Parenthood: Raising Responsible and Service-Oriented Children

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Parenthood—My 10-year-old son has entered the tween phase where he, on a regular basis, says: "I can't wait until I'm 18 and I can do whatever I want." Even though I didn't want to burst his bubble by telling him that no one ever really gets to do whatever they want (not without consequences anyway), I did have a serious discussion with him the other day when he said that in response to my asking him to clean up after himself.

To begin our mother-son chat, I asked him what he thought my goals were as a parent and why I would ask him to clean up. He scratched his head, probably thinking the only reason I'd do it was to torture him, just like I thought my mom was trying to torture me when I was a child and she "made me" do chores. I then took that moment to explain that my goals were for him to grow up with the skills and habits he needed to be a successful adult. We discussed a variety of things that contributed to possible definitions of "successful adult," one of which was for him to be able to clean up after himself. We discussed the benefits of him learning how to clean and why having order and being clean was important.

We also discussed service and how important it is to not only think about ourselves, but to focus on the needs of others. We talked about how cleaning was not only a way to keep order, but an act of service for those around us. I asked him how serving others may help him both now in his role as a brother, friend, and neighbor and later in life as he becomes a father and husband and what other examples of service he could think of. He wasn't sure and that made me think that we need to expose him to more opportunities so he has more experiences to draw on should I ask him that question in the future.

As a parent, finding regular opportunities to raise responsible children can require patience. The time I spend "encouraging" my kids to do their chores increases the amount of time it takes to clean the house. But, having that patience helps me not only to have a clean house (shout out to the Electrolux Nimble, the world's best vacuum!), but also to raise responsible and service-oriented children.

Aside from cleaning and helping others in our own family through chores or other acts of service, finding opportunities to raise giving children can be challenging. I have found lots of ideas online. This list is a great way to get started. And here are some tips for helping young children to be more charitable. And, I especially love this list, which identifies 10 tips for raising given children of all ages.

But the best opportunities, it seems, are those that present themselves to us as we go throughout our daily lives. Here's one that happened just this past week...

Our friend Jeanne is in an assisted living facility and she needed to go to the store. Unable to drive or walk without assistance, we decided to make the outing a family activity. We loaded up her wheelchair and took her to Wal-Mart, where thankfully, they had a Senior Citizen Parking spot with her name all over it. We took turns pushing her through the store, walking up and down the aisles, gathering the things she needed. After an hour, with both her and our shopping done, we took her back to her new home, walked her up to her room, helped her put her things away, and returned home.

On our drive home, we talked to our kids about Jeanne, sharing her limited abilities at this point in her life. We helped them see that something as fun and simple to them as pushing her wheelchair was a huge act of service and kindness to her. Their smiles in recognizing their contribution recommitted me to creating more opportunities for them to have action-oriented opportunities that teach them responsibility and service while they're young.

 How do you model and give your children opportunities to be responsible as well as service-oriented? Tips for helping them do chores? Serve others?

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.


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