I was raised to work hard, and it surprises me when I encounter kids who don’t know how to work even a little. Several years ago, Billy asked a 15-year-old friend, “So are you getting a summer job?” The response: “SUMMER JOB???!!!” As though he was crazy to even ask. Another friend, mother of a young teenager, told me with a laugh, “J. wouldn’t know what to do if you put a broom in her hand.”
A few generations ago, children of 11 or 12 were expected to do a full days’ work without complaint. Even our parents and grandparents were typically expected to work much harder and contribute to the family much more than a lot of children today.
But don’t get the idea that I’m smug about this!!! It’s come to may attention that I have lots of training to do with my own children in the area of work. I find that as a mama it’s so easy to fall into the habit of doing things myself instead of teaching the kids to do them. When this happens, pretty soon children feel entitled to be waited on and develop a disdain for work. Although I think I’ve fallen short in this area, my kids are still small and I think I have adequate time to do better—starting right now!
In light of that, I’ve been mulling over advice I’ve received from wise older mamas who have raised hard-working youngsters. Here’s what they say.
1. Set a good example. Don’t be lazy. Let your kids see you work hard without complaining.
2. Start young. Preschoolers are not too small to have little jobs. It doesn’t really matter whether they have assigned chores or if you just teach them to do what you ask, as long as they are doing age-appropriate work. Don’t underestimate their capabilities! They should be helping as soon as they can walk and understand basic commands.
3. Include them in your work. This is so important!!! Don’t send them to work alone when they are small, because young children have a hard time staying on task until they develop good work habits. (If your kids are older and have never developed good work habits, you might have to keep them at your side for awhile too.) Let them help you whenever possible, even when it’s inconvenient. They will learn so much and your relationship will be that much stronger. My best memories are of working together as a family.
4. Emphasize servanthood. Jesus was the greatest servant and as His followers, we should serve each other. My dad’s mantra was “When you see something that needs to be done, DO IT!” That still rings in my ears today. I tell my kids all the time, “We love each other, so we help each other.”
5. Teach them that work is good, a gift from God, and that all work is honorable. Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” We work for Jesus! Your kids should not feel that any work is beneath them.
6. Minimize time with TV, computer, and video games. The “couch potato” cliché is as true today as ever.
7. When they do a job, encourage them to do their best, but make sure that you are not setting an unattainable standard. Don’t be critical of their efforts. Especially don’t criticize when they try to work without being asked but make a mess of it. It’s so easy to want to dress them down for being childish (trust me, I know) but that squelches their desire to help. Praise them for pitching in without being asked.
8. Don’t tolerate bad attitudes. Don’t let them quit till they can work with a smile. It might make them mad now, but they will thank you for it later.
Any employer today will tell you that it’s hard to find young people with a great work ethic. If you raise your kids to be good workers, opportunities for them will abound!