Teach kids to look for ways to help out and be grateful, and keep the whole family focused on what matters most.
It can be really hard to glimpse the big picture of parenting. The little distractions and minor problems are endless, and it’s easy to forget the purpose behind it all. That’s why I’ve come up with two questions I ask my children every day to keep our whole family focused on what’s most important to us.
The big picture, of course, is journeying toward Heaven, the goal of all our earthly life. It’s our job as parents to raise kids whose eyes are fixed on that eternal intention. But for many of us, it’s rare to have a chance to step back and think about whether we’re orienting our children toward that mission.
I was feeling bogged down by everyday demands a few months ago, and knew I needed to do something differently. I wanted to find a way to make that mission part of our everyday lives. So I took some time to think about it, and I came up with these two questions I ask my kids every night at family dinner.
These questions help keep us all mindful of the bigger picture of our life on earth. By asking them every day, and making these questions part of our family culture, I feel more confident that I’m raising my kids with a focus on what matters most.
Hopefully these questions can help you too! Try asking your kids these questions every day for a week or two, and see if you notice a subtle shift for the better. These questions train kids to look for chances to help out and be grateful every day, and that makes the whole family happier and the home more peaceful.
1What acts of service did you do today?
Every day, I ask my kids what they did that day to serve someone else. Serving others is one of the most defining parts of being a Christian. Asking this question reminds my children to look for ways to serve others, and those acts of service make them more like Christ.
Often, these acts of service are very small things. It might be sharing a toy with a sibling, getting a snack for a younger child, helping make dinner, cleaning up toys, or unbuckling a younger sibling from her car seat. But it’s these “small things with great love” that add up to a lifetime of sanctity.
If there’s one thing I want my children to be, it’s “men and women for others.” Serving others is what gives life meaning and purpose.
My “big picture” as a parent is to raise people who seek opportunities to serve others, every day, in all kinds of ways. When I ask this question, I know that this focus on service is being taught and reinforced in our home.
2What do you want to thank God for today?
It’s well-documented that giving thanks every day actually makes you happier. Research confirms what so many of us already knew:
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
The benefits of daily gratitude are one reason I encourage my children to give thanks every day. But I also enforce this habit because it strengthens their relationship with God.
This question reminds my kids that all good things come from God, and that thanks is due to Him for all these blessings. It’s good for all of us to take this time to think about the blessings of each day and give thanks for them.
These questions are simple enough. But over the days and weeks and months and years that I ask them every night, my children are receiving a consistent message: “Give thanks to God for all the good things you have. Then share the blessings God has given you by serving others with your time and talents.”
It’s a message I pray they carry with them all their lives. My hope is that asking these questions every day will build habits of service and gratitude, so that my kids center their lives on these virtues for the long haul.