7.27.2015

Teaching Your Children to Work || Part 1 in the Motherhood Series


This is the first installment in a series of posts written from one mother to another. My thoughts come from my own journey of failures and victories as a mother.  My desire is to encourage young mothers to train their children, teach them to walk in the ways of the Lord, and to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind.  We need to remember that our goal should be to not only train upright citizens who will make a positive contribution to society but to also raise up a generation of soldiers who will fight in God’s army.  
This post is written from my perspective of life on the farm and on the road as I observe my own children and many other families that we have met in our travels.  It is a collection of tips which may help your children in the endeavor to enjoy whatever work they are called to do. 

Just so you know, I agree wholeheartedly with the following Scriptures: 

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” Lamentations 3:27

“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”  II Thessalonians 3:10

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31

They are the foundation for how we have trained our children.  God’s ways have always worked and always will!
  1. Teach your children when they are young.  Any child capable of dumping a basket of toys is certainly able to pick them up again.  Now some cheerful words and a parent’s  helping hand will do much to make your training more effective.  Buy a little broom and dustpan so your child can work beside you as you sweep the floor.  Most children love water-let them slosh as they rinse the dishes.  Setting the table and clearing the dishwasher are  great chores to teach your 3 or 4 year old that they must work before they eat. 
  2. Be consistent in what you expect your children to do.   At our house, most of the boys started feeding the calves when they were about 6 years old.  Within months, I could see that this responsibility had a very positive effect. Having a chore that needs to be done twice a day at a specific time, rain or shine, cold or hot, whether we had guests or not, regardless of their desire to feed the calves by the appointed time, had a way of maturing them in all of life. This responsibility taught them that they could do a job in spite of their feelings. So you don’t live on a farm?  Then get creative-assign a child to prepare breakfast or dinner everyday, have them do a quick bathroom cleanup every morning before breakfast, run a paper route, or buy chickens or calves to feed.  Before we milked cows, we bought some calves and chickens for the sole purpose to provide work for our young children (6-7 yrs old).  We never actually kept good records but I am quite sure we lost money on these “projects” but that didn’t matter.  If need be, I would volunteer my children to mow an elderly person’s yard or remove the snow from their sidewalk for free just so they would have some work to do.  You could also turn your garage into a small mechanic shop or woodworking shop.  By all means, plant a garden!  This is an excellent way to teach your children the rewards of hard work.  Is there anything sweeter than a cherry tomato picked fresh from your own garden?  BTW, you don’t have to live on an acreage to have a garden.  Make a raised bed, plant vegetables in your landscaping, and put potted vegetable plants on your porch or patio. (There will be a separate post on the joys of gardening.)
  3. Teach them to work without pay.  We have never given our children an allowance.(GASP!) BTW, one of sons just added his definition of an allowance-”Allowing your child to be lazy”.  And I didn’t even ask for that!!  We will not judge you if you give your children an allowance; this is simply the way we raised our 10 children.   So everyday chores such as cooking, laundry, cleaning, garden work, feeding calves, etc. were always done without pay.  We did, however; offer them additional work for a small or sometimes larger monetary reward.  At our house this might be loading out hogs (not for the faint at heart!), doing the early morning  milking (4:00 a.m.), trapping mice (what a nice relief for a mother who doesn’t enjoy living with mice or removing their dead bodies), painting a fence, doing an extraordinarily nasty cleaning job, digging thistles or dandelions, and more. 
  4. Reward work.  While this may seem like a contradiction to the previous point, it isn’t. Actually, my children told me this is something that helped them learn to enjoy work.  On a hot, summer day I might tell them that I will set up the sprinkler after they weed and mulch the potatoes.  Or I will give them a list of garden chores to do on a Monday and Tuesday then take them swimming on Wednesday. We have also watched a movie while folding laundry or listened to a story on cd while making salsa or canning pears. Let them learn that there are rewards for a job well done. 
  5. If they complain about not liking a job, be sure they know that the job will be their responsibility until they can do it cheerfully on a daily/weekly basis.  An example of that is Allison who used to dislike dusting in particular and cleaning in general.  In spite of her aversion to this chore, she was assigned weekly cleaning jobs which stayed the same for many years.  She will tell you that now she finds fulfillment in completing even difficult and some rather disagreeable jobs that she has encountered as an adult. We have had different jobs given to our younger children like clearing the dishwasher, taking out a bucket of scraps to the compost pile, and setting the table.  I have assured them that the chore will not be given to a younger sibling until they can consistently do it cheerfully.  Many times I have seen a 6 year old begin to find joy in a simple job which was done day after day.
  6. Promise them that there will be many times in life that they will have to do something they don’t like to do. Does anyone need further explanation on this?
  7. Remind them, when necessary, of the verse “He who eats must work”.  Be creative in how you apply this verse to real life situations.  A son told me that he thinks this was the first verse he learned!  I thought it was Psalm 23.  At the very least, you can make a child go without desert.

