How To Get Children To Work

A glimpse into Sunday evening at home while everybody was here the other weekend. On the menu were those little pig-in-a-blanket snacks of a mini hot-dogs individually rolled in it’s own blanket of dough and baked. The girls moved the prep operation out to the dining room table for space to work and immediately had three or four little people asking to get involved. All of our girls are patient with this sort of thing so the little hands were allowed to roll dough and “help”. What amazes me anew is that it is truly helpful in the end.
The girls have discussed together lately again how to get their children to work. Listening and getting asked for ideas brings me to this post. Obviously they have some of this already well established as you can see. I want to add to that discussion here for the benefit, I hope, of all moms of little people.


   But first, let’s talk about coffee. Josh and Francis added to our coffee bar for the weekend by bringing along their fancy espresso machine. Lisl had already contributed the use of her new Aeropress. Gabe roasts coffee beans at home, so he brought those. And Lisl brought Thai roasted beans, as well.
   Francis spent an hour at a time making lattes to order. Serving is fun, as every contented hostess knows, but taking the time and creativity to serve artfully is even more fun. Caramel drizzled over whipped topping on a pumpkin spice latte handed to me in a thick mug means a lot. I know she spent time and thought on this one cup of richness. Was it economical, efficient and quick? No it was not, but it was worth it. We were both pleased and blessed, giver and receiver.
    Francis served coffee all weekend happily, although it took effort and time and thought (work) because she understood a few important things about good work. She was unconscious of the effort and wasted time, because making others happy and the sense of accomplishment are bigger than the “work” of making lattes. She has figured out that effort for the common good is nice. And it was really, really nice! It made me feel positively spoiled and pampered.

    The first thing to establish in our minds as a parent is that work, (dressing and keeping the garden) was in place before The Fall.  The thing that got added to work was the drudgery part of things: sweat, recurring weeds and thorns. Dressing and Keeping is what real work is all about. And it should be fulfilling, purposeful, and even fun. So those of you who claim you dislike work, must change your mind. Give Romans 12:1 some thought.  If we want our children to have a good attitude about work; we must show them the right way to think about work.

Another thing that encourages children, is doing work and play together.  Sharing it shoulder to shoulder is much better than standing over them like an overseer. Get down there on the floor and show them and help them. Picking up toys goes quickly when mom or dad helps. 
I believe to dislike work should not be considered. Never ask a child if he likes to pick up the toys or his clothes. For sure, never let him say it twice if he doesn’t like it. Work is fun and you should mean it and say it as such over and over. Don’t shirk work yourself. Embrace it and keep after it. All of the jobs around home should get done as cheerfully as possible.
   When the baby cries all night and the work isn’t getting done, don’t fret it. The work will still be there and life goes on. Hopefully, the children have been conditioned by practice to rather enjoy tidiness and will know how to find it when needed.
    I know, this seems like it sounds better than it walks. But truly, the keys to your success are in training by practice and implication, not by threats and spankings.

    Then there’s the whole charting, rewards or forfeitures, system. Frankly, that didn’t work for our children, but that is because I did not like to use it. It was too much work! to remember and to be consistent. Charts, in my book, are created to be failed. They drop out of date in only a few days and either you have to somehow make up the chart or look like a failure. It seemed to me we only added an additional layer of failure to our already failed practice. So I quickly abandoned charts.
    We got on with our real life much quicker by making the housework a habitual practice that just had to be done and so it did, for the most part. We had a very short list of things that happened twice a day that we called “clean up”. Dishes and sweeping and tidying. Oh yes, I had to lower my standards somewhat. The washcloths were just as available and folded if not in perfect squares, for instance.
    One thing that Mom and Aunt Eva taught us; was to enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Once the room is clean, look at it, and see what you have done and enjoy the pretty of it. The smallest child who gets to help with that, can understand and enjoy accomplishment when pointed out to him. Build on that as part of the goal.
    The sum is this. Moms and dads who enjoy working for order and cleanliness and accomplishment will pass it on to their children. 

I wanted to discuss the dignity of industry, too.  And what to do when a first grader decides he doesn’t like to work. And what to do about the elementary age student who is sick of school work and is lazy about chores. What are your good ideas? 

5 thoughts on “How To Get Children To Work”

  1. I didn't see you had posted when I chatted my question earlier. So I'll post it here for everyone to see. Sometimes when the children are bouncing off the walls, picking on each other, etc., I assign them a job to work off the excess energy. It feels like I'm making work a punishment, and they learn work is not to be enjoyed. I don't think my solution is a bad one, but I don't want work to become something that is subconsciously dreaded, because it's a punishment. And sometimes when there's excess energy I'll suggest play dough or something “fun”.


  2. Duh. So here's the actual question. How do you walk the fine line of harnessing childish energy for use, but not make it feel like a punishment? And how do you keep the five-year-old enthusiasm for “school work” in fifth grade?


  3. I think I could learn to whine less about my own work. Good thoughts mom. Charlotte, I've had that same question. Would be interesting to hear some input on that. ~jmb


  4. At that moment when you realize that a few chores are in order; you could move them into that more seamlessly. Don't point out that fact that because they are doing such and so you are reacting with chores even though it is exactly what you are doing. Chores should not be punishment, this is true. Chores are a fact of life and they're fun or not depending on our attitude about them. A smart mom figures out how to feather the line between play and jobs. Again they learn that from how you handle your own play and chores. Frankly, I don't think it is unreasonable to feel like homemaking is an art and the challenge is fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s