Kids Must Learn to Work Hard
Most children believe that their job description in life is to have fun. Parental instructions are an interruption to their lives, chores are an inconvenience, and work is to be avoided as much as possible.
Parents often contribute to this thinking error by requiring little of their kids and encouraging them to play and have fun. In fact, have you ever noticed that some parents say to their kids as they go out the door, “Have fun.” Why do they say that? Is having fun the goal of childhood? Furthermore, many of those same parents evaluate a child’s day by asking, “Did you have fun?” It’s no wonder kids believe that’s their mission in life.
Questioning the ‘Have Fun” Mentality
The idea that childhood should be fun in order for kids to grow up well adjusted is a myth, and a dangerous one. When life is all about fun then kids begin to resist anything that looks likes work. Having fun is certainly a benefit children and adults both enjoy. We want our kids to be happy and enjoy life. But kids also need to learn to work hard. Some parents hesitate to impose work on their children lest they rob them of their childhood or hinder their emotional growth by making them unhappy. But more likely not teaching kids to work hard robs them of character development and inner strength.
Work has many benefits. Kids should learn how to balance work and play at a young age. Work teaches children skills, provides them with a sense of accomplishment, and encourages character qualities like initiative, perseverance, and responsiveness to authority.
Children who don’t know how to work hard develop a number of different character weaknesses. Danny, age eleven, is demanding, always expecting his mother to serve him. Marissa, age six, is lazy and tries to get out of the simplest tasks in life. In fact her dad says that she spends more energy thinking about how to get out of work than it would require to do the job in the first place.
Working Hard Builds Internal Strength
Connie is sixteen years old and has a problem with lying. Dad and Mom had tried many things to help their daughter develop honesty. After coming to one of our seminars they realized that one of Connie’s problems was that she didn’t know how to work hard.
Lying is a shortcut. It’s a fast way to avoid punishment, an easy way to look good, or a quick way to excuse a job done part way. Children who have a problem with lying need a multi-faceted approach for developing honesty and integrity, and one of the components is learning to work hard.
When people ignore the “Keep off the Grass” sign and cut across the lawn, then they give up their integrity in order to get to their destination more quickly. Instead of taking the longer way across the sidewalk, then the person values their agenda more than the trampling of the grass. The same thing is true with lying. The child who lies values her own desires so much that she tramples on her own conscience. See Lying and the Conscience Development
The Benefits of Learning to Work Hard
The book of Proverbs talks about the value of hard work. Proverbs 14:23 says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 6:6 says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”
Hard work builds character. Although it may be easier for you to do the work around the house, it’s good training for children to take part in chores. This often requires the extra parental energy of assigning, managing, and checking up on kids, but that effort you put in as a parent can translate into small bits of growing character in a child.
Young children can help empty the dishwasher, pick up around the house, vacuum, and help fold clothes. Elementary age children can help set the table, wash dishes, clean bathrooms, and wash floors. Older children can handle more responsibility like mowing the grass, making a meal, or caring for a younger child.
Here’s an Encouraging Story
One dad told the story of wanting his thirteen-year-old daughter to learn how to work hard. When she asked for horseback riding lessons, he said, “I’m sorry. We can’t afford horseback riding lessons but I could do an exchange with you if you’d like. I want to rebuild our sidewalk around the house and I need the concrete broken up with a sledgehammer and hauled into a pile, the dirt dug out, and forms built. If you’re willing to do that I’ll pay for horseback riding lessons this summer.”
That was quite a bit of hard work requiring that she work several days a week for a couple hours a day. At one point she complained because it was too hot. Dad said, “We’re the Carlson family. We work even when it’s hot. Come on, I’ll go out and work with you.” So, Dad worked with her in the hot sun. Another time she said, “But Dad, it’s raining.” Dad said, “We’re the Carlson family. We can even work in the rain. Come on, I’ll work with you.” So they worked together in the rain.
