Have you heard the saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions?” Well, here is my not feel good story of the Christmas season - at least that is how it started out for us...

“I am bored,” my 10 year old daughter exclaimed.

“I am hungry,” my 6 year old huffed as she was handing me scotch tape.

“Go stand over there by your father,” as Karen pointed one of our daughters towards me.

As I stood behind the gift wrapping table with my family all I could think was, “Really!” and “Great, I am the Director of Parenting and Youth and I am raising ungrateful kids.”

This past weekend our family wrapped gifts for kids as they were “shopping” for presents for their parents. You see, this was no usual store. The kids who were shopping couldn’t afford presents so our church donated hundreds of new items so families who were struggling financially could have something to give and share with each other at Christmas. Our family volunteered to gift wrap these items as the kids came through.

For Karen and I this service project really hit home for us because a few years ago before we moved out to Colorado Springs our family needed extra support because of where we were financially. Our church at the time came alongside us and supported us.

Our intentions—as pure as they were—to do this as a family quickly became a horror story for us. Why didn’t our children see the need like we did? Why were they being so difficult? Why were they focused on themselves and not others?

Ugh!!!

A valuable lesson

As we ended our 2 hour shift of wrapping gifts and corralling our kids, Karen and I looked at each other and said, “We didn’t prep our kids!” As “veteran” parents we missed the most important ingredient to a successful “family experience;” prepping the kids. If you have aspirations of great family moments of serving, unwrapping presents, Christmas dinners or whatever you aspire too…the greatest advice in making these special is “prep your kids.”

One of the ways we do this is as a family is by posing questions to our kids of both the benefits and consequences of their behaviors at whatever we do. Here are some basic questions:

  • “What do your mom and I expect of you at _____?”
  • “What are some things we want to do?” (Possible answers: use our manners, help others, obey the rules, etc.)
  • “What are some things we want to avoid?” (Possible answers: fighting, arguing, complaining, etc.)
  • “If other children are jumping on the furniture, what do you do?” “Why, because that is something we don’t do in our own house.”
  • “What will happen if we don’t do the things we just pointed out?” (Great opportunity to set the ground rules and consequences of what happens when we don’t follow expectations.)

You get the point.

 “Wrapping this up”

So, as we long for “peace on Earth” one of the best places to start is in our own homes. Service projects as we learned don’t have to be a horror story. It can be a great opportunity for our children to grow and understand how blessed we are as a family.

We used this experience to remind the children of our own story. Of God’s goodness in our lives through the highs and lows of our journey. To remind them and ourselves that Christmas isn’t about gifts, but about how we care for each other and those around us.

So, what are some of your serving project horror stories and what are ways you prep your kids for activities?


Roy Baldwin
(@baldwin_roy) is a contributing writer for Dad Matters and the Director of Parenting & Youth at Focus on the Family.

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