Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Satisfaction of Work

Lately I'm really trying EXTRA hard to teach my son how to take responsibility for his personal space and belongings- whether it be making his bed, putting his toys away, hanging up his clean shirts, etc.- because I think it's just SO important to create structure in the home (something we haven't always had). At first, when I implemented the changes, he grudgingly helped around the house, but he's getting better and more cooperative and we're still working on that daily... BUT, let me tell you.... this kid has NO PROBLEM getting dirty and helping Papa on the Wyoming Ranch.

You guys, I'm not kidding when I say that Little Dude learned how to operate and successfully maneuver a backhoe in less than 5 minutes and actually dug a 40 ft trench over the course of 3 hours (in 2 days). And when he wasn't on the tractor, he was helping Papa dig with his little shovel.

I'd watch him from afar, totally amazed at his attention span and willingness to work.  And then, after a long and hard hour, he'd come into the cabin, sweaty and flushed, and he'd give me a play by play of what he had just accomplished and which buttons do what on the John Deer Tractor.

I was so proud of my little fella- he was too.

There's such a reward in learning to work. There's such satifaction in seeing the progress made and this weekend of back-hoeing reminded me that the same pride and satisfaction can come from simple chores around the house, too. Because even the littlest types of work can teach life lessons that don't just keep the house clean.

In my hunt for helpful advice, I found a really great list of tips that help put things into better perspective for me. If you're interested, read on! GOOD STUFF!

Twenty Tips for Teaching Children to Work:
~by Daryl Hoole

Learning to do less for your children so you can do more with them is a good maxim to live by in the home. Following are a few basic principles about teaching children the work ethic and then twenty tips for practical application.

It's a parent's desire to raise up children who will be responsible, self-reliant, competent, contributing, well-adjusted adults. It's in the home where the attitudes, habits, and skills leading to these attributes are best nurtured. It's in the home where children best learn to express love by serving one another. It's in the home where children can learn to work.

It's through helping in the home that children feel “part of the team” and gain the benefits of being needed and sharing in the well-being of the household. Besides, mother needs the help. As one mother candidly put it, “All hands on deck or mother will sink.”

There's a deep, lifelong lesson that can be gleaned from taking care of property and possessions and serving people. It's called respect — respect for things, respect for others, and ultimately respect for oneself. Respect, coupled with gratitude, is the essence of being good stewards.

Furthermore, a child who learns to manage successfully his own life and his own room can more easily take care of additional rooms and lives when such responsibility comes to him.

