Whenever the broom comes out, whenever the vacuum cleaner is going, or whenever daddy is out mowing the lawn (unless it is raining), our 22-month old daughter is right there wanting to help out as best as she can. Reflecting upon this, the question is begged – how young is too young to teach our children the nature of good work ethics? And, to what extent ought parents instill good work ethics in their children? Marysville Parenting Examiner would like to discuss these two questions.
According to a Better Homes and Garden eArticle, we find that when parent’s show their children how work contributes to the family’s well-being, children will be more positive about chores. In an eHowarticle, the author mentions that children today, as compared to children in pioneer times, are much different. This is due to the advancement and evolution of technology. Children in pioneer times contributed to the health and well-being of the family by being productive. Young girls learned how to iron, laundry, mend clothing, cook, clean, and even prepared wild game. Young men did the more demanding work, clearing the land, farming, tending to the sheep or cattle, helped and learned carpentry skills, built homes, repaired homes. Families in the pioneer times were solely self-sufficient and industries. Today, we have distractions of the television, computer, social networking, cell phones, and even video games. Families are also time constraint today with parents working full time, or one parent working full time while another is working part time and attending school.
Despite the time constraints demands facing families, the distractions that are part of our everyday lives, parents can still teach good solid work ethics to their children, and it is never too early to start instilling these work ethics. It only becomes more difficult the older the child is, especially if they are going from sedentary living style to working on chores.
Maria Hartwell-Walker, ED.D writes in her article Teaching a Work Ethic that parents come to her with the distress of fighting with their children on a constant basis, only to give into the entitlement of their children. Comparing these types of families with families who own and operate a farm, she notices the difference between hard working children and children who become lazy, selfish, and develop a sense of entitlement. Marie Hartwell-Walker further observes that … on the smaller farms, work is clearly valued, it is done routinely, by everyone, and the consequences for not doing it are obvious and clear. In other households, kids experience work as capriciously imposed by the big people and whether they do it or not has little observable consequences.
How then do we instill good work ethics? Marie Hartwell-Walker, among others, mention that we must teach our children the value of work. In other words, we must value the work that needs to be done instead of pushing them off onto our own children.
Create a Chore Chart with family involvement and suggestions
To teach a work ethic, parents need first to believe that doing the work required to maintain ourselves is a necessary, and even agreeable, way to spend part of every day. That mysterious and much-talked-about attribute called positive self-esteem is built on knowing how to take care of ourselves and how to do it well.
What this means is that if we as parents do not value the necessity of keeping a clean home, taking care of our possessions, and having a sense of pride when we accomplish our daily duties (regardless if you are a stay at home parent or have a two-earner income), this teaches the more fundamental value in a child’s life. That value is much more than being able to take care of themselves, but taking pride in themselves and in who they are.
This is very true, because, even when the home is a mess and it feels like you are the only one doing most of the work to maintain the home, there is a sense of pride one takes in keeping a clean home. The challenge is not so much in cleaning up the messes; the challenge is maintaining the clean home once it is properly taken care of.
Walker further explains that once parents have their attitude in the right place, they can (or in the case of a single-parent home) begin by having a family meeting. In this meeting, it is suggested that parents (or parent) outline what needs to be done to maintain the household. One suggestion is to create a chore chart. There are many creative ways that this can be accomplished (which will be a forthcoming article) where the daily chores are listed. However the chore chart is created, one of the best ways to get the children involved is to have their input as what they feel should be done and how they can contribute to the family and maintenance of the home.
By including the children in the decision making process of developing a family chore chart, they become more interested in valuing the purpose of doing the necessary chores that there would not be murmuring, naggings, or sibling rivalry.
Going from list to action
One of the best supervisors is those supervisors who work alongside those they are in authority over. They are those individuals who are not sitting behind a desk demanding that workers perform in completing tasks. They are the supervisors who would never ask an employee to do something that they themselves would not do if called upon to do. Parents will do well if they implement this type of attitude and way of thinking. Walker observes that when parents are willing to work alongside with their children the children do not view their parents as an overbearing boss. For instance, Mother and daughter are doing the dishes together. This gives mother and daughter a chance to talk with one another, to bond with one another and discuss their days respectively. Father and son help by clearing the table, and then maybe getting the laundry taken care of. The latter will show the son the importance a husband takes his relationship with his wife and not finding laundry a despised chore, but one that is necessary to do. The father also teaches his son the importance of being self-reliant so that later in the son’s life, he is not bringing his laundry home for his aging mother to do because he himself is incapable of doing it.
When parents work with their children instead of sitting on the couch and demanding that the child perform their obligatory chores, teaches far more value and instill good work ethics that the children will carry over into their own lives. The children learn that it takes teamwork to maintain a clean home and not leaving all the chores to one person to do.
Building routine habits
It is stated that it takes twenty-one days to build a habit, whether it is good or bad, before it becomes routine. Work ethics is something that is not learned over night, or in a day. It is built upon by repetition and routine. Another way to think about this is simple tasks we do day in and day out that are part of our daily routine. We do not think about the necessity and obligatory personal hygiene. We know that we have to shower, brush our teeth, and take care of ourselves through proper hygiene. These simple tasks that contribute to our appearance and attitude toward ourselves shows how something goes from being an obligatory task to something that is done because we are accustomed to doing it.
Teaching our children to build strong work ethics is developed through consistent repetition. Having them make their beds every morning, which takes about five minutes out of their day, no longer becomes a constant nagging reminder and frustration. A child who learns to wake up and make their bed does so because it has become part of their daily routine. This applies to a child, or children, who work off a chore chart. They learn to do those things that they have been assigned to do. Dishes no longer become a dreaded chore and instead, becomes something to look forward to getting done so that one does not wake up to a stinky, cluttered, and dirty kitchen.
Our Children are just too busy to do chores with homework and sports
The only exception in our household is that homework comes before the chores. If there is no homework, then chores ought to be done. If there are no chores to be done, then the fun activities can be participated in. However, if we have over extended our child’s time where they are too busy to help out around the house, then that means they are too busy to spend time with the family as well. This is where parents ought to teach their children the important skill of time management and prioritizing certain tasks. Walker says it this way:
Please don’t make the mistake of relieving kids of all chores because they have homework, soccer, and violin practice. There will always be other things that seem more important to do than housework. Teach them how to balance their time, build in routines, and be contributing members of the family.
What Walker is suggesting here is that if we allow our children to use their activities as an excuse not to do their chores and contribute to the family then what we are ending up teaching our children is that when they get older, they will put work and other activities above the care and needs of their own family, expecting someone else to be their servants in maintaining their home for them. This is what we, as parents, do not want to teach our children. When we teach them to balance their time, to build in the routines, we are teaching them another valuable lesson in time management that will carry through into their own families and adult relationships, as well as in the workplace. They will not be indolent individuals that other employees complain about because they find ways to get out of doing the task they were hired to do.
Lay out the consequences – the good, the bad, and the ugly
The theory of relativity states that for every action, there is a reaction. For every cause, there is an effect. Simple laws of physics suggest that if you drop a ball off the empire state building, then the effect is that the ball will eventually hit the ground, or hit someone with great force of impact as to cause damage. Another way of looking at this is from gardening and farming perspective. What you sow today, one eventually will reap in the end. Meaning, if one does not maintain a clean home, the cause of this decision will be stench, bugs, and to some extreme situations, unhealthy living conditions. Yet, if one maintains a clean home, the effect of that would be a vibrant healthy place of living, a sense of pride, and a sense of stress free living.
Engaging our children and instilling solid work ethics, we teach them the fundamental attributes of the cause and effect. Teaching them to work hard, to be productive, to learn how to do something right the first time, and to build a routine in managing their time wisely, we are sowing the seeds that would soon sprout and come to fruition. Our children will grow in understanding that chores are not some dreaded task of slavery marshaled against them to do what their parents do not like doing, but that it is a necessary part of life that cannot be ignored. They learn to respect those in position of authority, they are willing to do the task when called upon doing it, and they are willing to do it with their best effort put forth, or learn to do something they have not done before.
By lying out, and encouraging the participation of the children in developing fair consequences will help develop greater harmony in completing the necessary chores. These do not have to be bad consequences. For instance, a good consequence is asking children if they would like to do a family outing. If everyone pitched in for the week in helping maintain the home so that there are no chores to be accomplished (except for maybe making the bed on Saturday Morning and helping with family breakfast and dishes) the family could go on an outing for that day. If the chores are not done until Saturday, then the family will have to spend all day Saturday working on cleaning the home. In some ways, this encourages productivity as well as a goal. It also establishes the consequences for the cause and effect. On the one hand, all chores are done the family can go on a family outing, if the chores are not done, then the family has to stay inside and spend the day cleaning together.
Now, this is not saying that spending the day, as a family cleaning the home is a bad consequence, it merely suggests what will happen if no one pitches in to help out during the week. Maybe there is a family project that needs to be done around the house that requires the family to pull together (i.e., develop and build a family vegetable garden, father and son building a deck, or re-roofing the home). Walker states that consequences ought to be established, and having the children’s input will help greatly in establishing the good, bad, and sometimes ugly consequences.
This sounds all good, but what about those who have step-children and those children go to another parents home where they get away with not having to do chores?
That is a very difficult battle. It places the parent who wants to help encourage good work ethics in his/her children against the other parent that simply does not care. For those parents who feel that their children should not have to do chores, what are the fruits of your own ability to care for the home? Do you have someone that takes care of you like a mother figure?
The best advice that can be offered in this type of situation is patience. Yes, it is very demanding and frustrating. Yes, there seems to be no end in sight. However, when the biological parent and stepparent can sit down and establish the ground rules and help out and work alongside with the child (or children), there is most likely a greater chance they will see that doing chores is not a taxing demand on their time. When they see the example that is being set, they are most likely inclined to help. However, the challenge may continue to persist.
If it persists, the best way to deal with it may require all parental figures involved to sit down in a neutral location and openly discuss the household expectations. If the other parent is still unwilling to respect and participate in developing good work ethics in the child (children), then the best thing is not allow one’s frustrations to overcome oneself. Never react out of your emotions. In this situation, it may be better to just ensure that it is done and express one’s frustrations in a positive manner during a family meeting.
For those parents in blended families, we will look at how instilling good work ethics can work in that specific situation. However, these suggestions do come from various sources are may or may not work in the dynamics of one’s family. These are merely general suggestions that have been found to work in most situations.
The most important value and attribute that parents can teach their children is a solid foundation of good work ethics. Parents ought to change their own way of thinking in how they approach the idealistic reality of chores, how to incorporate the value of work in the thought process of their children, work with their children instead of “bossing them from the couch”, and help children build a routine habit of doing chores, with the understanding of the consequences of doing chores. With that, what are your experiences as parents in helping children learn and value the attribute of good work ethics? Come share your thoughts on this or any other subject matter from the Marysville Parenting Examiner.
On the Ball Parenting: Parenting Kids to have strong work ethics
Shreveportimes: Teaching children good work ethics is important
Single Parent Spot: Teach your children to value hard work
LDS Blogger: Teaching Kids a Good Work Ethic