Teaching Your Kids to Work
Joey and Carla Link
Keeping on top of yard work is never easy when you have a big yard with many trees as we do. Our busy travel schedule makes it even more difficult. I (Joey) was able to stay on top of the jobs that needed it the most. We both noticed the gutters were full and overflowing, so it was time to get up on the roof and get them cleaned out.
Yard work is a great way to teach kids how to work. I asked friends of ours if their teenage boys would be able to lend me a hand. The boys had never done the dirty job of cleaning wet leaves and pine needles out of gutters before, but they were willing to give it a try. I had spent many hours teaching the oldest kid baseball skills to sharpen his playing for his school team, so he was especially eager to help me.
They climbed the ladder to the roof with trowels in their hands and got to work. I was pleased with both their effort and their good attitude. Their younger sister helped do some weeding in the borders, a job Carla normally likes to do, but as she was still recovering from her broken leg, she had not been able to get out there all summer. With all the rain the weeds had taken control.
When the kids were finished, I took them and their mother out for lunch. I asked Mom if I could do some teaching with the kids, and as she and her husband were alumni of the parenting classes we taught, she readily agreed.
I asked each of the kids who of them was the best worker that morning. Each of them had a different answer, and none of them put themselves first. Their answers surprised each other and their mother. They did a good job of pointing out what each of them had done best.
I asked them to describe what I and their parents meant when we referred to something as “Good, Better or Best”. I wanted them to grade themselves on their work effort in each of these categories in both attitude and skill with either a plus or minus. I shared Romans 12:3 with them as I asked them to do this:
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgement.”
When your kids do their chores, as their parent, it is easy for you to grade their effort in your mind. Do you ever wonder what grade your kids would give themselves? Having them do this is a good way to teach them what “sober judgement” is. Our kids graded themselves in these areas:
- Did they to the job completely?
- Did they do the job the way they had been instructed to?
- Do they do the job (chores/schoolwork) on their own initiative?
- Did they work with a good attitude?
Carla and I found having our kids grade themselves was the best way for us to keep from falling into the habit of looking for what they didn’t do and lecturing them for it. We would grade them too, and shared what we thought after they told us what grade they gave themselves. On the whole, we were often easier on them than they were on themselves.
Our kids gave themselves “A’s” through “F’s” and kept a monthly chart of both their regular chores including schoolwork and added additional tasks they were instructed to do as well. If they got lower than a “B” on any one of the points listed above, they would write one way they were going to work on it that week on paper and put it somewhere they would see it each day.
It didn’t take long for the kids who helped me clean out the gutters to come up with their “+” or “-“for “Good, Better or Best”. Their scores matched what I had come up with. I asked them how they could improve the minus scores. They all came up with things they could do, and I asked them how they were going to remind themselves to work on the things they came up with.
I asked them why it was important for them to give a chore their best effort, especially in attitude. Wasn’t it good enough to get the job done? Why on earth would they need to have a good attitude as they did it?
We talked about the expectations of employers when they got jobs of their own (neither of the boys were old enough to drive yet). Why would I want to hire someone who thought doing the job their way was better than mine? Why would I want to hire someone who did the bare minimum on the job instead of giving it their best effort? Why would I want to pay someone who kept stopping what they were doing to look at their phone to see if they got a text? I surely would not want to pay someone I had hired to do a job if they whined and complained about it to other co-workers or his friends.
A good verse at this point for kids to memorize is Colossians 3:23:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
When kids grade themselves on their chores each day, they are learning to manage their own work ethic which will impact many areas of their lives.
While it’s a lot easier to threaten, remind and lecture our kids into doing a better job while they are working, it rarely teaches kids anything nor changes their long term behavior.