Thursday, March 25, 2010

Super Parents Are Just Ordinary People Doing Ordinary Things Consistently Pt. 3

(Sorry this up a little late today. Having some Internet problems, and now having some Blogger problems).

Part Three: Teach Children to Work

Work is not play. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be any fun. However, working hard and cheerfully is quite counter-cultural these days. Society has begun to see play as the highest good; when viewed that way, work is drudgery--necessary, but something to be shunned, not enjoyed. It wasn’t always this way though.

Since the beginning of time, work is the norm—not play. Play is sandwiched into the day when work is finished. Most cultures do not fit work (begrudgingly) into a day of play.

Yet, we are becoming a society of play, where no one really knows how to work—really work—anymore. The other day, I was at a business where the teenager behind the counter was so busy texting on her phone she could hardly assist me. She was working—at her texting, not at her paid position.

It is no wonder she didn’t know what it meant to be a good employee. Children are raised without chores; they’re not learning to work. Consequently, a strong work ethic is going out the window. I don’t want my boys growing up that way; I want them to grow up working hard and cheerfully, with a higher standard (Col. 3:23). That’s why I am teaching them to work.

Work is not play. But that doesn’t mean it steals our fun. I have had to evaluate, and say goodbye, to the subconscious thought that making my children do chores is somehow robbing them of fun they could be having. I have come to realize that not training children to work creates more problems later and sets them up for failure.

Often, play involves work (building a fort, scrapbooking, sailing...). Why not make work involve also involve play? We have to do it. In fact, it’s the undercurrent of our day—much more than play—so let’s enjoy it.

In offering some practical suggestions in this post, I consulted with our pastor’s wife, Linda Olsen. She is incredibly wise and offered some extremely helpful tips for training our children to work.

How to Teach Our Kids to Work:

As soon as kids are old enough to ask for stuff at the store, they can start doing chores. Make some chores necessary, simply for being part of the family, and other chores “extras” that they can do if they want to earn extra money. For example, Linda paid 10 cents for dusting (compensate accordingly for inflation).

• Teach your children to give 10% of what they earn, and save 10%.

• Train them by doing the job alongside them. In our house, my boys are by my side practically all day long. Has it ever annoyed me to try to mop the floor with three little boys trying to play in the water, or put a load in the washer with a bunch of little helpers trying to put dark clothes in a load of whites? Sure. Many times, well-meaning people have told me to put them in a playpen, or in a room so I can do my work myself.

But guess what? The other day, my son saw me mopping the floor and wanted to take over and do it for me. He’s four (well, almost five). My boys already have a good idea about how to do laundry, so they’ll be able to do it on their own easily in a few years. Working with kids alongside you takes longer (and can be frustrating in the early years), but I am learning it is worth it! Plus, you’re still spending quality-time with your kids.

• Training does take time, but reaps great rewards. A friend of nine children told me her children have been so well trained, she hardly has any housework to do now—they do it all! So while it takes awhile to patiently demonstrate how to do a job, it will save tons of time down the road.

• Moms, we can really struggle with finding the balance between being a good home-manager and a good mom. Do we drop the work to play with our kids? Do we keep working and interact with our children through the work? I’ve really wrestled with this one.

Linda’s advice was especially helpful to me here—

When her children were at home, they homeschooled from 8am-12pm, then had lunch, little ones went down for a nap, everyone else read for 30 minutes to an hour, then everyone worked for an hour, had free time for about a half hour, and then worked for another hour before dinner. Their actual “play” time was with Dad when we got home, plus on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. They looked forward to this time, knowing it was a special time to play together as a family.

In the meantime, during the week, Linda wasn’t feeling bad or guilty that she wasn’t playing with her kids. She knew there would be a time for that on Sunday. Monday through Saturday, she was managing her home. (Plus, as a teacher now in the public school system, she counseled that kids need to learn to play properly and creatively by themselves. This builds their imagination and creativity).

• On that note, as I’ve reflected on, and prayed about, the whole play-with-the-kids/do-the-housework balance, I find it interesting that we don’t really read in the Bible about people playing with their kids. We read about them doing various kinds of work, often with their families. The Proverbs 31 woman was praised for all the work she did, not all the play.

I’m not trying to say we should never play with our kids; I love being with mine (most days) and dislike being inside folding laundry while they’re outside playing (I folded outside today). But what I am trying to say is we shouldn’t feel guilty for doing the work. Realizing this freed me from a lot of Mommy guilt and allowed me to better embrace my role as a home-manager.

When we shift our perspective to view work as the norm, and play as the exception, we can wholeheartedly embrace—and seek to enjoy—what we need to do each day. Giving our children a solid work ethic by teaching them to work hard and cheerfully is one more ordinary thing we can do to make a super impact on this generation, and generations to come.

Part One: Teach Kids about Jesus and The Word
Part Two: Be Who You Are

Since it's Coffee Talk Thursday, let's talk about teaching our kids to work. How do you do it? How do you view the balance between home-management and play?

Training kids to work is indeed a fine thing!
Also linked to Works for Me Wednesday


  1. I completely agree with teaching the kids to work. I do struggle sometimes with feeling guilty about working about the house and not also playing or entertaining the kids. I like how your friend Linda worked/managed during the week and set aside weekend time to play. I can see how that would help alleviate the mommy guilt that seems to seep into everything! Have a great weekend :)

  2. i LOVED this post! i work outside the home 3 days a week, and struggle with guilt the other days i'm home w/ my kids over "playing" with them or getting my household "chores" done. my son is only 2 1/2, but he DOES enjoy helping when i let him instead of shooing him aside. it's nice to hear that it's ok to work and spend QT w/ the kids at the same time! thanks for the insight!!!!

  3. Hi Mindy and Val,
    I think moms everywhere struggle with the balance too :) It was helpful for me to realize that we don't have to feel guilty for doing the work we need to, as long as our kids are with us and still getting that quality time with us (plus some great lessons on work ethic).
    Then we can still carve out some time for play.
    Here's to an enjoyable, productive, guilt-free week! :)

  4. I have really enjoyed this post and this series. My son is two, and I'm struggling to find the right balance of working around the house and playing with him. Thank you for addressing this issue!

  5. My kids are young enough that "work" can easily be turned into a game. I started "cleaning blitzes" with my 3yo this week - I start the timer and she gets to see how fast she can clear a room of toys and put them away. This has been a HUGE improvement on just asking her to put the toys away!

  6. Thank you so much for this post! Kids and I were just discussing chores yesterday when they were complaining. I asked if they would like to trade? LOL!

  7. I am a strong believer in teaching your kids to work. My kids have "helped" me work since they could walk. We don't monetarily reward our kids for working around the house either, it is just part of being in our family, where everyone contributes. They do earn money for above and beyond work. We own our own business and when my son goes to the restaurant or on a catering job with dh he is paid for that work, just like an employee would be. They are paid for helping my inlaws with yard work, etc. At 10 and 6 they don't complain when asked to do things around the house, it is just part of who they are now. I think it is one of the good parenting calls I have made. (we won't talk about the bad ones....)

  8. Ah, thank you! I feel guilty sometimes when I'm doing dishes or something and my daughter wants me to read to her and I don't do it because some work needs to get done. I sometimes stop to read to her or play with her, and sometimes try to explain (she's only 1, so I'm not sure how much she gets it!) that I have to work first. This post gives me more to think about. :) Thank you! I do want to train her (and any more children we may have) to work. So far, so good - she likes "sweeping" when I do with her little broom, putting her toys away with me, and wiping things with a clean rag when I'm cleaning bathrooms. :) I think getting them used to it early is key.

    I just found your blog because Andrea (at Pursuing Titus 2) linked to it, and I look forward to reading more!