Raising Children Who Know How to Work

In a society that often enables and even encourages entitlement, our children can gain a skewed perception on work ethic, self-motivation, and genuine give-back contribution. But parents can fight back with a key word: work. But where do we begin?

1. Use principles you learned as a child. Remember those grunt and grunge jobs you held as a youngster, and what they taught you (i.e., do anything but a grunt and grunge job)? I picked strawberries for a dollar a flat (cue the martyr music) and babysat four little kids for a dollar an hour and washed the dishes and mopped the floor. Gone are those days.

Work taught you life lessons. Be sure you're passing them onto your children through opportunity and shared perspective (translate: lectures that begin with, "When I was your age...")

2. Start children young. The adage is, if they can read, they can fold laundry. Our children fold towels at three, and help vacuum, unload spoons from the dishwasher, and sweep a section of floor. It's not pretty but they do it and ironically, generally love it. At this age they feel the intrinsic confidence and satisfaction of accomplishing a task.

These household chores make a difference. In the article "Three Tools to Build a Sacred Home," author Shirley R. Klein, Brigham Young University associate professor of School of Family Life, shares:

"Mundane activities can have a higher purpose and must not be disregarded; they give us opportunities to develop and practice character virtues and ethical behavior. By doing these everyday activities, we can learn about moral truths and practice honesty, patience, charity, and brotherly kindness. Everyday work and recreation in the home provide rich contexts for children and adults to make choices and learn from them."

3. Relate work to life preparation. Help your children at any age understand the connection between the learned principles in daily jobs to the needed skills in their future employment.

At a recent family night I shared with our children, ages 22 down to 3, how the menial homemaking chores actually helped more than keep our home tidy. Cooking taught them timing and sequencing. Cleaning taught them efficiency (as in, who wants to clean longer than necessary?) And working with annoying or uncooperative siblings prepared them for teamwork situations in the workplace.

4. Type a resume. Done in a brief version, I start our children about age seven and list the jobs they are doing. Whether it's weeding, laundry, or cooking, it's helpful for them to understand these are useful age-appropriate life skills. Our kids have also learned to box and ship product, follow directions, and add creative design. Various skills can add up and can come in handy later.

Although our kids do basic chores that are simply part of being a family, they also have extra chores that can be done for pay. These kinds of skills can also be listed and built upon. For example, a few girls in our community took their babysitting skill and expanded it to a kids' camp. With a morning and afternoon session they made about five hundred dollars for the week.

In recent studies, expert say that teaching kids the value of hard work and determination is more important than building self-esteem. With one intentional step at a time, we can teach and model for our kids the power and blessings of work in everyday life.  


Connie Sokol





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