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Raising a Self-Reliant Child: The Value of Service Projects

Today is MLK Day in the U.S. In addition to honoring King and his legacy, the day is also a National Day of Service. Organizations host service projects for individuals to participate in and often individuals themselves, including children, initiate projects. There are so many simple service projects that you and your family can easily do -- I love these 4 that Pennies of Time will be doing today.
The MLK Day site and Pennies both highlight these important words from King: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" To encourage service with our children/families, the Multicultural Kids Blog is hosting an MLK Day of Service Blog Hop. You'll find details at the bottom for the hop and a chance to link up and share your favorite service activities for kids!

As I reflected on King's legacy and my experiences doing service activities with my own children and with other children and young adults through various work and volunteer efforts, I found myself thinking quite a bit about how empowering those experiences are.

Fostering independence in my boys and raising them as self-reliant children is very important to me. We do this in many ways: using Montessori-inspired techniques to teach practical life skills, encouraging them to do things themselves when they are able to and to try certain tasks before asking for help (brushing teeth, getting dressed, making a sandwich, etc.). I also focus on helping them learn how to make good choices.

Equally valuable in raising self-reliant children is encouraging my children to serve others, to behave kindly, to help others when they can. I've seen with my own eyes that even a toddler can serve. I've seen the proud smile on my son's face when, at 2, he saw that he had cleaned up trash at a community event and made the area cleaner and the patrons at the event happier.

I've seen children who are often recipients of charitable giving themselves share their excitement in realizing that they can help others. I've seen a shift in them as they come to see that they can make a difference in the world.

Raising self-reliant children is something I think most parents seek to do. Making service part of our children's lives improves their sense of self, their confidence and their independence.

It makes them superheroes and magicians. In following Pennies of Time, I've seen how her children's experience of serving daily has given them "magic eyes." They now see opportunities to serve all around them and, most importantly, see themselves (at young ages) empowered and capable of helping others, of making a difference in the world, of being the change.

Today some wonderful bloggers are sharing ideas about the kinds of volunteer work they have done with their kids.

As I focus on Compassion this year, family service and a continued emphasis on teaching my children to help others and give back will be one of the primary ways I nurture compassion (and self-reliance) in my sons.

I hope the activities shared below will encourage you to take the opportunity today to serve as a family. It can be simple and fun. If not today, then any day! Who knows, perhaps helping others will become a family tradition?

I'm sharing this post at The Sunday Parenting Party and Mom's Library.  
Please share your own ideas in the comments or by linking up below!  You can also join the discussion in the Multicultural Kids Blog Google + Community!
For some ideas on doing volunteer work with kids, browse the MKB list of family-friendly service projects or great organizations to support. You can also follow the MKB Teaching Global Citizenship and Black History boards on Pinterest, as well as my Be the Change board

Participating Blogs

Share your own posts below!


  1. Beautiful post! I hadn't really made the connection between doing service and being self-reliant! And I love the idea that this gives them "magic eyes" and turns them into super heroes!! Thanks for all of your enthusiasm and ideas in this arena, and thank you for coming out of your bloggy break to participate in this blog hop!

  2. Love this correlation you shared between serving and self-reliance! Another benefit to serving with kids that I had never thought of!

  3. What a valuable post. I think your phrase "superheroes and magicians" sums of the power of giving.

  4. Its really nice to see a post about service projects that offers more than just a religious perspective. I agree entirely that the idea of service offers a child ways to be self reliant. I am featuring your post on the Sunday Parenting Party this weekend.


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