How to Educate the Child in the Spirit of Service
in the Spirit of Service
Is there a mother who doesn’t desire happiness for her child? Her secret is in forgetfulness of self; every mother has experienced this. The happiest are those who give themselves! Do we wish then to educate our little ones in true joy? This begins with service.
Children are not always helpful. Some are skilled at leaving the table right after the meal or when father puts on his work clothes; others calculate minutely if their brothers and sisters have done as much as they have and mother, a bit distraught, doesn’t know if she should bother them or wait for what comes spontaneously on their end. What’s to be done? There is, however, deep in the hearts of children, a certain real heroism, asleep and hidden perhaps. How can we awaken this?
This is the question, for there are many ways to solicit this generosity, and very often the manner determines the response of the children. Service is fulfillment. Why not present it as such? Let us know how to penetrate the hard and repulsive shell of effort in order to discover to our children the beauty of the act they are asked.
Let us make service attractive. There is an enthusiastic way to say, “Do the dishes,” “Sweep the floor,” or “Set the table.” We can kindly ask, “Would you like to do me a favor—or please God—and clear the table?” or maybe, “Show your father how well you can sweep,” or “Would you like to do the dishes? The other day you did them so well!” Let us not hesitate to develop healthy ambitions in our children, by evoking the ideal they can become by surpassing themselves. Yes, service is more than a sacrifice or an effort. Always presenting it under its arduous aspect could discourage certain children. That is why it is necessary not to ask for their help only when we are in a hurry or irritated, they would then feel obliged and respond reluctantly. The bitter side of the act will be emphasized, often because of a request that is a little harsh. On the contrary, let us appeal to their hidden heroism; they may very well have many surprises in store for us!
But what if the child refuses to submit to the request? Should we oblige him to obey? It will be necessary to adapt to the temperament of the child, appealing to his love for his mother or to his sense of duty, according to the case. If he remains rebellious, we may oblige him, but sometimes it is also time to put him in his place: shame will be far more powerful than an angry speech! As for those who willingly accept, we will affectionately take them with us in the beginning, explaining to them how to do the task.
Once the service is completed, the satisfied smile of our gratitude will be a real ray of sunshine for them. For the youngest, it will be accompanied with a gesture of affection. Our little ones need us to see their good will behind the deficiencies of their act, that we can see their efforts. This encourages them to start again, but especially shows them the qualities they can and should acquire. They lack experience and confidence in themselves. You will find kind words to encourage them, each in their own way. Certainly, the child is not to do whatever he wants, but can we not help him to will all that he ought to do?
Of course, the example of the mother will have a great weight. It is by her that this education in the spirit of service begins. The image of a devoted mother with an aunt who is ill, or helping with the housecleaning in a priory, will remain engraved in the child’s mind. And when we are little, we are so proud to be like mom and dad!
Dear mothers, let us summarize in two words the attitude that will awaken devotion in their hearts: be encouraging and above all trust.
Let us never refuse the service that a child offers, however clumsy and annoying it may be. How many young girls today cannot prepare a meal because their mothers will not let them do so, under the pretext that it will be quicker for her to cook herself. How many teenagers are looking for a friend’s motorcycle because their father will not let them use a drill or a lawn mower!
Thus, little by little, the work that was once so obscure and repulsive will become beautiful and attractive. The desire to please others will transform family life! You will procure true happiness for children in having them taste this profound joy of sacrifice: the joy of pleasing others and God. Small services naturally rendered, will amount to deeper supernatural acts. This is what will invite them to be ever more generous and happier!
O, Our Lady, who, in your hidden service in the home, have hidden your incomparable holiness and your joy in serving the Lord, pray for all mothers!