“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori
“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein
“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” – Mr. Rogers
I was intrigued by this statement I read in chapter 38 of The Christian Parenting Handbook:
Most children believe that their job description in life is to have fun. Parental instructions are an interruption to their lives, chores are an inconvenience, and work is to be avoided as much as possible. Parents often contribute to this thinking error by requiring little of their kids and encouraging them to play and have fun . . . The problem with that kind of thinking is that kids then resist anything that looks like work.
Why You Must Teach Your Child to Work Hard
Ben is 12 now, but he has had assigned chores since he was a little guy. Even at age 3, he could match up socks when we did laundry, or help fold small towels. Over the years, he has advanced to loading and unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, cooking simple meals, cleaning the bathroom, doing his own laundry, and yard work, including mowing the lawn.
The first question I’m often asked is, “Do you pay Ben an allowance for doing all of those chores?” The answer is no. We used to. But what we discovered is that the focus of completing the task was the money, not the satisfaction of doing good work. It has created a situation where Ben doesn’t work hard for the sake of working hard. So now, he does not get an allowance at all. Instead there is an expectation that as a member of our family, chores are required to help things run more smoothly.
That’s not to say that we never pay him for doing a job. There are times he earns money for completing a job we might otherwise have to hire out. Most of the time, he does get paid for mowing the lawn or doing extra yard work. That is something we would likely have to pay someone else to do if he didn’t do it. But folding laundry, cleaning the bathroom, or loading the dishwasher? No, we don’t pay him for that. He was as much a part of creating the need for those chores as the rest of us.
Our biggest issue has been that Ben hasn’t always done a good job with his chores. He hasn’t always worked hard and he cut corners at every opportunity. He was often in a hurry, distracted, and anxious to get back to whatever it was he wanted to do. This is a flaw in his character that needed attention.
I have found the above quote to be true — Ben saw (and still sometime does see) chores as an interruption to his calling in life –play. It has taken awhile for him to grasp the character value and internal reward of a job well done.
Learning to work hard provides as many (if not more) benefits as play.
In working hard, kids learn to submit to authority, be diligent and persevere. Not learning how to work hard creates children who have a sense of entitlement and laziness. There was a time when Ben just expected he could ask for something and it would be given to him. That has changed, and I have noticed that he has acquired quite a knack for initiative because of that change. Rather than come to us begging for something he really wants, he generally asks what he can do to earn it. I appreciate that this is a sign of progress for him.
For example, Ben literally spent the entire day one Saturday cleaning the kitchen floor. He had made an incredible mess in the kitchen during the week, and the floor was sticky and gross. What should have been a 30-minute job for him, turned into all day affair because he was cutting corners at every turn. So we kept sending him back in there until it was done. Eight hours later, he finally completed the task successfully. It was a crazy day, and it would have been so much easier to just clean the floor myself. But Ben learned a valuable lesson — you cannot cut corners in life and get away with it. He may have also learned to be more careful about making messes to begin with. Let’s hope that one sticks. The boy is a mess-maker.
I was also interested that in the book, lying was correlated to lack of hard work in children. I have discussed the issue of lying in my series on ADHD Awareness. It never would have occurred to me that Ben’s habit of not working hard caused issues with lying, but it does make sense. This is good news. Hopefully, as we continue training him in working hard, he won’t feel the need to lie to us. If you need help in this area with your children, I offer some suggestions to deal with lying in this article: ADHD, Lying and Your Child’s Heart.
My hope in all of this is that Ben will learn to work hard in life. The Bible is clear that work=blessings. I pray for a very blessed life for my boy. But I also know that I, too, will have to work hard in training him to help that happen.
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! (Proverbs 6:6)
10 Days of Heart Parenting is a series God laid on my heart after I read the book, The Christian Parenting Handbook by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, R.N. Be sure to click over to read the other installments of this biblical parenting series.