Bringing Up Your Children to Have a Heart to Serve

Heart to Serve

In the beginning, I did everything myself.

Mama was faster. Better. And more efficient.

I did things right. The way things should be done.

Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.

And, as a “shining model” of service, I counted on my children to eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps?

More is caught than taught, right?

But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver and they were good takers.

Um. Problem.

Sure, I was growing a ton by giving to them, but what were they learning? To receive. Not necessarily the hardest lesson for a child to learn. So is that what I wanted to teach to my children? To be served?

Maybe I thought I was blessing my children with all my constant pouring out and cleaning up after them. But in the process, I was depriving them of the opportunity of serving their family. Yes, even of serving their mom.

Our children had yet to learn the beautiful lesson of blessing others.

Now just to be clear: this wasn’t about making my life easier. It wasn’t about them doing more so I could do less. This wasn’t about me at all. It was about them and what they needed.

And what they needed was to learn to have a heart to serve.

Bringing Up Children to Have a Heart to Serve

Start by letting them work alongside you. Then, as you go along, teach them more than the mere skills of service, but the spirit of service. Talk about how pleasant it is to serve your family…as you’re folding clothes, baking muffins, or cleaning the kitchen. It’s not only a job to be completed, it’s a blessing to offer.

Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. To me it’s obvious that her little brother should have his face wiped up, but it’s not as evident to her young eyes. I have to point it out and then give her a chance to care for him.

Or prompt with, “Do you think your sister might want a glass of milk too?” rather than taking care of it myself. Although that would be easier and faster (and less chance of breakage).

Or, “Wouldn’t it be nice for daddy to come home to a clean house? Let’s surprise him by picking up the toys.” Rather than simply ordering the living room to be picked up.

Let them enjoy helping out. Show them the rewards of their service. “Isn’t it wonderful to be able to bless others by serving them like this?” Encourage them to see that helping others is not only the “right thing” to do, it’s a joy.

Instruct them in how they can be a help to you. Train them to ask, “What can I do for you, Mama?” Not waiting to be told what to do, but to actively look for ways they can help you. Then let them feel your pleasure when they’ve served you in some special way.

Cheer them on as they learn to serve. Take a moment to recognize their effort to help – no matter what the result. If they’ve spilled something or broken a glass in the process? It’s not nearly as important as them trying to help. What we care about is their heart to serve.

So this mama is not doing it all by herself anymore. We’re working on serving together. Yeah, it’s slower, messier, and less efficient.

But, oh, so much sweeter.

In His grace,
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Owner at Club 31 Women

Lisa is the happily-ever-after wife of Matthew Jacobson and together they enjoy raising and home-educating their 8 children in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She’s also rather fond of dark chocolate, French press coffee, and deep friendships (though not necessarily in that order). She encourages women to embrace the rich life of loving relationships and the high calling of being a wife and mother. Lisa is the author of 100 Ways to Love Your Husband and her husband is the author of 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. They are also the authors of several children’s books, including a winner of the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal for Children’s Literature.



The Happily-Ever-After wife of Matthew. Mom to 8 children. Sharing my passion for husband, home, and family at Club31Women. 100 Ways to Love Your Husband.

“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”
― Ann Voskamp #Club31Women – 11 hours ago

  • Christy Fitzwater

    Oh boy, you might think this is for moms with little kids, but this is something I’ve struggled with my entire parenting career. I’m giving it a fresh go with my son lately -getting him to be more helpful around the house. I REALLY needed this encouragement right now. Thanks!!

