Generation Cedar

This son of mine loooves to wash dishes. (He’s better with his tongue sticking out 😉 I know–next year he’ll be five and he’ll hate it. But that’s OK…I’ll have another four-year-old by then 😉
Yesterday morning I was helping get the baby settled in her high chair for breakfast, the older children weren’t up yet, but Avi, 5, and her younger sister were.
Without a hitch, Avi crawled up on the kitchen cabinet (by opening the bottom cabinet for a foot stool–she’s tiny), carefully got a stack of cereal bowls down, carried them to the table, poured hers and Mallie’s cereal, climbed into the fridge, lugged the almost-full gallon of milk to the table and poured their milk.
I watched her, smiling at her confidence, knowing she felt a satisfaction in being the big sister and helping.
I had a brief thought about “I should have already had all the bowls out, and served them…after all, I want to teach them servant hood through example”.
Isn’t there a fine line between serving them and spoiling them–between doing things for them to show them my love, and showing my love for them by helping them develop a strong sense of responsibility and accomplishment?
I’ve learned that if I start early encouraging them and even stretching them to do things for themselves, they seem to develop a healthy sense of work ethic (which is important as well as crucial to a well-working family), one that will build a foundation for who they become. Additionally, they come to understand they are valued and important, knowing the family doesn’t work well without their participation.
What a grave mistake we make in “loving” them by doing everything for them. It’s like favoring a limb until atrophy destroys it. They know Mom still serves–still takes care of a lot, but they also know that we all work together as a body.
When Brooks offered to wash dishes I enthusiastically accepted. I knew I’d probably have to rewash some of them, and that would take up more time, but I want to encourage his willingness.
So after he’d been washing a few minutes, and after I’d given him some personal cheers, I called the others to the kitchen…
“Look at your brother!” I said. “Have you ever seen such a great dish-washer?” (He beamed.) Of course they chimed in on the praise. And I said, “Thank you for being diligent, Brooks…as to the Lord, and not unto men…that’s the way we want to work.”
Now, if I can just remember this important training everyday amid all the busyness!

Here are a few regular jobs I try to get the children into the habit of doing early:

  • Taking dishes to the kitchen after a meal
  • Drilling the “if you get it out, you put it up” rule
  • Putting their own clothes away
  • Younger ones helping older ones (sometimes this involves more training of the older ones)
  • Looking out for each other…with a large family, hazards seem to loom larger than normal. While I never put the safety of other children in the hands of younger ones, I try to remind them to keep a watch for each other, training them to be protective.
  • Age-appropriate jobs: replacing toilet paper in bathrooms, being my “go-for” while I clean a room, changing diapers, helping in the kitchen, folding towels, picking up trash before vacuuming, etc.

Important note: These aren’t jobs I give them and then they master in a few days, weeks or sometimes months. I have to constantly remind them. It can be very time-consuming…the little ones are in the habit of pulling up a chair to the cabinet to cook with me. No matter how many times I’ve told them, they always forget to put the chair back. It is SO simple to put it back myself; but I try to resist, and instead, go find them, call them back to the kitchen, and ask them what they forgot.

Well, the good news is, if they don’t ever “get it”, at least they’ll eventually be tall enough to see without a chair *big smiles*

14 Responses

  1. Not only are you teaching servanthood to your kids by your example, but you’re letting them practice it on their own! (Kind of like explaining the math concept and then letting them do some problems!)

    Kids love it when they are needed (and don’t we all?), and having them contribute in meaningful ways (that they can handle depending on their ages) is just another way a Mom loves!

  2. I’ve been letting my children help alot more in the last year or two. Children really are capable of doing alot more than we sometimes give them credit for. My children now have chore charts that they get checks on when they complete their tasks for the day. Since we started this system I no longer have to feed the dog or put the trash out, my son does it before I ask him and he loves to tell me he did his job. I also have daily helpers with dishes and sweeping!

  3. I agree. I go along with the tomato-staking ideal at and I keep the kids right next to me the majority of the day. If they’re not playing, they’re helping me with chores. My 1.5 yr old LOVES throwing his sisters diapers away for me and the 3 yr old is learning how to unload the dishwasher and put things away. He also hands me clean clothes so I can fold them…

    Anyway, I could use prayer – Yesterday, our youth pastors WIFE sent around this video to most of the women in the church: (the link to “who’s in the doghouse” is even worse – people can actually virtually send their husbands to the doghouse)
    and, though funny, it bothered me enough to say something. I sent back a gentle reminder for us not to take on that kind of thinking, etc. I said it was sad how it exalted the superiority of women and made men look like dumb spineless good-for-nothing wastes of space and that I found this most anti-biblical.
    Anyway, most of the responses were akin to ‘why are you getting your panties in a wad over something so trivial’ – one lady though bit back hard and I’m still hurting a bit – I feel sorry for her husband! Anyway, all that said, I could use prayer for continued boldness and to grow some thick skin. I feel like some of the old testament prophets – being told to say something even though it’ll fall on deaf ears. So many in our church are feminists and don’t even know it.

