During our Money Series, we talked about how the gospel shapes us into men and women who faithfully live out our calling – that we are hard workers. During the sermon, we talked about how parents must teach their children to be hard workers. If we don’t do this, we cripple our kids. In response to that message, we asked Scott and Lenora Crabtree to offer some insight into how to do this well. This is their “guest post.”
Teaching Kids About Working Hard
- Set the example (This is the most important part!)
This isn’t about dad watching the ball game while Johnny and Sally clean out the garage, wash the car, cut the grass and do the laundry. Do your part. Conduct yourself in a way that deserves the respect and honor the Word has directed your children to display.
Building a house, managing a garden, raising animals, etc., while incredibly stressful, created awesome opportunities for the boys to get to see and participate in family projects from start to finish! Kids need to see and understand the labor that goes in to these kinds of projects. Our homes and yards can provide opportunities for children to help with meaningful projects that have visible results.
- Provide the training.
There is a right (or better) way to perform a task and a wrong way to perform a task. No one sets out to fail, at least not in the beginning. Make sure the instructions are clear, the task is age/ability appropriate, and most importantly, your young charge understands your expectations.
- In the beginning, be flexible. Take the long view.
The goal is not have the best 12-year-old grass cutter in the nation, or a child prodigy window washer. They will mess up, cut corners, avoid the hardest parts, and blame others (just like I did). We should expect that and not loose it when it happens. But, they also did sections well, (even if they were minute sections) and a spoon full of sugar is always better received than a spoon full of vinegar. So praise the successes, and consistently and supportively address the shortcomings. This is a great time to work alongside them and demonstrate how it should be done (see the first step) Learning a task takes time. Continuous improvement is the key, not the shortest time to mastery.
The goal is to gain an appreciation for, and pride in, one’s own accomplishments (work). If your child thinks he/she is a child prodigy window washer, or the best 12-year-old grass cutter in the nation, (and the windows and lawn do, in fact, look good), you’re on the right track.
In the beginning choose tasks with a high success rate (go get the mail, put your dishes in the sink, etc.) and praise for a job well done.
As they got older, I knew they needed to be a part of the process. Eventually, after a lot of trial and error, God gave us a plan that worked for several years. Each boy had a daily job and a weekly job that they kept for a month. Daily jobs—load dishes, unload dishes, trash. Weekly jobs—dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms. This plan reduced a lot of questions like, “why do I have to do that again?” Weekly jobs had to be done before weekend activities!
- Establish a ‘culture of praise’ in your home. ‘Thank you for cleaning the floor in your bedroom’ (even after request number 32), even if it is not always well received.
- Hold them accountable (This is where the fun begins!)
Once you know they can perform the task appropriately, they heard the direction, and they understand the expectation, but they have chosen not to meet the standard, it’s time for correction.
The discipline needs to be quick, consistent and memorable. Making threats, discussing with the offender why they keep making bad choices, or justifying to yourself, or worse, blaming yourself for the wrong choices they make, are all forks in the road long since past. You just can’t go there.
Also, what works well in disciplining one child may not work for another. One of our sons said, “I was one that would always prefer a spanking. It’s quick, recoverable, but in my case, forgettable. Taking away a privilege, like grounding (can’t go out of the yard for a week), was the end of the world as I knew it.” Our three sons are very different, and while we responded to the offense quickly, consistently, and memorably, what worked with one did not always work with the others.
Most importantly, our real struggle to get this right involved much prayer, patience and discernment. I’m confident that the Lord honored at least our heart and desire with what we obviously feel are three incredible young men.