Friday, August 16, 2019

Kids and the Value of Hard Work

I'll never forget it. The time the team of Amish men did work on our home. We were putting on an addition. The foundation had been laid earlier in the fall and the men returned to work on the actual construction part that winter. We live in the upper Midwest and our winters are bitter and brutal. It was around 15-20 degrees, I remember, and they came to work early each day. I marveled at their work ethic. Each and every man's. One day was particularly cold. We kept the men supplied with black coffee (the way that they usually like it) to keep them warm. To get an idea of how cold it was, the men were frequently stomping their feet to keep the circulation flowing. What was fascinating to me, and I think that I'll always remember this, is that on one particularly cold day the men started singing to keep warm. The Amish crew stomped their feet and sang old German hymns together as they worked in the bitter cold. I'll always hear their voices in my mind as I listened to them and looked out the window that separated the warm part of the house from the construction area! I didn't hear them complain; they accepted the weather as part of life and just went on working very, very hard. 

What produces such a work ethic in the Amish? Here in the Midwest, where there are many Amish families to observe and to interact with (my brother-in-law works for the Amish construction company that was mentioned, so we often get to interact with the Amish firsthand) we are able to see how this happens--

The Amish learn from a very early age that work is a part of life. They are taught to help with great and small tasks around the farm as part of their responsibility. They act together as a family, supporting one another in the tasks that are needed to be performed. The family structure exists partly as a catalyst to keep the farm effectively and neatly running. The children mow the lawn, collect eggs, work at their family farm stands. Everything that they do revolves around family life and incorporates an emphasis on working together as a family. There are few distractions. Amish children do not watch TV or play video games. Their lives and minds are undistracted and therefore free to focus on the simpler things which surround them. And I think what is integral is that the Amish learn that work, hard  work, is a part of life from a very early age. 

I admire that. Especially in a society where children have for the most part, forgotten the value of hard work. 

Many times, I observe children in the time that we live in and think of how they would have benefited from learning the value of working hard. 

Oh; the value of work!

Helping, listening, learning to persevere, learning how to complete a task without complaining, learning to focus on a job until it is completed, obeying parents; these are all helpful lessons that a child learns through working. 

Partly because of the society in which we live which focuses on self-fulfillment, constant leisure and fun, children are simply not being taught from an early age to work hard. 

Awhile ago, I felt this impressed upon my heart. It was confirmed by someone talking to me about how children should learn how to work when they are young. I looked around me and saw the entitled attitude of this society and of how we are raising our children to believe that everything comes to them on a silver platter. I felt the tug of the Holy Spirit impressing upon my mind the importance of incorporating the value of hard work and of helping upon my children from an early age (although I believe that it is never too late to begin and that the Lord can redeem years that have been wasted). 

We live on almost 4 acres of land and so you can imagine that there is plenty of upkeep to do! We have a vegetable garden as well as a perennial garden and so I use this as my place of action in pursuing what I believe the Lord is teaching me with my children. 

The home itself is also an excellent place to begin. There are so many tasks that children are able to help with, simple and more difficult. I have learned that children at almost any age can complete various tasks. They may not complete them perfectly, but perfection is not the object; loving our children and teaching them to pursue discipline and hard work in their lives is. 

Here are some ideas that I have been gleaning over the past few years of areas where children can learn to help along with teaching them the value of diligence and hard work~~