  1. Be a model — an example. It helps if a child sees his mother and father doing tasks about the house and yard.
  2. Work with children. Show them how to do a task; don't just tell them to do it. When clearly taught and effectively trained, and when appropriate expectations are established, children can be held to a fairly high level of performance.
  3. Be consistent. There is strength in consistency. When children finally come to realize that “this is the way it is,” they accept it and their resistance and arguing diminishes. If you decide to waive a rule or policy, declare an exception; don't just let it slide.
  4. Instill good habits. Children who develop good habits have already won many of life's battles. A wise parent recognizes that many tasks are more a matter of habit than time. Habits are a great force in our lives. Help children make good ones.
  5. Allow consequences to be the disciplinarian. For example, if a child doesn't put away his bike before going to bed, as he has been instructed to do, being aroused from bed to go do so may help him remember next time. If a child balks about taking his turn in the kitchen because he's “too tired” or “too busy,” then he is also too tired or too busy to receive phone calls that evening or enjoy other privileges. If a child carelessly loses or breaks something, he should replace the item with his own money, or at least make a token contribution, according to his age, toward its replacement.
  6. Catch them doing something right and respond with praise. For example, if a child usually forgets to hang up his coat, instead of scolding him, watch for the time he does hang it up and quickly respond with positive reinforcement. Children respond in a more positive way when you warn them by saying something such as, “This morning will be room inspection, so be prepared.” The goal is to have them clean their rooms, not to make them feel sheepish or embarrassed about their lack of tidiness. They are more motivated when we praise them for doing something right than when we scold them for doing it wrong.
  7. Be positive and appreciative, rather than negative and critical. The ten-to-one ratio is a good guide — give ten compliments to your child for every one correction.
  8. Make work a privilege, not a punishment. Instead of threatening, “If you don't get your chores done on time, I'll give you two more jobs to do,” it's better to say, “You've been such a good worker today I'm going to let you help me cook dinner.
  9. Make a proper distinction between “required” and “hired” jobs. Required jobs have to do with one's basic responsibility as a member of the household, such as making one's bed, cleaning one's room, or taking a turn clearing up after dinner. Generally speaking, no one should be paid for such tasks. Hired jobs have to do with extra work about the house and yard that a child might do for pay. Such jobs vary from family to family and according to the maturity of the child, but could include tending a younger brother or sister, washing windows, doing heavy yard work, or taking care of minor repairs.
  10. Be flexible. Be considerate of children's agendas. Be careful not to foster resentment or rebellion. Teach your child respect and courtesy by considering his plans and commitments as you assign tasks. For example, “Saturday chores” do not necessarily have to be done on Saturday. If there are conflicting activities Saturday morning, many of the chores could be done anytime between Thursday and Saturday at noon.
  11. Give clear instruction regarding what is expected and let children enjoy the good feeling of checking items off a list as they're completed. Posting a list or making a chart helps children see the beginning and the end of their work, which is psychologically helpful. Besides, this does away with the chance that they might get the notion that if they finish one task, Mother adds another one, so they dawdle and stall to avoid Mother. (See The Ultimate Career —The Art of Homemaking for Today , p. 77 for illustration of a job box.)
  12. Make work fun and rewarding . Make the most of intrinsic rewards — the idea that a job well done is its own best reward. The maxim “work and then play” can bring about rewards, but guard against being a parent who teaches that “work is never done.”Games work wonders in motivating children between the ages of three and six and in the process good habits can be formed and basic skills developed. Following are a few examples:
    -A child wears a puppet on his hand (a stocking or a paper bag makes a good puppet), and then the child tells the puppet to pick up the toys or clothing. 
    -Playing “Twenty Pick-up” can work magic in a cluttered room. Everyone scurries to pick up twenty items, motivated by the advantage of seeing the beginning and and an end to the task. And for the child who “keeps score,” it's fair; everyone has the same amount of work to do. 
    -Pretend to wind a child up like a toy as he begins a task. He'll very likely come back to be rewound for the next job. 
    -The “squirt game” is a good one for three-year olds. Mother squirts a cleaning solution on a paper towel and the child wipes off the refrigerator door, the oven door, the dishwasher door, or whatever else needs cleaning. (Disposable wipes also do the job well in children's little hands.) 
    -Let your child dust for dimes. Hide dimes or quarters under some of the vases and lamps throughout the house to ensure a thorough dusting. You'll know by the number of dimes if the child has “hit” all the spots. 
    -Offer rewards for work well done, such as allowing a child to choose his seat in the car for the day, or his place at the table, or which movie to choose during TV time, or which story to read at bedtime.
  13. Provide incentives. The mother might say, “When the toys are picked up and you're ready for bed, I'll read you a story.” or “When the weeds are pulled, we'll go swimming,” or “As soon as the kitchen is cleaned up, we'll watch a movie.” A caution: don't make offers unless you can follow through by providing the promised activity.
  14. Play music to work by. Lively music can infuse children with energy and provide momentum as they work. For example, the song “YMCA,” or sound tracks from Cinderella, or Annie are favorites in some homes.
  15. Subscribe to the “Little Red Hen” theory. It only makes sense that those who eat and sleep in the home should also help with the work. Everyone is a team member. Help your child appreciate and support the role of each member of the family. Dad's basic responsibility is to provide for the family. Mother's main role is to care for the family and the home. Children are to honor and obey, or in other words to cooperate and help. The result is usually a smooth-running, happy home.
  16. Negotiate tasks when advisable, making them fair for all concerned. If your child needs an unscheduled ride somewhere, you might handle the request by negotiating with him by saying, “I'll drive you there, which will take about fifteen minutes round trip, if you'll give me equal time by folding these clothes and sweeping the porch.”
  17. Inspect the work . What gets measured, gets done. Teach children to work thoroughly and well and then help them to finish the job by “checking off” their work and calling them back when something isn't done right. Be quick to praise when work is satisfactory.
  18. Make work easy for them. Set them up for success. For example, encourage children to play with their Legos or other small toys on a sheet or large tarp. Then when the play time ends, they can just roll up the sheet along with the toys for a quick clean up.Install low hooks, shelves, and clothes rods within easy reach of children. Provide a sturdy, safe stool for reaching high places.
    A pattern or template for setting the table ensures immediate success, even for a very young child. (See The Ultimate Career — the Art of Homemaking for Today, p. 80 for illustration.)
    Provide them with bedspreads with plaids or stripes to facilitate getting them on the bed straight.
    Encourage their becoming responsible people and taking incoming telephone messages by supplying a bulletin board nearby or keeping a pad and pencil handy. Expect them to note all messages. Post itemized checklists for cleaning various rooms such as the kitchen and bathrooms and helping with the laundry. (See The Ultimate Career — the Art of Homemaking for Today , p. 80-82, for sample lists.)
  19. Develop self-reliance. It's important for us to teach our children to be self-reliant, which means to learn to be responsible and accountable for oneself. The Lord sends recipes, not cookies. We as parents should do well to follow this pattern and do the same for our own children.
Most mothers would agree that it's easier, faster, and done better, at least at first, to do most of the tasks themselves rather than to take the time and patience to teach a child to do them. But a home should be like an apprentice shop where novices (children) learn life skills from masters (parents). A good mother should gradually work herself out of the job. Dorothy Canfield Fisher said it another way, “A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”


