Originally Sent: 12/18/2013
December 19, 2013
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Cultivating the Habit of Kindness
We know it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), but how do we teach our children to cheerfully give, to be kind, and to serve others?
Mirrors of Ministry
Children are often little mirrors, reflecting our attitudes and actions. They are watching us more than we care to admit! What do we do with an opportunity to bless others? It can be as simple as letting someone go ahead of us in line, sending a note to Any Soldier, or taking bread to a shut-in neighbor. Or it could involve a greater commitment of time—such as volunteering on a regular basis—or commitment of funds, such as paying for someone's groceries or sponsoring a child.
As a mom, it was important to me to disciple our children using scriptural terms. The Bible doesn’t instruct our children to be nice (by the way, did you know the word nice comes from words for foolish and ignorant?), but to be kind, to honor one another, to be gentle, to be obedient, to care for one another, and so on.
We taught our young children to bring a cup of hot cocoa to the garbage collectors in the winter, and a cold drink in the summer. They put together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, even when our family was jobless and they themselves would receive no purchased gifts. We encouraged our middle and high schoolers to say hello to the new person at skating, or to go the extra mile for someone who was being less than kind to them, and to give to those in need.
Our goal was to encourage them to serve the Lord and to serve others. I am thankful that our children have grown up to be very giving, compassionate people who love the Lord and others, and who take (and make) opportunities to bless others.
I know this newsletter is coming out only a week before Christmas, but it’s never too late to do a kindness for someone (and kindness is a year-around lifestyle!). While I’m sure you incorporate giving and kindness into your everyday lives, your kids may not always “get” things by osmosis, and you may want to be more purposeful as you model an attitude of giving.
Here are a few fun ideas:
“A Letter for the Postman”—In this activity, the children are not only enjoying the blessing of giving and growing in character, they are practicing language arts and fine arts! As a plus, the author has links to more ideas at the end. While this blog post is geared to preschoolers, any age can participate.
“Teaching Children to Think of Others” Author Chelsea Smith writes, “Of course there are a million acts of kindness we can do daily … and none have to be complicated or expensive. We can simply smile at others, take a meal to a family in distress, or send a message of appreciation to someone who has touched our lives in some way.” She shares about a project her children did, then includes other articles to refer to for more ideas.
Cookies for the neighbors can be a great ice-breaker and a ministry tool. If you’d like a few kid-friendly recipes, check out “87 Christmas Cookie Recipes—A Holiday Baking Bonanza.”
Pennies of Time is a “place to exchange ideas on how to use small experiences to teach young children to serve. All it takes is a penny of time.” And to learn more about the website’s inspiration, read the story of the real Penny.
“How Do I Start with My Family?” This mom cautions you to keep it short and have fun! “When I started serving with my boys, we started becoming Secret ‘Service’ Agents … doing anonymous service in disguise (full-on mustache, hats, and glasses) and going on secret missions. We would use code names and giggle when we watched the recipients of our service smile happily and look around for whom to thank. After serving as Secret ‘Service’ Agents, we found ourselves in the middle of service without those fun disguises. The boys were motivated by the good results they experienced from serving.”
Random Acts of Kindness—More than 300 "kindness" ideas
“The Value of Volunteering” In this week-long installment of Home School Heartbeat, Mike Smith challenged homeschoolers to seek volunteer opportunities in their communities and share their talents and skills with others. Whether tutoring a struggling math student or raking a neighbor’s lawn, your child can learn to place the needs of others ahead of his or her own.
Sole Hope shoe party—Especially good for families or for students in middle school students or above. If they can cut, they can give hope and healing to a child with no shoes. Invite a few friends to bring an old pair of jeans and Sole Hope provides the pattern to cut; pop the cut-out fabric into an envelope and ship to the Sole Hope shoe seamstresses, who fashion shoes for children who would otherwise be crippled by foot parasites.
52 Acts of Kindness—Ideas for 52 acts of kindness that are not related to any specific holidays. The author also offers an inexpensive e-book scrapbook for your family to keep.
In “Gimme, Gimme vs Doing Good (Teaching Kids to Give with Grace),” author Cynthia Ewer reminds us to, “Give in secret, and tell your children why: it is no gift when we expect gratitude, appreciation, or attach strings to our offerings. We give, instead, to relieve need; to share the abundance with which we’ve been blessed; and to reflect to others the good that we find in the world. Giving with grace is reward enough!”
In several Home School Heartbeat episodes, Billie Jo Youmans suggests that with some planning, your student’s volunteer work can become service learning. “An interest in teaching could be fed by serving as a tutor or a childcare worker. An animal lover might seek to serve at a shelter or a zoo. A budding cook would do well to explore opportunities at a soup kitchen or senior center. A gardener could bless some seniors with a container gardening project.” Besides the standard extracurricular activities, volunteering can help your child develop vocational skills, character, compassion, and maturity.
Kids with Purpose (KWP) is an action-based outreach program that engages children in acts of Christian service in their local community. They offer club programs across the country—or start one in your homeschool group!
“Easy Ways to Serve During the Holiday” by Chelsea Smith
More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger. At a recent conference, Jeff’s message encouraged me to look for ways to generously bless others.
“Raising Kids Who Help at Home” by Vicki Bentley—Discipling children to serve at home.
Yours in His service,
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