  • Start with their bedroom. Make it an expectation that it needs to be kept (relatively) neat. Help them with making their bed at an early age--don't let them grow up learning that it's "ok" not to make their bed!! :-) This is something that can be incorporated into the daily routine of your life with your kids. 
  • Children should pick up their toys. I've been working more diligently on teaching my children to put away a toy after they use it. My sister had a really neat idea in this respect because my kids would be frustrated when they had made a "magnificent" block creation and didn't want to take it apart. She told me that she had always told her kids when they were younger that they would take a picture of it, so that they could have a memory of the creation. This would make her kids feel better about taking it apart; I've found that it works with my kids, too! Of course, there are times when I allow my kids to keep up their creations for a day or so, as long as they are put neatly to the side (at least, we try! :-)).
  • Kids can help with the dishes. My kids weren't too thrilled about this at first, but now they enjoy it, and actually argue over who gets to dry each night (so we take turns :-)). I try to make helping with the dishes/after dinner cleanup fun by having a special apron that each child wears. Recently, we put up hooks in the kitchen to hang aprons on and my kids love to wear them. Obviously, clean-up tasks like drying dishes, etc. have to be adjusted according to age. My children are 5 and 6 years old, and so they are able to dry and put away dishes, sweep, put things away that are on the table, etc. Younger children could probably help an older sibling or a grown-up with these tasks. 
  • Children can vacuum, dust, clean windows, sweep, polish furniture, etc, etc.!! :-) They usually enjoy it and I usually give them a choice of what task they would like to do`~my son enjoys vacuuming (with any kind of vacuum! :-)) and my daughter is an avid duster and windexer. :-) At times, we will pick a "room of the day" and clean it. It is amazing how much little ones can help with this. Set a timer and see how much you can get done in 20 minutes or a half hour. Your house will be sparkling. :-) (at least for a day!! ;-)) 
  • Kids can help to clean the family car or van. They love Windex! I get the cheap 99 cent kind and let them clean away! (within reason ;-)) They enjoy holding the vacuum with the long nozzle and you can always go over it quickly afterward if they miss a few crumbs! They can organize the glove box (my daughter loves this job dearly :-)) and clean their carseats with Windex when needed. 
  • Children can help in the garden and with outdoor upkeep. My kids help with weeding, mulching, carrying weeds to the composter, harvesting, watering, etc. They fill our birdbaths every day (I've made this into a routine) and help to clean them out every few weeks. They also help with mowing the lawn (with an adult or older child) and my daughter and I walk in front of the ride on mower through the paths around our field that we mow with long sticks in case there are any rabbit nests, etc. (so that they won't be hit by the mower). They also pick up sticks, rake, and hoe the garden. My daughter enjoys weeding and often reminds me and her brother to make sure we "get the root" of the weed!!--something my Mom, her Grammy taught her when she was very tiny! She also enjoys "deadheading certain kinds of flowers--I've found that this is a great substitute for children who enjoy picking flowers (flowers that you don't want them to pick! ;-) Let them "deadhead" instead to their heart's content! 
  • Children can help with pets. We have 2 rabbits who live outdoors in an enclosed structure and a pheasant. My children help to clean their hutches, bring them food and water, and let them out each day. Kids can help wash a dog, brush him gently, etc--this is a great opportunity to help children learn gentleness and patience with pets. 
  • Children can help with laundry. They can bring their dirty laundry to the central place where the family's laundry is brought, put it in the washing machine, put it into the dryer (or help, depending on their age) and help to fold it afterward.  They can also learn to put their own clothing away in the correct drawers! This is something that we've been working on. 
  • Children can help with cooking. They can bread zucchini, chop strawberries with a butter knife, mix dough, add ingredients, knead bread, etc. And then they can set the table and learn how to arrange dishes, forks, knives, and spoons neatly. Something that I've discovered that both my son and my daughter enjoy doing is "setting up" the coffee pot. They like to put the pieces back in after I wash it and then add the little paper filter--ready for the next day. They can help to clean and organize the silverware drawer~~this also helps with teaching them organization and putting things away neatly! They can neaten the pantry; they can neaten cupboards, etc. There are so many things that kids enjoy helping with in the kitchen!
  • Children can help with grocery shopping. Let them pick the items off the shelf that you name and put them in the carriage. Let them take turns putting the quarter in the cart if you have an Aldi's (we do :-)). Let them return the cart to the cart stall if they are old enough. Let them help to put bags in the car or van and then take them in when the family returns home. Let them help to put food away in the refrigerator, cupboards, or pantry neatly.

There are so many ideas and ways that children can help and learn the value of hard work and diligence; the above is not an exhaustive list~~and the Lord may show you unique and different ways to incorporate work into the context of your family life and schedule. 

