Teaching Children to Work, Pt. 5

Brietta shared some thoughts about getting started with the young crowd in your home. I have been tagged to talk about older children (dare I say that is because I am the only one old enough to have “older” children?)

Motivational tactics often come to mind when considering older children (ages 7 – 12 and up) but let me first say that by the age of 12 your children can be almost ready to run a home without you! Granted, they may be a bit emotionally challenged and their spiritual reservoir may not have the store needed for such endeavors long term, but they should be able to manage for a day or two without you. Make that your goal and it will help you carve out a plan for training them which includes cooking, cleaning, and minimal laundry (in a pinch!)

I’ll never forget leaving my two babes (toddler and infant) with a 15 year old girl one evening. Upon returning home the house was quiet and orderly, leaving me to assume the evening had gone quite smoothly. When questioned, the young girl nonchalantly mentioned that the girls had been sick. Each one had vomited in their beds.

“Where are they now?” I gasped with horror. “Oh, once I got them cleaned up, they both fell asleep easily. I think it left them tired out,” came her wise-beyond-her-years response.

Further investigation led me to discover that this young girl changed both beds, bathed and dressed both girls, settled them, and had the sheets already in the wash. Pretty amazing. She would be called on again, I decided. And I also decided that I wanted my girls to bless the folks they babysit for in similar ways.

1. Bible study — See Louissa’s post if you want to learn the value of scripture for imparting lasting principles. There are numerous verses throughout Proverbs which reveal the benefit and the call to industry. Our greatest hope and aspiration is to see our child’s heart longing to please Him. Showing them His heart is our great privilege.

2. Charts — Purchase a book such as 401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work At Home or search online for creative approaches to charts and chore systems. Parents and children will both benefit from using charts. Having a chart or system in place saves you from having to reinvent the wheel each morning as you try to figure out what to have them do that day. They benefit from having a “heads up” as to what is expected of them. They went to bed knowing and wake up with an idea in mind. It is most respectful to give them fair warning as to what the day holds. Of course, it goes without saying that the chart represents the minimum. Mom or Dad probably will have extras for them to do as well, but this is a good way to create a stable, consistent atmosphere. If they go 2-3 days without doing much of anything, then Mom has an attack of inspiration that sends them flying after brooms and dust cloths, they may feel resentful. They are emotionally jerked around. Let’s face it; learning to work crucifies the flesh and that is not easy for any of us. Chances are if you are assigning work in a whimsical fashion it is because you have not learned self-discipline. Ah, yes. It always comes back to us, doesn’t it? There is nothing more inspiring than parenting — if you desire your children to grow in discipline and hard work, guess who else needs to grow in that area as well? Yup, you guessed it!

3. Rewards — There is some controversy regarding this concept, and I for one don’t tend to dole out allowances and paychecks (after all, I don’t get one…) But at the same time, human nature is motivated by reward. If heaven were not a great reward, I wonder how many of us would keep pressing on. If hubby didn’t get a paycheck, would he still punch that clock in such a timely fashion? If there was no diploma at the end of the class, would we finish all those assignments? Rewards such as “Lunch with Daddy or Mom”, “Your choice of video on Friday night”, “Have a friend over”, “Make cookies with Mom” (or Nana), “Overnight with Nana and Papa”, etc. These are not costly rewards — the possibilities are limited only by your imagination, so let it loose! As your kids grow older, they will begin to understand (with your instruction) that the rewards gained through labor in the home are order, a pleasant home to welcome their friends, and growing privileges outside of the home.

Once again let me refer you to 401 Ways… for one final encouragement. In the appendix of this book is a list of all kinds of things that would be beneficial for a child passing into adulthood to know — balancing checkbooks, changing a tire, simple auto mechanics (I had to pass on teaching that one), simple carpentry, sewing basics, computer skills, etc. They included some things that I would not have considered.

Preparing children for a happy, successful, fulfilling adulthood necessarily includes training them to work and to work well. In another post we will examine some scriptures which will lend a sure foundation to these practical thoughts.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Some time ago, there was a discussion on this site about teaching children to work. My daughter Abigail told me I should post some information on our family system. It has taken me a while to sit down and put the ideas into words, but here is my attempt to explain a system that came up after years of adapting and changing. Here you have it the Paladin family “jobs” system.
    I have always enjoyed working with my children. My primary “Love Language” is clearly works of service. When a friend is going through a crisis the first thing I think of doing is going to her home to clean her bathroom. Since reading Gary Smalley’s book, I learned that not all people are as blessed by having their bathroom cleaned as I am, but I knew that I wanted my children to learn to clean and to do it well.
    Any organizational system I have ever used must meet three criteria. It must be simple, in expensive and not require artistic talent. I used old outdated business cards to organize our jobs. We had a supply of hundreds of these old cards from the first law firm my husband worked for. The firm had gone through two name changes in a relatively short period of time and replaced business cards for each of the dozen or so attorneys each time. The cards were also the foundation of many home school games.
    We had house cleaning time scheduled twice each week for about an hour each session.
    A card was filled out for each job. At the top of each card was the name of the job, for example “bathroom.” That card contained a detailed list of what was expected to be done with each job. The bathroom cleaning card included:

    – clean sink with cleanser
    -clean bathtub with spray
    -clean toilet with cleaner and brush
    -shake rug outside
    -clean soap dish
    -clean toothbrush holder

    Each job was assigned a point value, determined by me with the input of the children.
    Each cleaning day I chose the jobs that needed to be done and laid the cards out on the kitchen table. I totaled the number of points for all of the jobs and divided by the number of workers. The workers then picked their jobs, one at a time, going in a particular order until everyone had their required number of points and all of the jobs had been assigned.
    A very important part of cleaning days was inspection. When the children were younger, I was the inspector. As they got older, I permitted them to act in the role of inspector from time to time. Each job had to be completed to my standards. If there was something lacking, the worker had to redo the job.
    I honestly enjoyed teaching my children to work and working along with them. I tried to keep the process simple, fair and as enjoyable as possible. Perhaps some of you will find a few of my ideas will help as you develop your own system for teaching and training your children. I do know that all you invest in your children will bring fruit in the years to come. I am in those reaping years now and can tell you that the sowing was worth it!

    Posted by Phyllis Paladin | October 19, 2008, 4:45 pm