Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Teaching the Kids to Work - Part 1 - Why?

I knew I wanted to raise hard working people, but I didn't quite grasp the importance until recently...

I had been feeling like I needed to have the kids work more, but I wasn't sure where to fit it in. There were so many things I wanted to teach them during the day, plus I have a household to run - and teaching the kids to work more takes TIME! (In fairness to them - they do work more than your average kid - they have more time to do so since they don't go to a school).

Then, I was talking to my friend, Lara, at the park. She told me that she and her family were doing a "work-camp" (You can read about it here) They basically work from 7 am until noon every day, with a break for smoothies in between. I thought, "If they can work for 5 hours - surely we can do more than we're doing!"

Then I had to decide: Do I want to spend more time working when there are SO many other things I want to teach my kids?

I set out to find the answer. What is it, exactly, that they learn from working? If it's just skills - I'm sure I could teach them those in a short amount of time, when they're a little older and more capable.

I was intrigued that one of the first things God told Adam after he ate of the fruit was to get to work. Why? Why not tell him to get studying about how to return to Him? Why fill up his time (and ours) with weeds and all sorts of things to do? Wouldn't it be great if we could just sit around and study great books and scriptures all day?

I asked my Sunday School class this question and asked them to help me think of traits that are developed in a society that works the minimal amount in order to play (ie. ours). Some traits mentioned were: flightiness, superficiality, the tendency to be swayed about, "ever-learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7).

Then I asked them to help me think of traits that people who work hard have. They mentioned: Sturdiness of character, gratitude, appreciation for others' efforts (compassion), ability to value those things that matter... after a while I realized that every good character trait we develop - comes from working - from doing hard things.

That's when I realized - reading and studying good books inspires us to become good people and to seek for good things, but working is what makes us become good people who do good things - even when they're hard.

The two go hand in hand of course, but my kids (and I) are not going to BECOME great people if all we do is read about those people. We have to do the work - the hard things in life (especially when we don't feel like doing them) to become like those people.

I explained this to the kids after reading about Alma - how hard he worked and all the hardships he endured, but how much joy he had, and good he did, because of it. He was one well practiced in doing hard things.

This has very much changed my perspective on my work. Now when I go to clean the kitchen when I'm not feeling like it, I remind myself that I am not doing a temporal thing that will need to be done in a couple of hours anyway. I am building something eternal (me).

The kids have complained a little (okay - there has been a couple of fits) about the higher standard I have for the work they do, but I remind them that the more they don't feel like doing something, the more they are practicing doing hard things, and becoming the people they were meant to become.

*Just to clarify - what I mean by "work" is putting forth the effort to accomplish something. If we practice doing so in our housework - we will be better able to do so in any other are of our lives - school work, church work, occupation, etc.

Click here to see more on how to teach work.


  1. Excellent Post. I think we will have family home evening about this. I've been thinking a lot about it too and you've inspired me to do more. Thanks:) I'm sure my kids will "thank" you too *wink*.

  2. Great post! I've always thought of studying and reading as work, maybe not manual labor, but mental work nonetheless. Especially sine right now, DH's main job is studying and reading. However, I understand what you're saying, because in the long run he is acquiring the knowledge he needs to do his future job accurately. His new knowledge would be useless without future action.
    A good work ethic is something that has got to be one of the hardest lessons to teach children. (I have a hard enough time working myself!) My Dad has an amazing work ethic, but it was somewhat lost on me because I think he may have expected too much. ie. We would be in the backyard weeding, digging, chopping firewood, etc, for most of Friday night and all Saturday, then come in for dinner and then go to bed.) My young mind would do a cost/benefit analysis and felt that the rewards didn't justify the effort. (ie. Our yard is perfectly nice without a fake rock waterfall, and why couldn't we have done something fun afterwards or even next weekend) (If you're familiar with the color code, my Dad is very much a red.) So I'm still trying to figure out the balance, but I love how you handle it with your kids, pointing out that there are also "big picture rewards". Although incorporating something like having smoothies probably helps, too :) What kinds of new jobs are your kids doing now, and what are your new standards for them?

    P.S. Yep, I have a blog, too! I've been kind of an on and off blogger, and I hadn't posted anything on it for almost a year until just recently, so I hadn't told anyone about it or linked for awhile.

  3. "Now when I go to clean the kitchen when I'm not feeling like it, I remind myself that I am not doing a temporal thing that will need to be done in a couple of hours anyway. I am building something eternal (me)."j

    Love that! Thanks!

  4. I love this post! You are so inspiring, Karen. That gave me a lot to think about - I think I'm going to change the way I feel about working/cleaning around the house, and doing the things I don't really feel like doing.

  5. Thanks for the idea shift. Lazy sent me to you and you really opened my eyes. I quoted you in my blog post and now have a much better attitude. Thanks!

  6. Karen,
    You have no idea how much I needed to read this series. Your posts have inspired me to start a better pattern of work in our house. Here's hoping I can figure out the best thing for our family and then stick with it!

  7. Yay! I love this post! Thanks for putting it into words! We, too, work at teaching our children to work. I know that if I am sick, the household will still keep running, maybe not totally perfect, but it will keep on. And yes, we have the fits too, but overall they are all very willing and able helpers. And I often get comments about how "wonderful" my kids are, so helpful and such, and I know it is because they know how to work and are eager and willing helpers (especially for others, still working at that enjoyment on the homefront!) I wish that people didn't see my kids as exceptional, but rather as the norm, you know? I was raised in a family where we all worked together and I know that has shaped (for the good) who I am, and I would never want to deny that opportunity for my children. Thanks Karen!! and God bless your wonderful little family! :) BTW, as an aside, Spice is also one of those kids like mine, who would be considered exceptional, she has a wonderful, solid, helpful spirit! Glad that we've gotten to know you all!

  8. Hey Karen, I also linked to this post on my blog. You can read about it here: Thank you so much, again!

  9. My sister linked me to this blog and it is great. We have just discovered the TJED and are trying to get it off the ground. I had my kids on a great schedule but the weather changed and so I am now trying to revamp how we go about things. I love this on work I have an article on work and how to find the joy in the doing. I will have to send to you or put it on my blog. If you are interested. This also reminds me of the talk of the TJED about the 2012 depression. This is a real turning of a 3rd cycle to a 4th. Thanks for the inspiration Wendy.

  10. Thanks Wendy - I would love to read the article you have. Please send it to me or let me know if you post it on you blog (and your blog address). I loved the 2012 depression talk - I went to the forum in which Oliver gave it. Very inspiring. Keep me updated on how your TJED journey goes!