor said that:

  • 40% of the things we worry about never happen
  • More than 30% are things that have already happened and that we can’t change
  • Only 8% of worrying is actually justifiable

Jesus knew the dangers of worry and cautioned against it in Matthew 6, saying, “So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food, drink and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? . . . Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. . . . So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:25;27;34)

Most of us worry-warts know that our worrying cannot accomplish anything good, and yet, so often we allow ourselves to succumb to it. One worry leads to another which leads to another, and pretty soon we are drowning in a sea of imagined atrocities that may or may not come to pass. This not only affects our mental health, but our physical and spiritual health as well. Sometimes I have to stop myself mid-worry and say, “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?” Then after I’ve imagined the worst outcome, I remind myself that even if that were to pass, my heart and soul would still be secure in Jesus. I remember that this earth is not my eternal home and what befalls me here is only temporal. I comfort myself with the knowledge that even in the most difficult of circumstances, God can still get the glory, and this is what I should be concerned with more than my own need for self-protection, which is often the root cause of my worries to begin with.

A friend of mine recently told me about her “God Box.” She said that whenever she is worried about something, she writes it down on a piece of paper, puts it in this “God Box” and forgets about it. This is her way of turning over the problem/worry to God and allowing Him to deal with it so that she can have peace. She said that over the years, she has seen God do amazing things through the circumstances in her life that had caused her the most worry. She told me that many people with “God Boxes” will burn the papers that they have put in there after the Lord has dealt with them. However, she likes to keep each one because for her it is a reminder of how faithful God is at answering prayer and taking our worries from us. Today she has a nice collection of papers that testify to the goodness and power of God in her life.

As we go through life, none of us will manage to get through without facing circumstances that bring us worry. But it’s how we deal with the worry that is is important and shows in whom we have placed our trust. As adults (especially parents), we can easily pass our worry-wart tendencies onto the children in our lives. But how much greater would it be to leave our children with a legacy of trusting in God and not wasting time on circumstances that are beyond our control! If you or a child you know is a worry-wart, perhaps you might think of making a “God Box” for your home, classroom, church, etc. Whatever you do — turn over your problems to Him and receive the peace that only He can give!

*Names of children in the article have been changed

The ‘Art’ of Kindness


Kindness…what does it mean to children?

Here’s what the bible says about kindness. Ephesians 4:32 says this – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Kindness is doing something nice for someone just because.


Examples of kindness to talk about with your child –

*Giving a hug to a friend who is feeling sad

*Sharing your toys

*Forgiving a friend who has hurt your feelings

*Picking up your toys without being asked

*Words can also show kindness like, “please”, “thank you”, “I love you”, & “I’m sorry”


Here is a project that you can do with your child regarding kindness.

List: poster board, ribbon, markers, stickers…

Together, you and your child will help make a chart of specific ways to care for others during the next week. Decorate your chart with pictures, bright ribbon, and colorful lettering. Draw fun shapes large enough to write a caring action inside. (a caring action might be) – give a hug, use kind words like please or thank you, help with a chore, or sharing a toy. Write Ephesians 4:32 across the bottom of your chart.

Post your art chart in a central location in your home. Use any kind of fun sticker you want for each time your child shows kindness, or care towards others in one of the ways shown. Have a special or different place to celebrate new acts of kindness not listed on the chart.

Have fun!!

Author of – I Love You to the Moon & Charlie’s Gingerbread House

Getting ready for a new school year


Is your child ready for her first day of school? Are you?

Do you have a child who is getting ready for her first day of school? That can be an exciting or a scary time for a child depending upon their temperament and personality. Perhaps your child isn’t just beginning school for the first time, but he is going to a new school or even in a new town or city if the family has moved during the summer.

One of the first things that comes to my mind is the word RELAX. If you are uptight about the change, your child will pick up on it and will have a harder time dealing with it as well. As a former teacher, I’ve seen children of overly doting parents, and have seen situations where the parents are the cause of the problem, not the crying child.

Share the excitement of getting ready for school by letting them help choose their book bags, notebooks, pencils, clothing, and whatever other supplies they might need. Be sensitive about what clothing the child would like to wear, but don’t feel you must buy to keep up with every fad that comes along. A child’s clothing needs to be as nice as the family can afford, but it doesn’t help if the child’s sense of importance comes from extravagant clothing either.

Mark the date on the calendar and talk about how many days until school starts. Be upbeat and help them to have an “I can” mentality about the upcoming year. Be your child’s cheerleader. Plan ahead for a place to display their best school work and celebrate accomplishments.

Establish helpful routines from the very beginning. Discuss them before school starts so there won’t be surprises the first day. If these routines are started while the child is young, they will prove to be even more helpful as the child gets older.

  • Have a designated place where book bags go – probably best if it is close to the door they use to come in the house.
  • Recognize the need for a debriefing time when your child first comes home from school (or after-school day care if both parents work). Plan ahead and have a healthy snack ready, and take or make the time to discuss the highlights of the child’s day. Check for notes from school or papers that need to be signed and returned.
  • Establish a predetermined time when the talking must stop and the child does his homework. Be aware of upcoming assignments that take longer than one afternoon to complete them. Encourage your child to set up a plan for how much should be done each day on the longer assignments.
  • Keep the TV off until all homework is completed – that includes programs for parents as well as for the children. Record programs if necessary so everyone can stick to the homework plan. Even after homework is completed, limit the number of hours your children watch TV. Encourage them to be more creative with their use of time.
  • Have a predetermined bedtime and develop routines for bathing, brushing teeth, and laying out the next day’s clothes before going to bed.

All of this sounds good in writing, but it doesn’t just happen. It takes discipline on everyone’s part. But the results will produce a more self-confident child who will learn to take life one day at a time, and to take on projects without stressing out over them.

Photo credit: © Sunshine_angel | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos