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Help Your Child Enjoy Working: Money Isn't Everything!

A solid work ethic offers a lifetime of benefits for the child that has it instilled in them. The ability to work hard and persevere is more likely to help your child succeed than their talent or connections or good looks. Work also brings joy and a sense of purpose and belonging...children can learn to enjoy working. Read on and be encouraged.

My work ethic must have, somewhere in my youth, experienced a laboratory accident that injected it with steroids, hyperactivity, and lots of caffeine. I am, if nothing else, a hard worker. My childhood instilled this in me. I come from a long line of people with an obsessive work ethic passed on from our Puritan ancestors. We are kind of like army ants... or carpenter bees. Build we must. This work ethic, while having a few drawbacks, has had the biggest impact on my ability to achieve and succeed. Far more than any credential, my desire to work hard has kept my life full of purpose and intention.

Having said all that, I am certainly a strong proponent of play. Especially for children. They learn best as they play and it is vital that we all take time for simple fun. It is important to allow children free access to open ended toys that fuel their development and keep their minds and bodies growing. A balance of work and play is essential for joy, mental health, and strong relationships. Play is good for the human spirit.

Maria Montessori, (1870-1952) the famous Italian physician and early childhood educator was well known for her innovative method of using play as a teaching tool. Fred Rogers (1928-2003) often said, "Play is the work of childhood." Genuine experts across time all agree that we need play in our lives.

So what happens when it is time to learn how to work? In other words, how can we help our children have a good attitude when it is time to learn to do essential tasks that are not necessarily fun or life giving? How can we encourage our elementary aged children to, for example, clean up after the dog or unload the dishwasher or work out the word problem for tomorrow's math lesson? These are just a few of many uninspiring chores that we must simply learn to bear up and do even when we don't want to.

Of course there is always the time honored method of yelling, issuing threats, hitting your child, getting frustrated and angry and, in general, making everyone miserable over a few toys on the floor. But in your Harbor Home, it is better to look for ways to accomplish things without creating this level of negativity.

The problem with these negative techniques is that they actually can be effective in the short term, but the cost can be diminished long term relationships and the loss of an affirming atmosphere in your home. Let's try other ways.

So what can we do? Here are a few tips that will help you show your child (and maybe teach yourself) that the privilege of work is a gift from God and that being a valuable part of a community and family requires everyone to step up and do what must be done.

  1. Work Together: As your child is learning to do less than inspiring tasks, work beside them. Talk about what you are doing and why. Openly admit that it isn't much fun but that it is essential. Then find a way to pass the time by singing or telling stories or listening to upbeat music. Once you have worked with them several times at a particular task, you can let them fly solo on it. Remind them how important it is and how valuable they are to the whole group when they do these things.

  2. Set A Time Limit: Perhaps set a timer. I am always amazed at how much work can be accomplished in thirty minutes. When a child realizes that there is an exit plan, they are more willing to engage in a yucky chore. Assure them that when the work is done they are free to do other things, but put a quality control element to it. Make sure they understand that a job done sloppily will have to be done again.

  3. No One Left Behind: If two or more people are working together to accomplish a task, the firmly stated rule is that no one is allowed to leave the field of battle until the chore is complete. This keeps one person from being left alone finishing up their share as another rushes through and then runs off. This is the iron clad rule: no one is left behind to finish a group chore alone. Help each other and work together.

  4. High Fives All Around Once the drudgery is done, no matter how inconsequential it seems, congratulate the workers on a job well done. Be specific in your praise. Notice what was done well and mention it. Reiterate how well you understand the undesirable aspect of doing the chore but restate the importance of it. Inspiration is a far more effective tool than nagging or berating if the goal is a strong work ethic.

Sometimes a routine task done together becomes a treasured memory. My sweet sister in law loves to wash dishes by hand because she did it with her grandmother as a child. It is a comforting chore for her. Perhaps you and your child are forming a bond through doing chores together and you don't even know it. Make working a positive thing. It adds joy to your life and theirs.

Philippians 2:14 "Do everything without complaining or arguing". What a great way to live in your Harbor Home.

Question: What chores can you transform this week into bonding experiences?

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