It’s not every day you get an education about raising diligent and cheerful kids by someone laying floors in your home, but today I did. Jim is not only a friend, but an incredible contractor, builder, and cabinet maker. If you can envision something, he can build it. Right now Jim is building an apartment in our basement for my parents, who have already moved in with us since their house sold quickly. And this week, during the day, we are watching grandsons, Blake, who is 3, and Cayden, who is 9 months. We always have a houseful. Today Blake was more than intrigued by all the construction and at first stood quietly in the doorway, watching the flooring go down. Before long though, Blake was in the room chattering away, asking questions about what they were doing. The workers are great guys, 2 are Jim's sons, and were more than happy to throw answers and questions right back at him. Then I heard Blake in another room. I went in and found Jim and Blake sitting on the floor figuring out how to start the flooring in that room. Jim had Blake handing him screws as he put down the first board. When they finished, Jim gave Blake the box of screws to carry as he said, “Come on Blake, we have work to do!” And Blake cheerfully trotted after him. Jim gets it.
And Disney gets it. Consider for a minute the words to "Whistle while you work..." or "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down..." The entire Disney empire was built on bringing us movies with themes and songs that lift our chins a little higher and help us face another day. Disney movies show us the reward received from hard work and teach us that the key to enjoying hard work is your attitude.
One of my greatest joys is being around young people who love to be creative, hard-working and know how to make chores enjoyable, even fun. Do you know any kids, or even any adults, like that? Like Jim, they are usually accomplishing something of worth, often singing, or with music playing. Even if they are doing the dishes or mowing the lawn, they are contributing to the household with a pleasant attitude. Every generation has to deal with training our children to have attitudes that will make or break our families, and ultimately our cities, nation and global society. I happen to like how Disney puts it. Just whistle while you work. And yes, I am aware it's simplistic and possibly naive, but, even in the midst of mindless, endless chores, we can always find something for which to be grateful. And we can choose to enjoy work. But how do we pass on this value to our children?
I have children who work hard and usually have great attitudes while working. So I've been pondering how they got that way. Yesterday a good friend stopped by our house to visit with her children, who are about the ages of my younger ones. I showed her around the house, all the construction, new dry wall and dust. She loved seeing it. And today she said, "There you were surrounded by your parents and kids, boxes in every room, everything in upheaval and yet you were cheerful and joyful." Her comment blessed me and is a key to raising kids who enjoy working. Attitude. It just cannot be stressed enough that our attitudes...how we CHOOSE to think about things, affects not just us, but everyone around us. And if we choose to enjoy work, our children, most likely, will too. At least eventually.
Another way to help pass on this value is to work alongside your children while you are working hard. And maintaining that great attitude while you're at it. I remember my youngest, Lydia, coming to me around the age of 2, crying and dragging the central vacuum hose behind her, saying, "I need your help mommy...I can't do it." I asked her why she was trying to vacuum. She said Katy (who was about 5 or 6 at the time) had told her to. So I asked Katy why she had told Lydia to vacuum and she said, Isaac had told her to. Yes, it went all the way to the top. I had asked Tim who was 14, or possibly Jonathan who would have been about 18, to vacuum the upstairs. He told (actually "delegated" would be the word he used) Rachel to vacuum, Rachel told Grace, Grace told Isaac...you get the picture.
I realized my kids were great at delegating...because I spent my time delegating chores to them. I reminded them they need to do the jobs I give them and not delegate them away. So I gave us all jobs upstairs and we all went to work together. I worked alongside them. I have to say I was usually pretty consistent in working with my young children but as they got older I would give them jobs and I wouldn't stay with them. When I didn't follow up or inspect, they would cut corners or delegate the job to a younger sibling. Then I would take a deep breath (far too often after losing my cool and yelling at everyone) and do my best to work with them for awhile, training and giving feedback. I wanted to show them work is a part of life and when you get the work done, you can enjoy the fruit of your labors. Of course, they would say we never got the work done, but if you make a reasonable list for the day, you really can finish the list. Key word: reasonable. 'Nuff said. Precious little feels better than checking off all the items on your To Do list and knowing you did a good job. Teach this to your kids. They will thank you.
A final thought on helping foster a love of working in your children is to speak encouragingly to your kids and others when they are working hard. If we are spitting tacks the whole time, nobody will enjoy it. If I complain and grumble, guess what? I hear everyone around me complaining and grumbling. But Jim understands this principle, and showed enjoyment of his work to Blake and Blake immediately picked up on it. If I make a point to enjoy the sunshine, the birds or beauty of the mountains when working outside, or if I remember my grandmother when dusting her sideboard, and tell my kids stories about her, we are all blessed. Make a conscious effort to say positive things to those who are working. And finally, thank them and point out specific things you notice they've done particularly well. Everyone appreciates being appreciated.
So if you want your kids to value hard work:
1. Have a good attitude
2. Work alongside your kids
3. Speak words of encouragement
4. Thank them verbally and specifically
I would love to start a discussion on how you help your kids enjoy working.
Please post your thoughts below in the COMMENTS section. Thanks!
Article by Ruth Grunstra
All Rights Reserved
Hi I'm Ruth
What is the biggest challenge you are facing with your child? My husband and I had the first of our 8 children in 1984 and our youngest in 2002. We've been married since 1980 and we are always learning new ways to engage our children. We would love to hear from you. Contact us and let us know what you have found that works and what doesn't, or ask me a question.
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