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Helpful Little Hands
Photo: Studiomill
“Let’s help Mommy and bring the groceries in from the car,” I called to our small children one afternoon a few years ago. Our older two kids, ages four and six at the time, scrambled out to the minivan and quickly picked up plastic bags of food and carried them into the kitchen. Our youngest boy, who was about two, wanted to help and seemed to get lost in the flurry of his older siblings.

After a while, my wife looked down to see our son who finally toddled into the kitchen. He held out to her a big potato that fell out of one bag in the vehicle. His expectant look was met by joyful thanks. “What a big boy you are! Thank you so much for helping Mommy!” With that, he headed back out as if on a big game hunt to bring home another trophy.

Parents often underestimate the importance of teaching their children to be helpful. “I can do it faster myself,” is a momentary truth. But what happens as they grow older? A friend of mine walked past the living room where his son lazily sat watching TV and eating junk food. “That’s just the way teens are today,” he groaned. Inwardly I thought, “That’s the way he’s been trained.”

Unselfish and Responsible

Unfortunately, a plethora of excuses for training children to engage in household work drench the thinking of many fathers and mothers. “I was driven like a slave when I was a child. I’m not going to let that happen to my kids!” Of course, we shouldn’t treat children like slaves, but neither should we pamper them like helpless babies. Sharing home responsibilities that are age-appropriate teaches children to be unselfish and responsible.

“But they might break something or leave a bigger mess than before!” Yes, that’s true. But a parent doesn’t look at today. An intelligent parent thinks about tomorrow, and a decade from now. Of course, you don’t give your two-year-old the task of washing knives or cleaning china. You shouldn’t endanger your little ones. But stretching them to grow and take some risks helps them develop skills.

Much of parenting boils down to teaching your children to obey the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). There’s a long-term view in this commandment—“that your days may be long”—which reminds us that someday, helpful little hands will grow into helpful big hands.

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

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