By Pat Lamb.
There is dignity in hard work. There is an inner joy that can be obtained no other way than simply straining to do a job well and then knowing the satisfaction of having done just that. The work ethic is missing in many places in our country. We desperately need to teach our children not only the pleasure found in doing hard work, but the responsibility that each of us has to contribute to the betterment of the situations in which we find ourselves. How to accomplish this task is a real challenge, but it can be done.
We must start when children are very young-- even as early as toddler age-- teaching the value of hard work. When a toddler picks up a toy and puts it away, that toddler needs to be praised. As mommy and daddy help the young child pick up all toys and put them away, the parents can talk about how nice it is to have a clean room and how good it feels to see how pretty everything looks when toys are put away in the right places. Even a young toddler notices how hard mommy and daddy work and at this age, they want to help. Little children like to help hold the vacuum cleaner with parents and even try to sweep the floor. Parents need to capitalize on this interest and let children help as much as possible.
As children leave the toddler stage, chores need to be assigned and children need to be made to understand that they have a role to play in keeping the household running smoothly. At all ages, children need to have responsibilities and be held to those responsibilities. To yell at children and force them to do things beyond their ability will simply make them hate to work. Keeping chores assigned commensurate with their ability and expressing satisfaction at jobs well done, will go a long way toward helping them experience pleasure in work.
Too much praise for normal expectations of a child is not good. There are some things in life we need to do whether we receive praise or not. Too much praise may cause a child to think that they don’t have to do something unless they receive a reward. Also, in my opinion money should not be given to do regular chores. Children have a responsibility to do their part without pay. It is good to give an allowance simply to teach a child to plan and make purchases wisely for needs and wants, but not for doing things that they should do as their responsibility in the home.
I know a personnel manager of a company who told me that he loved to recruit from College of the Ozarks because those kids had a work ethic that was better than students at other places where he recruited. In the past, this part of the country has been known for its work ethic. If our children are to not only succeed, but perhaps even survive in the future, they are going to have to know how to work. It is a good idea to talk to children before they go back to school this fall and tell them how important it is for them to work hard at their school work and learn all they can to prepare themselves for their future.
Ideally, a child will learn to “pitch in” and help any time help is needed anywhere when s/he is able. To let children go for years just having fun with no responsibilities, and then when they are grown expect them to suddenly change and be responsible, simply doesn’t make sense. Children must be required to work and be responsible in order to learn responsibility. It isn’t automatic!