**If you're wondering what the 20th tip is, so I am... there wasn't one... ha! So, how about you give me YOUR 20th tip! What are some ways you teach your children work-ethic?

p.s. If you don't believe me when I say that my 4 year old son is a backhoe guru, WATCH AND SEE with your own eyes ;) He did this over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again!


  1. This is a great post and article! I'm not a mom yet, so I can only look at my mom as an example. But she did so many of those things, without me knowing it at the time. She was a single mom of 4 girls and I have realized that she spent a lot of time teaching my older two sisters to be responsible,etc. because my younger sister and I naturally wanted to be like them. It was sort of like, "Oh my big sis is getting straight A's so I want to too!" I probably didn't get as much attention, but that's alright because seeing how hard my mom worked taught me SO MUCH in itself.

    p.s. WOW Little Dude is a backhoe master!

  2. okay, LD is FREAKING AMAZING!! wow. Sam is totally jeeeaalous :)
    love you.

    1. Agreed!!! wowzer, those are some pretty rad backhoe skills!

  3. The author of this article (Daryl Hoole) introduced me to another teaching tool: The Mad Bag. If I had to pick it up, it went into the Mad Bag, and they had to earn it back or I got rid of it.

    Enter the Penny Game. 5 minutes, 1 penny earned if no one argued or complained, 1 penny earned if it the job was done in 5 minutes, 1 penny earned if they stuck to the job till it was done. If they gave up, I got out the Mad Bag. Move to the next room and start again.

    We could do a deep clean of the entire house in 20 minutes or less--and it only cost me a few dollars in pennies.

    BTW, our kids played the Penny Game (with pennies!) till they were in their teens. I think they knew that "The Penny Game" was code for "Do It Mom's Way Today." Also, we often did something fun as a family in the evening after a day of the Penny Game, so it was worth it for all of us. :)

    1. What a GREAT idea Aundrea! I think I'll try this :) THANK YOU!

  4. Gosh what a great list! I reflect back on my parents and they instilled such a joy of the satisfaction of working hard and completing the job. We would celebrate and I felt invested n the completion.

  5. I need to do better at this. Both my kids lately are into the "I can't" and it's driving me bonkers!

  6. I LOVE this! Even though I don't have kids, I still can relate to how good I feel when I work hard. I believe nothing makes me happy than when I really put my mind or body to something and work. Even if it's hard!

    I love that your posts are always teaching higher principles - like the value of work! And I love that you have lists of how to become better. Seriously, this blog should be a book!


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