We all agree that children play. We all agree that adults work. So, how do we get from one to the other? It’s a process. Through their growing up years, children start out with mostly play. As the years go by, the playtime decreases, and the work time increases, until adulthood, when the bulk of our waking hours are spent working. How do we find that balance? What is appropriate for each age? Let’s consider several factors.
First, learning takes place in a progressive, incremental manner. Work is learned over time and with practice. If we parents do all the work around the house and require none from our children, and if the only work they do is at school, there will be two results. When they enter the work world at sixteen or eighteen or twenty-two years of age, they will lack many basic skills, such as cleaning up their own messes, preparing food, and fixing things. Furthermore, they will expect others to do menial tasks for them. If they get married, they will be in for a shock—or their spouse will be! They won’t be equipped to either support or run a household.
On the contrary, we are to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). An age-old axiom is, “Give me a child for the first seven years, and I will give you the man.” The most important learning takes place in those early years. Foundational skills, like communicating and interacting with others, personal hygiene, manners, and basic physics of how things work together, are learned. If life is mostly play and little work, children will be upset when the time comes when they have to do “real work” like washing walls and cleaning the garage. It is much better to have work be a part of their very earliest memories so that it is built in their minds that work is part of life.
Farm kids are proof that work is good for kids. They learn how to care for animals, grow and harvest food, fix equipment, and buy and sell their products. Beyond that, they build habits of perseverance, diligence, concentration, and working for a goal. Those habits are just as important as the specific skills themselves because they can be applied to any situation. If a child learns to problem solve next to his father while fixing a lawn mower, he may apply that quality to his job as an engineer as an adult. We can’t all be farm kids, but if your child has an opportunity for a weekend or summer job on the farm, go for it! It will be great for them. Proverbs 10:5 describes the farm boy, but it can be applied to any child: “He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.
Friends of ours own a flower business. They began years ago in their garage, and they’ve always worked hard for long hours. Their greatest challenge today is finding reliable employees who will consistently put in an honest and wholehearted day’s labor and who won’t try to weasel out of work while complaining about wages and benefits.
Let’s challenge ourselves to raise our children to be good workers someday. To do that, we must start now. Let’s embark on this adventure!”
Teach Them to Work: Building a Positive Work Ethic in Our Children