Teaching Children How to Work: 3 Tips for Parents
It has always concerned me that I ensure my children are hard workers and that they have ample experience doing hard work. In fact, yesterday I was looking at a tree that had been cut down and the wood was left behind near our house. I thought, "Fantastic! My son will now have the excellent opportunity to chop that wood with an ax and carry it a long way. Now that's hard work and good exercise too!"
My daughter has done multiple work projects with the youth group at church. She knows all about shingles and roofing in general as a result. She knows about doing something as a volunteer and feeling good about helping someone else too.
My own work experience began in earnest when I was very young. At aroung age 7, my dad and I pulled 2 x 6 boards out of an old factory, Erie Plating Company, in Erie, PA. That took days and weeks to accomplish. Then all those boards end up stacked next to our garage. So the following summer, I was told that my job was to hammer out all the nails in those boards so we could reuse them. That took weeks and Dad expected results when he got home from work. After the wood was ready to be re-used, Dad and I and mom and my other siblings all built a new deck out of the old boards. It was a long process, but I was able to see the fruits of my labor and, boy, was I proud of that deck when it was finished!
Around the same time, I was also cleaning Asbury Elementary School with my dad in the evenings a couple of days a week. I was in charge of emptying the trash cans and filling up the toilet paper. That was hours of work and some late nights.
At age 9, Dad decided it was time for me to get a paper route. So for the next nine years I delivered the Erie Morning News with the help of my mom and my siblings. It was tough getting up every morning at 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. Even some Christmas mornings, on a Sunday, we had to deliver those darn papers and they were heavy. I suppose I learned that work had to happen no matter what and that laziness in our family was NOT an option. I could go on......there was work at the family farm, gathering wood for our heat, the chicken coop, oil changes, roofing projects, cutting down trees, building picnic tables, etc.
So I've had experienced hard work in my own life and I've had the privilege to teach my own children hard work. Here are 3 tips for parents on how to teach your children to work:
1) Start looking for more difficult work around the house. It's great that they are cleaning their rooms, washing the kitchen floor with a sponge, or vacuuming the living room, but that is not enough. Take it to another level that requires not only work but problem solving and creativity. Ask them to clean out a couple of junk drawers or a messy closet. Ask them to organize the craft cabinet, cupboards with pans, or the shelves in the basement. Ask them to remove everything from the garage and reorganize it. They can at least start doing these tasks on their own. Be there to jump in and answer questions or let them work alone for awhile and then be there to assist them to ensure they complete the goal. They must complete what they start. Failure is NOT an option.
2) Identify opportunities for them to have "hard work experiences". You are looking for big jobs. Jobs that take time and lots of energy. Jobs that seem like they will be impossible to complete, but then they are accomplished after working HARD. By the way, it's even better when you can have that hard work experience side by side with your kids (they will remember that day). Help someone pack and move their house all day. Look for mission projects in your local area or week-long projects which require heavy lifting, uncomfortable conditions (roofing in TN in the heat of the summer for example), and LONG days. You see, if they don't spend ALL DAY doing hard work then they aren't going to feel the rewards of that experience. Once your kids get "hooked" on hard work, they are going to actually want to do it again. I'm telling you there's nothing like a delicious ice cream cone after a WHOLE DAY of work--truly that was the highlight of my day after working with dad. You'll swap stories and joke about all that was accomplished when the day is over.
3) Keep it real and make it happen. You can't make this stuff up. Be sure that the jobs you are doing are necessary and important. If you don't have enough stuff that needs to be done around the house, you are going to have to look elsewhere. You have got to be intentional or your kids are just going to play a lot of video games and sit around watching TV. I know you are busy with your own work, but I'm saying that you MUST invest in helping your children experience hard work through volunteer experiences, through a local charity/church, or by helping family members or neighbors. You don't want these kids living at home depending on you forever, right? You've got to make sure they learn to take initiative, they get hooked on hard work, and they SEE opportunities to make money, help people, and get a hard job done.
Now that I have my own company, LifeBio.com, I see how that hard work ingrained in me as a child is essential as a business owner. There are long hours, problems to solve, and a tenacity and personal satisfaction that only comes from working hard. That's what your children need right now. Teach them THAT and they will go far.