Nobody likes to work. That’s probably not true, but it does seem that way sometimes, given the way people complain about their jobs and their overall circumstances. As a result, most adults have a very low view of work and they end up passing it on to their kids. Unless we want kids who are lazy and ungrateful, we should do everything we can to help them see the value and goodness of work.
- Start young. There’s a lot that small kids cannot do. But, there is more they can do than we might think, and we shouldn’t miss these opportunities to shape them. Even small children can feed a pet, or fold a washcloth on the floor while mommy and daddy fold laundry. They can also do things like carry toilet paper to the bathrooms, put their dirty dishes in the sink, or help clean up toys. If you do all these things without soliciting your child’s help, you’re missing an important opportunity to shape them…and to encourage their participation in working with you.
- Work with them. Simply saying to your child “go over there and do thus and such” will probably not do much to help your child learn the value of work. By contrast, jumping in with your child to work will be much more effective. Your children love to be with you, doing what you do. Plus, by coming alongside your child to work with them gives you the opportunity to show them what hard work looks like.
- Talk with them about their future. Most kids have a dream about what they want to do when they grow up. Connect those dreams to their present world and talk with them about things they can do now to get there.
- Brag about their effort. When your child works, make a big deal of it. Tell them—often—how proud you are them for what they did. When friends come over, mention how hard your children worked. When children know you are proud of them for what they have done, they are much more likely to continue working and to have a positive outlook on work.
- Show them what God thinks about it. Our tendency to view work negatively is at odds with God’s view of work. We should remember that God placed Adam in the garden—prior to the fall—to work the ground. Work is a good thing. In work, we reflect God’s dominion over creation and we reflect His creativity in our own. These are important lessons for us to remember, but also for us to teach to our children.
- Incentivize it. Finally, reward your children for their work. Doing so allows them the chance to see the fruit of their labor. Moreover, doing this helps to guard against an entitlement mentality that breeds laziness and ingratitude.
None of us want our kids to be lazy or ungrateful. We want them to work hard and know how to apply themselves with great diligence. But this doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentionality and effort from us while we still have the opportunity to influence them. Our children are worth it. Once again, I’m praying with you and for you as you parent this week!