Dad was trying to teach his daughter an important lesson that working hard overcomes obstacles and doesn’t look for excuses. He also wanted her to see that working hard pays off. His daughter enjoyed her horseback riding lessons that summer, but more importantly she began to believe that she could work hard and complete difficult jobs.
After years of training Dad reported that his daughter was proud of her ability to work hard. Many of her friends gave up quickly, or wouldn’t even start a difficult task, but his daughter knew that she could work hard and that hard work pays off.
Whether it’s getting a job in the community, doing chores at home, working on schoolwork, or serving others, work is a great tool for building character in children. Don’t miss out on its benefits for your family when you receive resistance. There is plenty of time for both work and fun in a child’s life, and they both have great benefits for your child’s healthy development.
This idea comes from the book Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids.
Ann OmalePosted at 19:01h, 18 August
Quite inspiring, thanks Dr Scott.
KarenPosted at 07:54h, 06 October
I have an ongoing battle with my 12 yo daughter. This has been going on since probably 3rd grade- she’s now in 7th. She is an average student with mediocre grades but I truly believe that if she allowed me to help her study she would do much better. Quizzing her on any subject causes anger and frustration from both. If I were to just let her study the way she wants to (which is hardly studying) she would get average to below average grades. I don’t feel that is being a good parent – I feel like my job is to teach her how to study as well as assist in preparing for tests by quizzing her.
Do I just let her do badly? (She wouldn’t care about that either.) Or do I continue to fight the battle of teaching her and helping her???
scott turanskyPosted at 00:31h, 13 October
Karen, it appears that your daughter is dealing with some kind of resistance in her heart. The ability to be corrected or receive help or work hard, etc. I’m not quite sure yet. But stepping back and framing this situation in terms of the heart and then helping her develop some kind of heart quality would be just the thing that would help her on a number of fronts. Your pursuit of this is important, so don’t give up. I would love to give you some advice on this over the phone. It would allow me to ask you some further questions. I offer free 15 minute phone consultations with people and this would be a good one to discuss. If you’re interested, go here and sign up and we’ll connect: https://biblicalparenting.coach/signup/
Tracey SmithPosted at 14:54h, 24 October
I’m dealing with a 14 year old gifted, home schooled student who is constantly getting way behind in her schoolwork. All subjects are easy for her & she can do 2 days worth of work in order to get back on schedule, so I know her daily/weekly schedule is not too much for her. She finally said she doesn’t see the point of doing her best or staying on schedule because she doesn’t see the point of going to college, since she eventually wants to get married, have kids, & home school them. She said she doesn’t see the point of getting a degree (she wants to be an engineer) & a good job, if she’s going to give it up to stay at home. She sees that she has to spend MORE time on school work when she gets behind, as opposed to less time if she stayed on schedule. She sees that we will take away fun outings when she refuses to stay on schedule, but still persists in slowing down. We’ve explained that she has no idea what God’s will is for her life & that she may need to support herself for a period of time, so the degree is useful. We’ve explained that she won’t be able to support herself on a minimum wage job. She knows I got my degree, but chose to stay at home to raise & home school her & have never regretted a second of it. I’m not sure where this attitude came from. We’re stuck…
scott turanskyPosted at 10:03h, 26 October
Hi Tracey, thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to share. It sounds like your daughter is experiencing several heart issues, in part caused by misbeliefs. For example, she believes that a degree is needed for an occupation but not for a career being in the home. Big error. School teaches you how to think and you definitely need a lot of that when running a home.
Her current work in math will teach her perseverance. Her work in writing will teach her how to be diligent. Her science will teach her thoroughness and so on. She needs those qualities but she seems to be creating an excuse to avoid character development.
On the parenting front, it would be wise to change the way she runs her schooling. She needs more monitoring and tighter accountability. It also helps to strengthen relationship, do some teaching about character, and vision about the benefits of hard work now in adolescence.