Saturday, August 28, 2010

Work: Teaching your children to work

When children are young, they naturally want to do things themselves, things that in future years may be called chores or work, are an exciting adventure in developing self-efficacy for younger children. There is an old adage that says; “it’s a lazy parent that does everything for their child.” One of the reasons for this is when children are young, and they want to do for themselves, it’s quicker and easier to do it for them. If it’s safe, let children do thing on their own and/or with help. Spend the time it takes and point out how much better the carpet looks after the vacuum has moved across a dirty spot. Praise them and point out, “look what you did. You cleaned it up.” If they did it all by themselves, even with some coaching, add, “all by yourself.” (Read more about self-efficacy under “Self-Efficacy” and “Stress.”)

As children grow older and you have developmentally appropriate expectations of them to complete chores around the house, you may want to use something like a chore chart. There are lots of different kinds:

We used a lot of different chore charts, partially for variety and partially to better fit the needs of our family. One of the things we did, which was somewhat unusual was a bidding system for jobs. Everyone had a certain number of jobs they had to do during the week and at the end of the day on Saturday someone would go through the house and give points according to how well jobs had been done. We could all (including the parents and the older children also got a turn at giving out the points for jobs, except their own) then bid on the jobs we wanted to do the next week. For a while this gave extra incentive to do a really good job. Another someone unique approach we took was the Gobble Monster. We didn’t usually have an allowance. Money was earned for doing extra jobs; but while we had the Gobble Monster we did have an allowance. At the end of the week someone would go through the house and pick up all the toys, books, etc, that had been left laying around. We would then issue the same amount of money to all the children. The children would then have to purchase their own items back for a nickel a piece. Anything left over they could keep. If they didn’t have enough money to purchase everything it could stay in the Gobble Monster (which was a large canvas bag) until the next week or they could decide to let it go to charity.

Many years ago I worked as a children's therapist in a counseling center.  I lived close enough that I was able to walk to work and back every day.  On my route lived a young boy (about 9) who I worked with in counseling.  One day while walking home he saw me and ran to meet me.  He asked what I was going to do.  I didn't understand at first; but as the conversation proceeded I learned that the welfare checks had not come in the mail that day.  He was concerned about my welfare, which was touching; but also disturbing.  He had no idea that people made money in any way other than receiving it from the government.  A few years earlier I worked with singles, some who were disabled and some who were single parents.  One of the most important things I taught them was that they had the power, the ability, to earn money. 
Teach your children to work, how to work, and help them get a part time job, or help them earn money on their own (I painted houses for a number of summers).  This skill and this personal self-efficacy will be important to them forever.


When kids start to get older they often want to get a job and start earning money outside the home. As long as it is safe and an appropriate environment, this can be a good thing; however, it should not interfere with school work and during the summer, generally should not be more than 20 hours a week unless they are working with a parent. The reasons for this are two fold. 1. For some teens, unless they safely put most of the money away for a future need such as college, too much money can be a bad thing and can cause problems. And 2. Too much time away from family can increase negative influences.

Work is an essential skill. Too many kids today don’t learn how to work. Too many adults don’t know how to work. It has become a significant societal problem.
Core skills are: dependability, punctuality, following directions, getting along, working hard, and getting it done (or finishing).

Please see additional information at:

Supplemental Materials:
How to Teach Children Work Ethic
Teaching Children To Work without Complaining!!!
Teaching Children Responsibility, Work Ethic and the Value of a Dollar
Eternal Marriage Student Manual Teaching Children to Work
Teaching children responsibility

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