Managing Children and Their
The "Why" and "How" of Putting Your Kids to Work
by Cynthia Carrier
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We are blessed to have children
who contribute in a very measurable way to the smooth functioning of our home. That's important when you have a
family as large as ours. We are also blessed to see the generally great attitudes that our children have toward
their daily jobs.
However, these things didn't just "happen." We, as
parents, had to train and encourage our children in this area, just as in every other area of their growth and
Why put your children to work? Well, besides the
fact that it is helpful for the management of the home in the short-term, think of the long-term benefits. What are
we raising our children to do? Well, hopefully, to WORK. As adults, that is our lot in life! Yes, we want our
children to enjoy their childhood, but we also have to prepare them for wage-earning adulthood. That starts at a
very early age as we encourage the children to learn new tasks and contribute to the cleanliness of the home. If
you give your children an allowance or payment for chores, this allows them to learn money management skills early
in life, as well.
Working together as a family, with each member doing
his or her part, also brings a sense of comaraderie. While playing together has its place (and its merits), our
work gives us a common goal that really promotes team-building.
How do you put your children to work--especially if
you haven't started at a young enough age when children are most receptive to this type of training? Well, just do
it! Sounds simple, but let's think about some of the things that may help with this.
You have probably heard the expression, "The
apples don't fall far from the tree." It's a well-known saying because it's true! So if you want your children to
work diligently and have good attitudes toward their work, first you have to look in the mirror. Dads, do you come
home and complain about your boss or talk about incidents at work in a negative ligt? Moms, do you drag your feet
about keeping up with the house, or make comments like, "All I ever do is clean up after everyone else!"
Unfortunately, we most often see our weaknesses as parents manifested in our children, rather than our
strengths--so think about what you are saying and doing as you go about your work and be willing to make any
changes that may be necessary if you want to encourage your children to make progress in this
Once that important step has been tended to, then
you can get to the more practical implementation. First, TRAIN your children properly in how to do any of the
chores you will assign to them. This is key to experiencing success in this area. How would you feel if you were
asked to do something but were not given the tools you needed, or the necessary instruction to make sure you knew
how to do it properly? It would certainly be frustrating. So, no matt er how much
of an effort it is, or how difficult it seems for you as a parent to invest the time in training--think of what a
pay-off there will be once you do the initial work that is required!
Start small children on small jobs. As soon as they
can play with toys, they are old enough to pick them up. Even before our children can walk, we will bring the toy
basket over to them and encourage them to "clean up" and put the toys in the basket when they are done playing.
When I change a toddler's diaper, she can throw it in the garbage. When I get her dressed, she can put her dirty
clothes in the laundry. As young as 18 months, our children are helping their older siblings to unload the
dishwasher (we keep all our dishes in a low and easily-accessible cabinet so that this task is easily done by even
the littlest ones!). When it is time to get ready to go somewhere, they can bring their shoes to Mom to be put
on. They can throw things in the garbage as others go about with housekeeping chores. Every toddler loves to walk
around with a broom, imagining that she is "helping"--so capitalize on this early imitation to encourage a love of
work. Even if it is not particularly helpful at first, it is still instilling a positive lesson in your
As children age, provide them with more challenging
jobs. Try to mix it up a little so they are not always doing the same things. Our four-year-old recently was going
through a really "whiny" phase and we decided to try to encourage her to do more "big girl" things. She was quickly
trained on cleaning the bathroom sink and toilet and in changing her little sister's diaper. Doing these different
tasks--ones normally done by her older siblings--really helped her to show a little more
Let's face it, we don't all enjoy our work all the
time! So if your children balk at one job in particular, perhaps have a sibling help them so they can enjoy some
conversation while the work is getting done. Or, allow siblings to trade jobs with one another (as long as they can
properly agree on this). I try to put on some uplifting music during morning chore time, as well. This is also a
good time for you, as a parent, to praise sincere effort and encourage the children to "work as for the Lord,"
(Colossians 3:22 -24) to stay diligent and do their best work (Proverbs 10:4), and to praise
God for...all the things that are praiseworthy (even if the job at hand isn't!--see Philippians
Our favorite rule at "job time" comes straight from
Second Thessalonians 3:10 (NIV): "'If a man will not work, he shall not eat'"--even our 2 year-old
can quote this verse! We don't eat breakfast (or snack, or dinner...whatever the next "meal" is) until everyone
does their jobs. And when one child is done, he is expected to go help his siblings to finish
up their work. Of course, if some are lagging in their duties, then they are on their own. The rest of us
will eat without them. They can come to the table when they are done--and sometimes, by then, their meal is cold
and not quite as palatable. This doesn't happen very often, but it does happen, and it is a powerful natural consequence.
What if the children complain? Well, we try not to take it too
personally. We all feel that way sometimes! But, it is a good opportunity to encourage an attitude of praise.
Remind them of what is praiseworthy. Remind them that you are just doing your best as a parent to prepare them
for a lifetime of work. Provide them with alternating periods of work and play or rest. A few minutes of relaxation
on the couch, a read-aloud together, some free-play time, or just an enjoyable meal, can all be a reward for a job
well done. Make sure to build blessings into the completion of work. Sometimes, when I see a child have a
particularly good attitude toward his work, or if she is trying hard to do a thorough job, I will surprise them by
offering them a little treat like a small candy or something. This goes a long way in encouraging children in their
chores. But of course, words of praise are often times the best reward.
It is important, too, that you are working along
side of your children. Although you may not be doing the same job at the same time, if the children are doing
chores, you should be busy, too, Mom! While sometimes I might want to use that time to tend to personal
matt ers, it is a good example to the children if we all engage in productive
tasks together and work together to put our home in order. If the children complain about being asked to do
something, I will gently point out what "I" am doing, and remind them that sometimes we all need to help each
other. Usually they are quick to acknowledge this fact and are almost always willing helpers. On the other hand,
what kind of example is it if I am asking the children to do something simply for my convenience or because I
am too "lazy" to do it myself? Then they will feel "used," and rightly so. It is good for them to learn to
serve, but they shouldn't be made to be slaves! Chores that contribute to home management should be considered as
"team-building" activities for the whole family.
You may find it helpful to post a family chore chart
or other organizational tool so that everyone knows what they are expected to do each day. This really reduces
stress for mom, particularly when there are lots of children in the house. It also may help to post a "clean room"
checklist in a prominent location so that children can refer to the list to make sure they have done all the
necessary steps for each task. When Mom does a "quality control check," there are usually fewer things to correct
if children have pre-emptive reminders in place.
Copyright © 2008-2011, Cynthia
A comprehensive, easy-to-read-and-apply parenting
Chores: A multimedia tutorial by a kid,
Cynthia Carrier is the homeschooling mom of seven children and author of The Growing Homeschool: Integrating
Babies and Toddlers into Your Already Busy Schedule and the children's character training coloring book,
Growing to be Like Jesus. She also has written, with her husband, Marc, The Values-Driven Family: A
Proactive Plan for Successful Biblical Parenting and Values-Driven Discipleship: Biblical Instruction and
Character Training Manual. She has been a popular speaker at homeschool conventions and events.
The focus of Marc and Cindy's "Values-Driven" ministry is to encourage and equip Christian families to make the
most of every opportunity: that is, to serve God, participate in fulfilling the Great Commission, and raise
children who love and serve the Lord. For more information about their resources, for fresh inspiration on your
family journey, or to find practical helps-including dozens of FREE DOWNLOADS-visit http://www.ValuesDrivenFamily.com.