Saturday, April 20, 2013

Teaching Kids to Work

Question: How did you help your kids learn to enjoy work? How did you schedule this training into busy family life?

Brianne (and Spencer)
The same way I enjoy work: worked along side them , or nearby (always when they were preschoolers);  let them know their contribution really helped; played music, planned a treat or activity for when the work was done; and let them know I would repay the favor when they needed me to pitch in.
Things that didn't work so well - chore charts where the reward was too long coming - I never managed those well.  Little immediate appreciations worked better.

It wasn't hard to schedule, cause I really couldn't do everything and needed their help.  One child really liked having company over and would pitch to get the house ready.  I think they liked having a reason for what needed doing.  Let's weed & then we can pick out some flowers to plant.  We don't want germs living in our bathroom, or spiders crawling in our unmade beds do we?

When they were little we made up silly games - kids aren't judgmental about the goofy things you come up with. Simple games like when the music stops everyone stop working, freeze and make a funny face (we can't do it again until everyone is working hard).  Or pretend like the sponge is a race car going round and round inside the bathroom sink.  

One favorite game that went on for years was trying to deliver the laundry to the appropriate room or drawer as Mom folded the clothes - without Dad catching you.  Dad was busy doing sorting bills or something, but he would walk by every few minutes and say, "Halt who goes there?" and if they got caught the kids would make up some cover story as they smuggled the clothes past the German Army.

Karen and Lance
We don't know if anyone really enjoys working for work's sake. We just let them know that when it's done a person can be happy it's done and that's the joy that you get. Some work is not that "fun" and no one can make it seem that way. Our children worked on Peach farms and Apricot farms, cutting the fruit in half, and made 10 cents a tray. They also pulled weeds at a tennis club. Some worked at the mall, in our town, doing fast food and also working at a department store, other jobs were yard work. Some of these jobs could be enjoyable and some not. They started working at 16 years of age, in the summer. They were able to save for college and help us get them through financially. They were on ball teams and Cheer teams so they had to work pretty hard. The temperature was 100+ in the summer and most of the work was outdoors.

During the year they just went to school and took care of other duties like homework, and practice times. During the school year they were early risers as they attended an early morning church class. So they were pretty tired by the end of the day and didn't have time to get into trouble.

Cynthia (and Brad)
I am not sure they ever did learn to love work while they were kids, except my son. We forced him to take a job at age 12 at a local plant nursery. At first he hated it. but then he started looking at his savings account book, and became fascinated. We could hardly ever get him to spend any of his money. When he left on his mission he had $6,000, and that was in 1983. Quite a sum for those days.

Our daughters all worked at a childcare center, local fast food, etc. It taught them that was not what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives, and that an education was the solution.

In adulthood, all have come back to us and told us that they are grateful that we taught them how to keep their house clean, do the laundry, and yard work, and to hold down a job.  It just takes a very strong set of parents to endure all the griping. I just tried to keep a cheerful attitude and give some rewards along the way. But they WERE going to work. There was no option at our house.  It truly does take more time to make your kids do the work, and repeat it when they do a lousy job, than it does to do it yourself. I never spent much time agonizing about whether they were happy about it.

Kenneth and Catherine
We involved our children in home and yard work which we generally did together with specific cleaning and weeding assignments.  We scheduled this during our weekly Sunday evening family council sessions.

Daniel and Barbara
We played with our children after the work was done.  Each had chores and was expected to do them.  We didn't have money for allowances, so we couldn't bribe them.  We were raised this way and it worked.

When we worked, we had a goal to have an activity afterwards.  We would have fun together after working to complete chores and projects. Chores were not negotiable.  Children were expected to do their share. Sometimes we would have to work with them to get some jobs completed.

Marsha (and Richard)
Work is a very necessary part of life and is a part of every day.  Children who learn to work and love the sense of accomplishment it brings will be much happier and more productive throughout their lives.

We generally had the approach of working first and then playing.  There were tasks that had to be done every day before school or play and when necessary, after school before play and for sure on Saturdays.  It wasn’t really a matter of what we wanted to do but just what needed to be done.  The best way to teach a child to love to work is to love it yourself and be an example of that.  Taking great satisfaction in the results is an important step.  Stand back with a child and admire the results.  We followed Stephen Covey’s advice in helping a child to “own” the work they are assigned.  When they feel it is their responsibility and they can occasionally direct others in accomplishing the task they learn to see what needs to be done. We felt that training a child was best accomplished by having him/her work by our side for some time, then possibly working by their side. 

Too many other activities seem to be crowding out some of these more important family responsibilities, as children have become the focus of attention and time commitments.  When we were raising children the focus was more on the functioning of the home and family. When a child feels he/she is contributing to the total welfare of the family, he is more inclined to measure up to his responsibilities.

All of this takes great self discipline on the part of the parent.  The more structured the routine of the family, the easier it is to manage the work to be done. Children are more secure with structure and fewer decisions need to be made each day when there is a strong routine.

Of course, there needs to be time for play and fun with the family.  My son once said he admires families who can work hard, then play hard.

Next week's question:
What did Dad do to enrich his relationship with his daughters, and how do you think this affected them?

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