Monday, December 29, 2008

Teaching Children to Work

As I talk with other moms, I hear a wide variety of opinions about giving children chores. Some feel that children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood and shouldn’t have “undue” stress placed upon them. One friend grew up in a home where her only chore was picking up her bedroom, and before she got married, her mother put her through a course in how to keep a house. Others were raised doing chores from the time they were old enough to reach a sink, and so they knew how to run a home when it was time for them to marry. As I look at the differences in situation and rearing, I have to say, children who are taught early how to work are children who are prepared for their futures.

Shortly after I was married, I spent some time managing a fast food restaurant. It was easy for me to determine which of the employees had been taught to work, and which hadn’t. Some of the teens were at a loss to know how to mop a floor or wipe a counter, and they needed instruction on the most simple things, let alone counting out the cash drawer or doing more complicated tasks. Other employees jumped right in, handling the dishes with the ease of having done it many times at home. I’m sure you can guess which workers I preferred to have on my crew each night.

This doesn’t just happen in a fast food setting. Companies on every economic level are looking for employees who are willing to get in there and get the job done, who are self-starters and only need an assignment before heading off to see to its completion. Children who are taught at home to work will grow up to be these employees who can motivate themselves and see to it that their department succeeds.

I realize I can’t make a broad generalization, but I will say that from what I’ve personally observed, children who aren’t taught to work don’t feel as confident. They take things for granted. They assume things will be handed to them, rather than earned. They tend to be disrespectful to their parents. They don’t understand the value of money. When they are asked to do something, it’s so contrary to what they’re used to, they become sullen and resentful.

I agree that our children should have happy childhoods. But I’d like to know where it’s written that chores make for unhappy childhoods. I’ve had many pleasant moments washing dishes with my daughter or folding laundry with my son. It’s a time to connect and to bond. Chore time doesn’t have to be miserable. It can be fun. And when your children grow up and see what you’ve taught them through those chores, they will thank you for building them a foundation for their futures.

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Stephanie Black said...

Teaching your children to work is a vital part of guiding them on the road to happiness.

You do far more to provide for your children's happiness by teaching them to work and take responsibility than you do by avoiding anything they might find unpleasant. A child who has never been asked to work is in for a seriously rude shock when real life hits. What about when the child goes to college? On a mission? Gets married?

Weston Elliott said...

AMEN! And I was never paid for doing my chores, either - they were expected as part of earning my own keep, allowances had nothing to do with it.

Anna said...

100% agree. I've heard that you should teach your kids the "joy" in cleaning and enjoying having a clean home. Let them help you clean and do chores while they still think they are fun.

My mother did my laundry for me all growing up. I didn't do laundry for myself (except the occasional batch) until I was married. I don't really care for laundry... it's not something I like.

On the other hand, I went grocery shopping with my mother A LOT. I remember being 12 and wanting to go with her. I enjoy grocery shopping.

I can see the types of chores that she had me do, I don't mind now that I'm older. The ones that I she didn't make me do, I don't really care for.

My 2 (almost 3) and 4 year old LOVE to help me unload the dishwasher and to put dirty clothes in the washer. I fold their clothes, but they have to take it to their room and put them in their drawer. My 4 year old loves to help me cook dinner. My 2 year old wants to hand me hangers so I can hang daddy's shirts. It can take a little more time to do, but in the long run, it will be worth it.

Framed said...

What a great post. I wish more parents understood what a disservice they do to their children when they don't teach them to work. At work, I have the workers and the whiners. I think I need to develop an interview question to determine the applicant's work ethic.

Jen said...

We had a primary service activity a few weeks ago, and you could tell within 5 minutes which kids had jobs at home and which didn't by two things-how happy they were and how much they got done.

Sandra said...

When my boys graduated from Marine boot camp, both of their drill instructors told me that they could tell that my boys had been taught to work. They knew how to make their bed, wash their clothes and take care of them- sew the buttons on, iron them, etc. They also knew how to say "yes/no sir".
Both drill instructors thanked me and told me that the corps would be better if more moms would teach their children how to work.

Gloria said...

My children had chores to do all the time while they were growing up. My belief is that this is the BEST way to give your children self-esteem.

After all, when they successfully manage increasing responsibilities given to them as they grow in size and capability, they know innately that they are qualified and accomplished. They also have developed the ability to take on new assignments with the expectation and confidence that they have skills to fulfill them.

Parents do their children a disservice when they don't expect and teach them how to work.

Great post.

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