Loving Your Children: Teach Them to Work
One of the most loving things we can do for our children is to teach them to work. Life is primarily made up of work. Our human nature tends to balk at that; but really, work is what brings us the most fulfillment. A good work ethic is rooted in the Bible. Even before the Fall, God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden He had made for them and gave them the responsibility of overseeing it and tending it.
There are four aspects of work that are important for us to teach our children. The first is to enjoy our work. Work should be done with a joyful, grateful heart. The writer of Ecclesiastes reiterates this several times in his book. Consider Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:12-13, 22. All of those verses tell us that we should rejoice in our work and enjoy it. Work is good! So one of the most loving things you can do for your children is to teach them to enjoy work. Diligently train them not to complain about work or to have negative, begrudging attitudes. Help them memorize one or more of those verses from Ecclesiastes and also Philippines 2:14-15. Whenever they respond with a negative attitude toward chores, go through those verses with them again and have your children say them. It's a good reminder to us as parents as well! Working with a begrudging, negative attitude is not OK.
The second important principle of work is to learn to do a job thoroughly and well. Because we belong to Christ and all that we do not only reflects on His character but also is to be done to and for Him, for His honor and glory, we must strive to do all that we do with excellence. Colossians 3:17 & 23-24 are great verses to memorize to teach this aspect of work. We are all prone to laziness and sloppiness. That is our sin nature, our natural self. It is one of the things we need to fight against constantly, even as adults. Don't be upset if you have to push against a child's laziness. It's our common sin nature; just address it and use it to help them understand the need to rely on the Holy Spirit constantly in all the big and little areas of life. We can't live the Christian life with its high and lofty standards on our own.
This leads into the third important aspect of teaching our children to work. Work should be a team effort. As families, we work together; we serve each other in love. So work with your children. Especially young children need a lot of work-with time. Working well and thoroughly is a learned skill. Paying attention to detail is a learned skill. Knowing how to most efficiently clean something is a learned skill. Children need to be taught these things. They can't just be told to go do something; they have to be shown and worked with. We all learn best by someone more experienced teaching us and showing us how. There's no substitute for demonstration and apprenticeship. They see how we do it and they model that.
Children can't just be ordered to do things so the parents can relax. They aren't our little slaves. We are all working together. Work should be a family activity. There are times to work and times to relax and play, but let's face it, reality dictates that work is the bulk of our day and our lives. So let's enjoy it together and find great satisfaction in it. We all enjoy the privileges of living in the same house, and we need to share equally in the upkeep that demands. Do the dishes together as a team, each taking a different part of the job: one putting food away, one washing dishes, one drying and putting away, one wiping counters and table, one sweeping the floor. If it's clean-the-bathroom day, show them how to clean a toilet, the sink, the tub, the floor. After they've had some time watching you and helping you, then you can begin to let them do one thing while you do another. But you're still in the same room working together. You get the idea. Make it enjoyable. Use the time together to talk about your day, to sing, to quote Bible verses, etc. Let them see that you enjoy your work; that you are grateful for your responsibilities; and most of all, that you enjoy being with them and working with them.
Lastly, there needs to be accountability. As moms and dads, we are the managers of this little business called home. It is our job to make sure things are running well and smoothly. We have to help our children see what needs to be cleaned and to learn to self-evaluate their work. After they've done a job, they should expect an inspection. If the job was not done well, you can help them see what they missed and have them redo that part. I used to tell my children, "Use your eyes to look for dirt." They have to learn to be attentive to their task and to seek to do the job well, not mindlessly.
Eventually as your children get older, you can assign chores and everyone can go do their own responsibilities. But even then there needs to be some accountability. When chores are done, go behind them and check their work. If it's not done well, gently, respectfully point out what needs to be redone. You can expect some kickback on that, just as you can expect kickback on the whole idea of chores and work. That, too, is part of the training. Remind them of what God's Word says, and that this household belongs to God; we are striving to live for Him and to do all things to please Him. Stop and pray with them and get the attitude worked out first, then resume the work.
These things must be emphasized and inculcated over time. It won't happen overnight. Patiently instruct. Learning to work well and joyfully is a process, and not an easy one. Work involves many things: skill, practice, diligence, perseverance, submission to authority, humility, a desire to improve, a willingness to receive criticism, a teachable heart and mind, a servant's heart, accountability, cheerfulness, attention to detail—the list could go on and on! Write in the comments other things you can think of that work requires and trains us in.
Wow! If work cultivates all these things in our hearts, let's embrace it! Maybe your own heart needs as attitude adjustment. Take a few minutes to ask God to examine your heart and do some repenting if need be. And let's train our children to embrace it as well. It's one of the most loving things we can do for them.