The desire to work and be industrious does not come naturally to a child. However, children generally want to be involved and are pleased when given some responsibilities around the home. Chores are a good way to begin teaching the value of work to your children, and at the same time they lighten your work load around the house. When you assign your child chores, it makes him or her feel needed and like they are contributing to the family. Also, a surprising byproduct of an industrious work ethic is the desire to serving others. Giving flows more naturally from a working heart than it does from a “getting” heart. If a child or teen is only and always served by his parents and others, then he logically pursues a life of self-indulgence. This child will come to expect others to meet his needs and wants, rather expecting himself to earn his keep.
Michael’s parents were frustrated and puzzled with their 18-year-old’s refusal to get a job each summer while home from college. They frequently rebuked him with statements like, “We have worked all your life to give you everything you ever wanted, and this is all we get for our efforts?” or “You have become so lazy and unappreciative in your teen years. I don’t understand you!” Little do they know but they created this monster and now re-training will require much more effort than if they had taught him the value of work when he was younger.
How do we teach our children the healthy value of work?
The answer is: By our deeds and our words.
First, your deeds
Are you modeling an industrious work ethic? Today’s generation has enjoyed many benefits of modern technology and general prosperity. The greatest of these might be an easier, less physically strenuous lifestyle than that of our ancestors of 100 and 200 years ago. Unfortunately, with this benefit has come a degree of general inactivity and even laziness among adults, as many of the home duties once performed by our great grandparents are now performed for us by service industries. We buy our food at the store, instead of growing it or hunting it. We purchase furniture and our house rather than building them ourselves. For many, the home is cleaned and lawn is cut by hired workers. As a result, our children rarely see us physically work and their help around the house is rarely needed as it once was for children living on farms of our ancestors.
Solution: Work around your home and enlist your children’s help with it. Mothers, consider cleaning your own homes to some degree. Dads, cut your own lawn and get your child outside to assist with the yard work. Some of this work may be labeled as chores (which will be discussed later), but much of it should be help that is expected from your child for living in your home. Show your child how pleased you are when he completes his chores and applaud him for being a productive member of the family team.
Now, your words
Be intentional about teaching your child the positive value work and physical labor. The earliest opportunity to do this is with the institution of household chores. Chores are required duties that the child must perform on a periodic basis. These may be as often as daily or as infrequent as monthly. The tasks should be simple and easy at first, but as your child matures, the expectation of quantity and quality of his work should grow. This is an opportunity to teach your child to take pride in his work and to see it to completion. Personal satisfaction will come as you genuinely praise him for work well done. It is equally important that you point out work that is poorly or incompletely done and require that it be completed to your satisfaction. Remember that you are teaching work habits that will follow your child into his adult years.