“Mom, can I please clean up the kitchen for you? I want you to sit down and let us do all the work.” Does that sound like something from a fairy tale?  Believe it or not, that was a quote, word for word, from my five-year-old daughter. In fact, it is something I hear from her often. Someone recently overheard her and said, “You need to write a book and tell people how you get your kids to do that!”  Well, maybe not a book, but I thought it might be helpful to jot down what we have found to be effective ways to incorporate a spirit of teamwork among the members of our family.

First, however, the disclaimer. We are a normal family, with normal children who often exhibit selfish, sinful behaviors. We do not have perfect children, or anything close to it.  However, we do constantly strive to produce in our family the spirit of teamwork, unity, and togetherness. The family is the basic cell of a society, and we believe that if unity is not cemented there, the results are an entire nation of self-seeking, self-absorbed, frightening individuals (sound familiar?). The very essence of a healthy family, and thus a healthy society, is a group of people who ultimately look toward the needs of others to see how they can be of use in serving someone else. That is what makes people healthy, strong, and happy. And that is one of our goals in the training of our children.

This article assumes that the children in your home are basically obedient and honoring to their parents. If the foundations are not laid, the builder cannot build! But having established this basic principle, we can now move on to the nuts and bolts of training your children to be helpful!

The Vision

The father must set forth the vision and then begin to implement it into the family. However, since it is typically the mother who is at home more hours of the day with the children, much of the tactile training falls on her. Her attitude, words, and determination are essential to the proper training of her children. The first thing Mom needs to grasp is this vision of family teamwork. After all,  “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). You must imagine what can and should be among the children in your home.  Contrary to what the culture tries to convince us of, children are not supposed to be lazy, self-absorbed, or constantly entertained. We must gain a biblical perspective on what should be expected of our children.

We all know (even though it can be hard for us to practice) that a child given no responsibility, left to indulge himself all hours of the day, is an unhappy child, not to mention a useless citizen. There is a balance to living, especially in the life of a child. Of course there should be time to play, to romp, to discover, to pursue enjoyments; but those things must be balanced with a sense of service to the family, which will later transfer to a sense of service to all their community. Children need to acquire the mentality that each one looks after the other; that it is good to share the load of responsibility; that we are all dependent on each other. This is a biblical doctrine that is contradictory to the humanistic thinking of our culture. The first step is that father and mother must both fully understand and embrace this vision of family teamwork.

Mom’s Attitude

Besides embracing the vision of “teamship” among the family members, your attitude is crucial to the atmosphere of the home, which permeates the attitudes of your children and their willingness to work cheerfully. If we moms do our tasks grudgingly, we cannot expect one bit more from our children. At the heart of this willingness to work is gratitude. Gratitude for everything. If I am tempted to grumble about all the dishes that need to be washed, instead I say (out loud so my children can hear), “I am so thankful for all these dirty dishes.” Then I ask my children, “Do you know why I’m thankful?” And by now, one of them always says, “Because it means we had plenty to eat!” Perspective is everything. There are always things to be thankful for. If you are in the habit of grumbling, STOP! Of course we all fall victim to the “mully-grubs” from time to time, but try not to let that sour attitude hang around for very long. Begin to verbalize thankfulness, and soon your heart will feel it. There are few things more wonderful to pass on to our children than the gift of thankfulness. It is a life-changing attitude!