Sally Clarkson wrote that when one of her children would have a hard day and it would show through their behavior or attitude, she would seek out to set up a tray with tea and a treat, and have some special time with that child.
I asked her, "When you set out to serve a child specifically (such as the "serving tray" approach when they needed some extra attention), did you ever worry you were feeding their bad behavior to desire that special attention? "
She responded saying, "My children always wanted to obey me when I served them and invested in their lives. So, actually, serving them causes me to know that it will draw their heart towards me--not give them a reason to disobey--"
This statement is incredibly powerful and it's not a radical way to think. It's a practice that Jesus laid out all through Scripture. But somewhere along the lines of teaching responsibility and discipline in our children, we forget to serve them. We become so bent on teaching them independence so they can function as adults, serving them seems like enabling. We think we might make them lazy if we do things for them rather then letting them do things for themselves.
It's interesting, but this is a twisted way of thinking. It seems logical, but we miss an important part of life and relationship building with our children when we fail to serve them.
Last week I took it upon myself to empty and load the dishwasher - a job that is delegated to my eldest two children. My daughter (10) was so touched by the notion, she called me "the greatest mom ever".
Serving our children doesn't mean never giving them responsibility. It means we take the time to meet their needs. Discipline or punishment isn't the only way to correct a wrong behavior.
Sometimes a child needs to be drawn close and shown they are loved and accepted--even when they fail.
Isn't that what we want? As fallen, sinful humanity, we crave acceptance. But we must tread carefully, because we want to be sure we're seeking and receiving acceptance in the right place.
God should always be first.
When our children do not know they are accepted and loved by their God and their parents, they will go looking for it elsewhere.
It's critical they know this from us. Our responsibility is to lead them to Christ, to repentance, and make it known there is forgiveness.
But it is something we must show our children. Not only when they make mistakes, but consistently.
So, how do we serve our children so they know they are valuable to us? The possibilities are endless!
- Make them breakfast instead of offering cold cereal or frozen waffles
- Take them out for a meal for one on one time on a regular basis
- Share a treat and time of Bible study together regularly - make it special
- Draw them in close when they are having a bad attitude instead of isolating them. Talk with them. Find out what the root is.
- Do their chores every so often
- Write them a letter they can find somewhere they frequent
- Have table conversations during meal times
The point is to simply show value for your children as people and children of God.
This, in turns, teaches them what serving others looks like. Teaching the concept isn't enough. Teaching any biblical concept isn't enough. The Bible states that what we learn from the Word must be lived out.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
Let's invest in our children by serving them.