  4. That is one of the “disadvantages” of having children close together, as we are at the moment.

    Everybody helps, and watches out for each other. “Help Mommy!” is one of the most commonly heard pleas at my house. My 2.5yo son wants to help with laundry, dishes, cooking, vacumming, whatever. My 14mo is learning to pick up toys, and he always comes when called for a diaper change.

    My eldest lugs the gallon of milk to me and gets his and his brother’s sippy cups for me. Then he puts the milk away … I need every bit of help I can get! 😉

    Trust me, this is not my natural tendancy. If it didn’t obviously mean so much to help me … I can do things much better and faster myself!

    Maybe being open to having babies close together is the easiest way for me to learn to “share” the tasks at my house? Hmmmm, I just thought of that. 🙂


  5. I really enjoyed this post! I am really trying hard to be a good teacher in this area. We are slowly implementing more and more chores…
    I struggle with putting things away myself(scatter-brained),
    so teaching my children is even a greater challenge (did I just admit that “out loud”?)

  6. Hi Kelly,

    I have a question for you. It’s about having them put their own clothes away. That is a struggle for us (we have four boys aged 2-7 sharing the same room and three dressers).
    Do you have a set limit on what clothes they “have” so that it isn’t such a problem? We have so much stuff given to us, and I really try to pare it down, but it seems there are still too many clothes. If I store them away for the younger boys to grow into they will probably be forgotten or lost in our attic.
    What do you do?

  7. First off, Congrats on Baby!!
    My 5yo. truly enjoys all household “mommy” chores. My 4yo. takes out the garbage and helps his dad with chores outside. My 2yo. is very capable of putting away toys, throwing away trash, and even sorting socks. I also put my daughter in charge of watching over the boys outside(of course I keep an eye on them). They each take their plates to the sink after meals. I want my children to know that they are a true help in our family and how fulfilling it is to serve others.

  8. Annette,

    We struggle with the very same thing! The Lord has blessed us tremendously with clothes for my boys, (*wink* Susan!) and it’s a struggle for the boys to keep up.

    *Ideally*, each time we are given a new lot of clothes, I would go through their older ones and bag them up to be given to someone else.

    We have a “universal” closet with lots of room, so this really helps us if I just stay on top of helping them keep it organized. I try to hang everything except jeans, t-shirts and underwear.

    For additional storage, consider shallow boxes to slide under the bed.

    The main chore with my boys is reminding them to stay on top of things before they get too ouy of hand.

    The most successful room-cleaning tactic we ever had (I don’t know why we stopped) is putting a chart in each room with the days of the week.

    Each day, their room gets inspected morning and again before bedtime. If they had passed inspection, they got a star, dot, whatever.

    They could miss one star (I’m a softie) during the week, but anymore than that, and they lost a special privledge that means a lot to them. (Movie on Sunday for ours.)

    This made them so diligent about keeping up. That doesn’t solve the excess clothes problem, but it solves the sloppy cleaning 😉

  9. I have to admit… I do a lot for my kids… Not out of a heart for servanthood (or example for them), but just to get it done, done fast, and done right. I’ve been trying to cure myself of this, both the spiritual aspect, but also because my mother did the same thing to me. I got married not knowing how to cook, clean etc., and I had to learn it all by trial and error by myself. I want my boys to be able to fend for themselves after they leave home. Yes, I wish for them a wife to do a lot of these things, but before they’re married, they need to know how to basic cook, clean, and laundry etc. I’m slowly coming around. I’m trying to use the philosophy of Families Work Together (and mom manages the work.)

  10. I LOVE the idea of a univeral closet! It would help SO MUCH to have one. Our house is actually built with a huge storage room so it is extremely possible for my hubby to set one up for me. Our bedrooms are smaller so we could use that extra space that the dresser drawers are taking up!
    Do you have any pointers or websites to look for “stuff” or layout ideas to set one of these up?
    I like your idea of hanging everything up too.

  11. Kim,

    I wish I did have some better ideas about layout…ours isn’t very inventive, just two levels of hanging shelves all the way around the room. We had trouble getting the top bar high enough to be able to use the bottom bar, etc…and I would love to put all our dressers in there (right now, dressers are inside room closets, so it works pretty well.

    Maybe you can take a peek one day 😉

  12. Great post! We work on this everyday. One thing we do is that after every meal each kids has a responsibility. They all clear the table “together.” One sweeps the floor, one wipes down the table and pulls out the chair and one does the dishes. And, of course, I supervise and end up doing odds and ends stuff. They do the same responsibility 3x a day for 1 week and then the next week they “switch” jobs. This gives them the opportunity to become really good at one thing and to not have fighting over who does what. They know what is expected of them after every meal and they just do it. It’s revolutionized our meal time. I praise God that my husband had this idea.
    Jessica in Peru

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