Begin with small tasks; don't overwhelm your kids, but don't be afraid if they complain a little either! I like to remind my kids of Phillipians 2:14-16-- Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain--when they have a grouchy attitude and bring it back to the idea that we are working to please the Lord. Sometimes, in a joking way, I remind them of the Scripture in II Thessalonians 3:10 that states that he who shall not work shall not eat! (Don't worry; this is just in jest--my children are very well fed! ;-)) 

As this has become a habit in our home, I have noticed that the complaining and/or whining has greatly diminished. There is an expectation that in general when we go outside we will do some yard work, fill birdbaths, water flowers, etc. before we play. I make sure that the work is not overwhelming to young children and I break up the work with water breaks, nature walks on our paths, a game in-between. But we work. And it is generally consistent; consistency is key. This has been extremely helpful to me in that I don't have to "worry" about my kids behaving while I do a project--they can do the project many times with me and then I can come up alongside of them while they play. Or I can continue working  after my kids have worked for awhile----in the garden when they play with a ball next to it, in the sandbox while I am weeding flower beds near to them, etc. I have found this routine extremely helpful to me with the amount of upkeep that our land requires and as someone who loves gardening and outside work! We work a little and then play a little and everyone is pleased! :-) 

And I just want to be very clear here--my kids are not perfect workers--they complain, whine, and moan and groan at times when I announce what project we'll be working on. But the more that we have pursued this habit, the more I observe them becoming diligent workers, by the grace of God. They have come to learn the expectation without balking. They know that after we weed on a hot day, I will let them jump in the kiddie pool or the sprinkler! They understand that they must keep their room neat and help after supper and put their shoes neatly by the door. Again, they don't do it perfectly or 100 % of the time, but we have established an attitude and habit of work and helpfulness in the home and outside.  In other words, it is becoming a habit and an expectation in our home. It is something that I need grace to continue and to persevere in and I see how the Lord gives me this grace as I come to Him each day for His help and strength. 

Anyone can do this! Anyone! Start where you are, regardless of kids ages--start small--and gradually increase expectations. Your children will eventually get a sense of fulfillment from it and begin to enjoy work! Pray with your kids--pray when they complain and ask the Lord to give each of you hearts that would be cheerful--sing while you work! Sing hymns; sing Bible songs. Work can be made more pleasant this way! 

Don't "give up" because it is "too late." The Lord is able to redeem things that seem lost. 

Above all, depend upon the Lord. Bring everything back to Him. Remind children that you love them and want the best for them. Remind children that they are under your authority and that you will ultimately give an account to God; they will too! Remind children that everything is done to please the One who created us~~for work and for play~~and ultimately to bring glory to the Lord and to reflect His character in our lives. 

Teach kids to work; to work hard. And then step back and praise the One who works in us and gives all grace to do His will~~in our families, in our homes, with all of our lives. 

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdayGood Morning Mondays,  Counting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word


  1. I remember how frustrating it was to teach my kids how to do chores (it seemed so much easier to just do them myself). But I also know that what I persisted with would pay off in the end. Both of our girls are adults with a strong work ethic (as teenagers, they worked during the summers as hotel maids and saved their money to fund an 8-week study tour of Europe--while paying part of their school tuition, too!

  2. I 1000% agree with your post! All 4 of my children were taught very young to do chores and that they need to "earn" fun things in life. (Not always...sometimes it's fun to surprise them. But I don't like this entitlement attitude we see everywhere.) Mine do not play any video games or carry around cell phones. We don't have tv anymore. And they don't even care. Because when they're not schooling or doing their chores, they are outside building, gardening, bike riding, swinging, etc. If they're inside they're reading, doing puzzles, playing with toys...

    I'm not sure if you're familiar with the Maxwell Family and their Titus 2 website, but after praying for a way to keep my kids from "forgetting" their chores, I stumbled upon the Maxwell's Chore Packs, and they have been a HUGE blessing! So simple, yet such an answered prayer. My older boys do things like vacuum, mop (I physically can no longer mop), load/unload the dishwasher, burn trash, take out compost, tend to the outside animals, clean up their bathroom, etc. My 7 year old bags up the bathroom trash, clears and wipes down the table, picks up the floor, folds blankets, etc. And my 3 year old picks up the napkins and puts them in the dirty clothes basket, picks up the floor, wipes down doorknobs, etc. They also make their beds daily and take care of their folded laundry. No one ever complains because it's just a normal part of life. They do their chores, then go on with their day. It is SO helpful to me, as a busy homeschooling mom with physical limitations sometimes. My older boys are starting to work for pay for other people sometimes--haying, cutting grass, doing home repairs, etc. People love to hire them because they do the jobs efficiently and without complaint. But, again, they were raised up to appreciate a good work ethic.