We have an entire generation that at best works only to receive wages and at the worst, is content to pick up their monthly welfare check. Teach your children to find a career in serving others through their daily work whether it be milking cows, being a Dr., doing janitorial work, serving as a politician, going to another country to be a missionary, being a mechanic, teaching school, or becoming the president of a company.  Every job should be seen as a way to glorify God and to serve others while earning a paycheck.

I also believe that a person who has been taught the value of money through hard work, will be more likely to be a good steward of their finances.

So get started today!  Be blessed with the fruit of your labors as you teach your children the rewards of a job well done.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for the encouraging words! I am a mother of 5, 7 years to 1 year old. I was sharing with someone recently that I wanted to garden and get some animals to "create" more work for my children because I want them to learn to work hard and learn responsibility. My idea was met with a reasonable amount of hostility. This post really encouraged me! It is nice to hear from a mother of older children that I might be on the right track. Thank you!

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  2. Thanks for this post! It rings so true! We taught our children in precisely the same way! The Lord gives direction and wisdom when we ask for it; we don't need to read a lot of books to teach the basics in this area. However, when a good work ethic has not been instilled for a generation or more it cannot be taught as easily, so it's great for them to have posts like this to read. Yes, creativity is definitely needed but it can be done. Oh, and we never paid our children any allowance, either; they needed to learn that work simply comes with being a part of a family - and that it's a privilege! They have not been scarred because of it, believe you me! Our youngest has now reached adulthood and it's been amazing how through even our children's teen years they would often mention how their friends did not have to do any work at home - not even make their own bed. How sad. Plus, our children have always been extremely disappointed with the realization, when at their first job, they observed how very much many grownups were slackers at their job. Work must be taught in order to produce solid, upright citizens.

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  3. That was very neat. Even though I am not an adult, that helped me realize the importance of hard and being a good example while doing it. Thank you Mrs. Bontrager!
    Laura B.

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  4. This reminds me so much of my growing up years! Even now, at 32, my mom's reminder still echoes in my head when I see something that needs done & I really don't want to do it: "If not me, who? If not now, when?" :-) Thank you for your good advice!

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  5. Thank you for such a thoughtful and encouraging post. I'm not sure what you have planned for the future, but would you consider writing a few posts on teaching character and discipline? As a new mom it's so encouraging to read from families who can give advice in these areas. Thanks!

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  6. Thanks Mrs. Bontrager, I really enjoyed your post! I think it's a good reminder for anyone at any stage of life whether child, single adult, and those looking forward to having families of their own. Looking forward to the next of the series!=)

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  7. Whoever keeps up on the Facebook page needs to capitalize where needed and use proper English.

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  8. Englishfreak63..
    Its a fan page run by one of our fans apparently. We don't have anything to do with it. =)
    -the Bontragers

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  9. Aunt Becky,
    Thank you for these encouraging words! I have much to learn in the area of mothering, and I'm so thankful for Godly women like you in my life to learn from. I'm looking forward to more posts like this in the future. :)
    Love,
    Marissa

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  10. Your post was so encouraging. When people find out I have 7 wonderful children, including 2 year old twins, and I homeschool, they often exclaim, "I just don't know how you do it all?!" I share with them that I don't do any of it alone....The Lord has equipped me for this and we all work together as a family!!

    We are praying and hoping to see you all at family camp again this year.

    Blessings,
    Maureen Werner

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  11. Becky, this is a marvelous post, and I look forward to more like it!! Our children learned to work hard in just the way you mentioned, without allowance or pay for routine jobs, and I have no regrets. We paired the children so they not only learned to work, but they bonded and are best friends who still enjoy working alongside each other and alongside us as parents. All the hard work of raising children this way yields wonderful rewards. Again, thanks so much for your good words.

    Colleen

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  12. Mrs. Bontrager,

    I know that it has been quite a while since this post, but I just wanted to say that I really appreciated it! I shared it with my mother and she enjoyed reading it as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I have been blessed to grow up in a home that values work...all of us siblings love to work! {and yes, we have used the "he who eats must work" verse around here too:)}

    Thank you much! Blessings, and see you soon<3
    Rachael

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