But let's be realistic. Unselfishness and thinking of others does not come naturally to 99% of children. And while to some degree they can learn by example, we have to be careful that being unselfish, generous parents doesn't result in spoiled children. Because truthfully, the more we give, the more it seems they sometimes seem to feel entitled to have.
It is perfectly normal for children to take their parents for granted and have no concept of what it takes to keep a household running, raise children, earn income, educate, teach, etc. etc. But we do them no favors if we leave them ignorant. And the best way to help them appreciate their many blessings is to make them a part of them. And teach them it truly is more blessed to give than receive. A good way to begin that is by having your child help with what we call "chores."
I have tried numerous approaches to "chores" in our house as my children have grown up. Some, like daily charting, were wildly unsuccessful in my home but work great for others. What seemed to work better for us was just noticing the need at the moment and assigning it to a child.
During the school year chores typically involve the family meal and weekend housekeeping. The jobs of setting the table and getting drinks for everyone, clearing the table, putting the leftovers away, loading and unloading the dishwasher were rotated around. On the weekends, everyone has to change their sheets and help clean a bathroom. Every other week, they have to clean their room. They also help mow the lawn, shovel snow, rake leaves, weed the garden, harvest the garden, and babysit Micah. We started with all of these things before we began asking them to help with dinner. But that is mostly because I didn't think of the meal thing earlier! :)
If your children have never helped around the house, it's time to ramp up your expectation. But don't expect smiles and hallelujah's from them. Expect resistance. This is normal. But persevere. Here are some of my favorite phrases to resistance:
Q: Why do I have to?
A: Because you were created to be a blessing to others and you need to practice.
Q: Why do I have to do everything?
A: I can arrange for you to do everything so you can see how little I actually ask of you. To start with you can (come up with at least three things you were going to do that day that now they can either do with you or for you.)
OR - my favorite if you have multiple children who can help
A: Everyone else is off the hook tonight. ______ wants to see what it feels like to do everything. (And have the one who complains do the others' chores for them.)
Q: Why doesn't he have to do something?
A: If he asked me that, instead of you, would you have wanted me to call you and have you do it instead? Everyone helps around here. He will have a role to play too. We are all part of the team. Sometimes its your turn to play and sometimes you are on the bench. But we are all part of the team.
Start making your children part of the family team. It is vital to their success as young adults and it will make a big difference in your family as well. Begin including them in some part of the family meal every day, sometimes setting the table, or washing dishes, getting the drinks, putting food away after the meal. By having them contribute you are building confidence and value into their very core which is so important when they face challenges and pressures. It truly is more blessed to give than receive. They need to experience what that feels like. And don't forget to thank them for their contribution!