  • Lisa

    Oh, you are quite right, Christy! It absolutely applies to our older ones too and they occasionally (or more) need reminding of what a blessing it is to serve their families. :)

  • Laurie

    This post is a direct answer to my prayer for wisdom last night. I am noticing a scary amount of selfishness in my children (1 in particular) and have been baffled since I always try to model self-sacrifice. I see that (to them) I am the sacrifice – offered up for them! :) I never thought of it that way. I look forward to bringing their attention to needs, instructing them, etc. as you suggest. Thanks again! ♥ Laurie

  • Patty

    This post really spoke to my heart this morning. I have had this exact epiphany recently, partly spurred on by my personal busyness of completing my college degree…at 41. I have enjoyed every moment of being a housewife and mother, doing the cleaning, cooking, laundering, and caring for my family in every way. I, too, thought they’d want to be “just like mom.” And, they are, somewhat. However, they’ve needed a little encouragement to help with some household duties. I am trying to help them see the beauty in being busy at home, as well as to feel good about a job well done.

  • valarie

    This is exactly what I needed today. I’ve been pondering this thought for a while . Being a mom of 4 children, age 12 thru 2 they think because I’m a stay at home mom that I have the time to do things for them that I just should. I have no problem helping them but I want them to learn to serve others. My oldest daughter, 12, has no problem helping herself, which is quite helpful. But no desire to help others. Something I need to do is let her and her siblings help out in the kitchen and around the house. Thank you for this reminder.

  • Felina


    Thank you so much for this! It is an encouragement, I needed to read this because I want to teach my children the joys of serving. I have much I need to learn :)

  • leslie atkinson

    I loved this. Thank you.

  • Lori

    As a mom who also works outside the home full-time, I have been feeling very overwhelmed. I want my children to learn to serve and to have the skills to do things things for themselves when they are out on their own and are married, etc. Part of my problem is that, they whine that Dad doesn’t do any of it…and they are right. We both work full time, but I have always taken on all of the household duties. It leaves me drained and with no time to spend with him at the end of the day. How do you find the energy to be that Proverbs 31 woman who works all day, comes home and helps with homework, cooks dinner, does the laundry and cleans the bathroom (all at the same time) and still find time to sit on the couch with him while he watches television?

  • Samantha Gluck

    I discovered your site through the Time Warp Wife and I’m so happy and blessed because of it. We always try to teach our kids to notice what needs to be done. I have found it’s easier with our girl. It takes a little more coaxing with the boys. Is it just us, or is it a boy thing in general?

  • Lisa

    Hmm…yes, I suppose, in general, boys are not as servant-minded as girls. It’s probably not as much in their “nature”? But still a valuable lesson to learn. I’m thankful my husband is willing to serve when I need it (especially when sick or pregnant?).

  • Lisa

    You have a very full load, Lori! Yes, that would be hard. Could you leave them with a list of what each child needs to do during the day while you’re away? And, if so, would your husband be willing to enforce it? (It’s usually more effective if he is, though not essential). Certainly, something to pray about…

    I’ll pray with you.

  • Christia@SchockinglyDomestic

    I LOVE it teaching children to notice is especially important I feel. As humans we are almost naturally selfish. I love the idea of using the JOY acronym Jesus first Others second and Yourself last! I think it is great you brought this up. Have a great day.

  • Rebecca

    Something that I’m learning in this process of teaching my children how to joyfully serve is there has to be time in their day for it! So, if I signed them up for every activity under the sun (or you know just the fun sounding ones!) they don’t actually have time to learn to serve others. It has been a challenge changing my mindset, because in our western culture we tend to put our children in sports, dance, clubs, etc.. and really they can get burned out by the schedule and not enjoy a frazzled mama trying to get to all the different places on time. In our family, our children are serving more, having better attitudes and better relationships with siblings, parents, well everyone, now that we have drastically scaled back our extracurricular activities. Thank you for this great blog post.

  • Lisa

    I sure agree with you there, Rebecca! We’d done much the same thing. It’s so easy to slip into a me-focused mindset in this present day and culture.

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  • Perla Banegas

    Interesting blog. I just wrote about the responsibilities children should have or be taught. It seems that in today’s ever changing world, our future generations are becoming more and more dependent on others than on themselves.