Teaching Our Children to Work


One of the most disheartening changes in this culture over the past 30 or so years is that children are no longer taught to work. Instead of teaching our children a good work ethic and diligence, we are teaching them that everything else is more important. We have an epidemic of laziness in this country.

This becomes obvious rather quickly, I am afraid, when you watch young (and some not so young!) people work in public. We can size up pretty quickly which waitress or cashier we don’t really want. They are slow and incapable. They are more interested in their conversation with a co-worker. They don’t give any effort to their job because it’s “just a job”.

Owning a business that hires young people as our employees has also made this change rather obvious to my husband and me. It is a rare thing to find a hard-working, diligent young person these days. Most applicants expect to be given a good salary, great benefits, and lots of extra incentives, but they don’t want to work for it. They expect it all to be handed to them on a silver platter, giving nothing in return. Thankfully, there are still some hard-working, young people full of integrity out there but the pickings are getting slimmer every year.

I know many of us feel that there will be enough time for work when our children grow up, which is true to a certain extent. However, if they are never taught to work when they are young, they will not magically learn this when they grow older.

Of course, I am not suggesting that we use our children as our slaves, but we need to stop the sports and playtime long enough to have them join some of the family chores. Kids who know how to work are better citizens, less self-centered, and tend to look at what they can give to the world, rather than what they can get from it.

Have them join Dad in helping to fix the shed or do the lawn work on a Saturday or help Mom bake or do laundry during the week. Don’t worry if it isn’t done perfectly.  It is more important that your child learn to help fold towels, than that the towel is folded just right. Sometimes when teaching children to work it is hard to remember our priorities, isn’t it?

And, YES, your kids will complain. If they don’t complain when you ask them to do something, be pleasantly surprised. My kids complained most of their lives. And sometimes they still do. But we have made it clear that if they are going to live here and take part in all of the benefits of living here, they will also take part in the work involved to have what we have.

We cannot forget that we are responsible for preparing our precious children for their future lives. Their future life is, most likely, not going to be about sports or dance or getting good grades. There is a place for these things but how important it is that we not get so busy running around with activities that we have no time left to teach our kids how to work.

But there is a second aspect to this, as well. Not only are we to teach them how to work, but we are to set a good example. How do we talk about our necessary duties? What attitude do we have about Mondays? Do we work for God’s Glory and enjoy each day or are we “Working for the Weekend”, as the old 80s song says?

I failed at this one many times, I am afraid. Being a homemaker has its challenges–a big one being that we determine our own schedules, task lists, and priorities. The other challenge is that we never get to pack up for the day and leave it behind. We are always on call, 24/7. This can be a bit of a challenge for someone like me. I have learned a lot over the years, but this was not originally an easy thing for me. Having a positive, selfless, and diligent attitude was not something at which I excelled, quite honestly. I would change that now. Hindsight is always 20/20.

It is so sobering to realize that these little (or not so little) lives that we have been entrusted with are counting on us to teach them everything they need to know before being thrust into a pretty hard and cold world. We can’t get so caught up in our desires to provide them with special and fun experiences that we forget to teach them how to work.

And, trust me, your kids will thank you later. And so will their boss!


please note: This post has been updated and expanded from its original form, which was written for The Prudent Life, my homemaking blog.

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