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The Plan. After being a parent for over 24 years I wanted to assess and evaluate what worked and what didn’t when it came to teaching my children how to work in the family. I have long wondered why my children were so willing under some circumstances and uncooperative under others, and while I had a pretty good idea to the answers, a more refined definition was what I desired. I was motivated and intrigued by chapter 13 in Dollahite’s “Strengthening our Families” and decided to do further research regarding this subject.
I didn’t develop a love of hard work until I was a young mother in the late 70’s and was struggling to maintain my perfectionistic tendencies. I had the unrealistic expectation that I could maintain a tidy household continually and became compulsive about cleaning up after my children. This was not all bad. It gave me a real sense of satisfaction to view my efforts and I felt that my house was “next to Godliness” as it were. However, reality hit and I came to realize that a perfect house did not allow us to have a spiritual home and I changed the method to my madness by adopting a set of more realistic expectations that my young family could live with.
The Proclamation on the Family teaches, “Successful marriages are established and maintained on principles of … work…” President Hinkley stated, “Families working together are part of the antidote for societies worst ills”. We can deduct from these statements that family work is sure to bless our lives and when we understand that it is given to bring us together we also see that it has divine promise. We must “kneel humbly before our creator and admit that we lack wisdom to find our way” (Dollahite, 183). As we pray for guidance we will come to realize that our homes can’t be run like a business where “money guides much of our thinking” (184). Our goals need to help children recognize and respond to need and teach them to share responsibility with the rest of the family (186). When we see the spiritual purpose in our work, we begin to see what the Lord had in mind when he told Adam and Eve they would labor by the sweat of their brow all the days of their lives.
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What is it that makes work a joy or drudgery? If we are to experience the real blessings promised, we can’t just go to work. We have to plan and execute so our families will experience the desired outcome and our homes will be just that, homes and not just houses.
While society has attempted feverishly to reduce the workload by way of modern technology, it has in fact only changed the mode of work and given us a different challenge. Instead of naturally assuming the day’s responsibilities of taking care of business, we are straddled with forced creativity in thinking up appropriate chores for our children.
Teens are working to buy the things of the world and now we are faced with a different problem: are they working too much? “Adolescents love to make money, but those who work more than 20 hours a week seem to suffer substantial costs. Their grades are lower, their investment in pro-social activities decreases and their experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex increases” (Garbarino, 108).
Children need to be able to see that what they do is important. This will teach them a moral standard and they will take pride in the results (Scoresby, 213). Our standards of work for our children can teach independence, thoroughness, dependability and responsibility (212).
There were certain things about family work that I detested when I was growing up and I’ve tried hard not to require my children to do the same things. When tasks were assigned in the yard it brought groans and moans from my siblings and myself because we could not see an end to the chore. We knew it meant we would be at it all day. Hope was destroyed and we had nothing to look forward to. We didn’t have the same appreciation for a beautiful garden that my parents did. When establishing new landscaping they thought more was better and my Dad thought weeding was more desirable than mowing grass so we had acres of flowerbeds to maintain. My Dad’s attitude was, “I make the living, the least you can do is to keep up the yard.”
Consequently, I felt a great urgency to work with my children not only to keep them company, but to teach them proper procedure, responsibility, and to keep them from escaping before the job was completed.
My own children have become well adjusted to family work and have good attitudes about helping. We still have some whining like any household, but they have expressed appreciation for the way we do things as they observe what goes on in friend’s homes. I recently overheard my 15-year-old son talking about the cousins and how it took Molly all night to clean up the dinner dishes. “I’m sure glad we all help at our house. I would hate to have to do all the dishes by myself. That would be depressing!”
Some “Tried and True Methods” we’ve used successfully are as follows:
Plan ahead. Let the children know when and what will be needed. Encourage them to make plans for the free time they will have when the work in completed. Suggest they invite friends over or make plans to go do activities with them so they have it to anticipate.
Work with the children. Kids hate to be sent to do jobs. They will respond more readily it they see they have someone to share the responsibility with. Play their music. Use it as a time to let them talk. Make it a game and be cheerful.
Give them some control. Let them decide how and take turns making assignments to the others. Being in charge will teach them about managing tasks and give them a learning experience.
Make the jobs small enough that they can see the end. They need the hope of finishing and they need to be able to see it as doable. Let them tell you how the job should be done instead of constantly giving instruction. They are smarter than we give them credit for and probably already know what you expect.
Work often instead of long. A small flowerbed weeded weekly takes just a few minutes and teaches them about being conscientious. It also teaches the value of not procrastinating. What could end up as a big job over time, is a small job when attended to often.
If everyone makes a mess, everyone cleans up. With meals, many hands make light work. We all want to be free to leave the kitchen when they meal is over. If everyone cleans up we all leave sooner – a lot sooner! While the entire family is at the table assign tasks and start together. Make sure cleanup is thorough so they will know what your definition of a clean kitchen is. Let the kids take turns being in charge and doing the final inspections.
Assign tasks instead of time allotments. This will give them the option of working quickly to finish sooner and also to work smart so they won’t waste time and have to go back to redo the task.
In a society that focuses on play and entertainment, we have to be intent on teaching our children the value of work so they won’t miss the blessings of increased self worth, being an important part of a family and a productive member of society (Perry, 112). I see now that our success as a family has come from recognizing the drudgeries of my own childhood and then acting as a transitional character (Dollahite, 137), to change those things with my own children. The results, although not perfect, have been positive and after speaking to my children I’ve found their memories to be pleasant. For that I’m very grateful – for that I am blessed!
Dollahite, D.C. (2000). Strengthening Our Families. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft
Garbarino, J. (1995) Raising Children In A Socially Toxic Environment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.
Scoresby, A.L. (1989). Bringing Up Moral Children. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.
Perry, L.T. (2000). The Arms of His Love. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft