Love thy brother: Help your family serve each other

Sometimes families serve others outside their home better than they serve each other.

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  • Within the walls of homes, children are taught to walk, talk and care for themselves. Caring for others and being selfless are other lessons taught first at home. Sometimes the family dynamic is off and members are only concerned with their own needs and wants. I read a perfect example of this on a friend's blog recently.

  • She wrote that she feels like she is living with five selfish roommates - her children. They constantly borrow her things and don't return them, take food that isn't theirs and think of themselves before anyone else. She closed the post by taking responsibility as a parent to change their behavior. If you identify with these feelings, try one of these ideas for promoting service and selflessness in your home.

  • Chore-go-round

  • Most families have regular chores assigned to members. Switch them up so that each family member can appreciate others' contributions. Have each child make another child's bed. If dad regularly takes out the garbage, have mom do it. If mom is usually stuck with the dishes, make sure she doesn't do them for a few nights. Have older siblings cook dinner together and have younger siblings sweep, dust and fold laundry.

  • Kindness jar

  • Place a jar in a prominent place in your house. Explain to the family that for each act of service they do in the home, they may place a small object (cotton ball, candy, marble, bean) into the jar. Set a goal to fill the jar in a reasonable amount of time. Plan a small celebration (special dessert, game night, movie night, bike ride) to enjoy when the jar is filled. Have each member of the family report some of the acts of service they performed.

  • Yes, your highness

  • Make one person in the family king or queen for a day. This person doesn't have to do his or her regular household tasks, and everyone tries to make him or her feel special. Rotate through the family until everyone has a turn, including parents. Children will have fun being the king or queen, learn patience as they wait their turn, and might even enjoy serving their siblings and parents in a unique way. Consider making a special crown to designate your family royalty.

  • Special delivery

  • Provide notecards, which could be decorated as a family, to deliver love notes to each other. Encourage family members to write one every day for a week to different family members. The notes could compliment family members on their strengths and talents, express gratitude for help and support given or simply say. "I love you" and list a few reasons why.

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  • If ... Then

  • Sit down with your family and have a fun discussion about service and working together as a family. Then, make a list of "If ... Then" statements that your family can work on. For example, "If we plant the garden Saturday morning, then we can go to the movies Saturday night"Or, "If everyone can clear their own dishes after dinner for a week, then we will have waffles on Sunday morning." Have family members decide both what needs to be accomplished and what the reward should be.

  • Secret service buddies

  • Kids love secrets and surprises. Assign each family member a secret service buddy. For one week, each buddy should do acts of service for their assigned family member without getting caught. They could stealthily do a chore, pack a lunch, leave a small treat, clean a bedroom or any number of things. At the end of the week reveal the secret service buddies and share some of the service rendered.

  • Once you make service part of your home life, serving others will become part of your family's routine. Love and selflessness are qualities that every person should acquire. Choose a fun way to get your family started. Soon your family will be looking for ways to serve and love both inside and outside the home.

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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