This blog is for Kimber, who did a great job teaching Relief Society today on the value of work and self-reliance. So many wanted to contribute to the thoughts shared that she didn’t get to say all the things she had prepared for the lesson, but she got me thinking and I should record my thoughts so that future generations can read what I thought was important, once-upon-a-time.
When I look at the success of individuals and families, one defining characteristic stands out: The children know how to work.
W-O-R-K – for many is a four-letter word.
I think we can all see that the value of work, but in today’s world, it’s an uphill battle to teach children and teens to work. Laws, modern conveniences, and an attitude of “me first” and “I deserve” make it harder and harder to teach good work ethics. Back when you had to milk a cow to eat your cereal, hard work was built into life. Now, if Google doesn’t solve a problem in less than five seconds, we’re grumpy. We are told that children needs to run free in meadows and playgrounds or to play on sports teams or attend multiple dance classes, not scrub toilets, pick berries, or pull weeds.
Don’t get me wrong. My kids played in fields. A few of my kids tried sports (it’s not my thing so it was hard to encourage them to sign up), and they do (did) attend many dance classes. However, they still had to clean an occasional toilet, work in the yard and in the garden, pull a few weeds and picked a few berries.
I was taught to work! If you didn’t help with the chopping and carrying of wood you would be cold. If you didn’t help bake bread or can produce in the fall, you might go hungry. As children, my siblings and I carried 5 gallon buckets of water to 100s of trees (none of which are standing today). We learned to cook, can, clean, sew, build, learn and to move piles.
My parents were perfect examples of hard work. My mom worked from sun up to sun down to feed us, clean up after us, and to teach us. It wasn’t easy. Laundry often was hung out to dry… even in January. Fires had to be tended… even to cook meals. Chickens needed to be slaughtered and made into meals. Babies needed to be looked after. Homework needed to be done. My mom never stopped working. My dad worked as a firefighter. On his days “off” he worked pouring cement, building log homes, or climbing radio towers. He would drag us all to his work sights and put us to work clean concrete forms, digging trenches, cleaning logs, painting towers, and even finishing the cement.
It wasn’t always “fun.” It wasn’t about “fun.” It was about learning. I learned a ton! I learned I could learn to do anything I put my mind to – even to pull apart an engine, scrape the block and put it all together again (and it ran). I learned the value of good hard work. The greatest thing I learned was that God’s way is WORK. The adversary’s way is idleness. Work brought happiness. Idleness brought boredom and unhappiness.
As I read in the scriptures I learn that God’s WORK and glory is bringing to pass my happiness. I learned that God saw that His work (especially His children) was GOOD. I learn that God gave Adam and Eve land and taught them to WORK, to beautify and to replenish the work He had begun.
Work allows us to be self-reliant and respectable, contributing members of society. My parents took us along as they worked. We were taught about their jobs and their service in the community. We got to see our parents interact with co-workers and community members. We often were asked to help them accomplish their tasks and by so doing we learned skills, life lessons, work ethic. At home, we were given chores and expected to complete them. We were taught to be responsible and accountable. We learned that we all needed to work together for the good of our family. Our moments of working together are my favorite memories.
We were encouraged in entrepreneurial efforts and to work for the little things we might want. I was encouraged to have a weed pulling business, and help clean the church building in the summer, and to babysit. Eventually, I moved pipes and event worked in a deli and a movie theater. These jobs allowed me to pay for my own college education.
Work entitles us to earthly and spiritual rewards. We could see that my dad worked multiple jobs to pay for food and other necessities. At an early age, I opened the bills and wrote the checks my mom would sign. I learned that my parents hard work kept us going as a family. I learned that there was only a certain amount of money to spend and that it was based on my parents’ earnings and hard work. If any of us wanted something that wasn’t in the budget, we had to work and save to get it. Work taught us the value of the dollar… and we valued the items we worked hard to earn.
Work allows us the joy of helping others. With seven children to feed, there wasn’t much to go around, but my mom would take us to work and to serve others. She took us to help clean house of new mothers or to deliver meals we had helped to make to the sick. My mom’s service to others taught us to respect and to honor the elderly, veterans and other authority figures. We were taught to open doors, speak politely and to show appreciation.
Work leads to a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. Even today, I sleep most soundly after a day of good hard work. Some of the most satisfying experiences I have is seeing a job I’ve done well… even a good clean house (sadly doesn’t happen often enough…LOL). My parents helped us all to discover our passions and helped us all to channel them into meaningful activities and service.
Work results in prosperity and opportunity. My parents taught us to practice fairness and integrity in our dealings with others. Eventually, we all learned to love work and we would volunteer to help around the house. Now when we all get together we all work together for meals and for the good of the gathering.
Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
I am now trying to share these lessons on work with my children. I am down to my last kid at home and the battle to teach work rages on. It has not gotten easier.
Are programs like the No Child Left Behind Act harming our children’s ability to learn through work? Through focusing on “test readiness,” stripping curriculum opportunities in the arts, music, home economics, automotive skills, woods, metals, and more, we are failing to teach kids to work and to be “life ready.”
We, the adults of this world, need to make kids “life ready” first!
Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is the key to success. Hard WORK is the key to success. Idleness leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.
I have learned that teaching kids the value of hard work and determination is more important than building self-esteem. The skill of perseverance is essential to a child’s development.
Today, there is a trend toward learned helplessness. I have observed many examples of helpless behavior that a lack of effort, not a lack of ability, led to mistakes and failure. Kids today often stop trying when the going gets tough. By teaching them to WORK we help kids to think-outside-the-box, to problem solve and to succeed. Work solves helplessness and engenders success!
Work allows kids to discover what they are good at, explore subjects that appeal to them, or maybe, just be content with learning something new. You can do almost anything, if you are willing to work really, really hard at it. That is what matters. That is what we should be teaching our kids. If they are willing to work very hard, with single minded determination, they can accomplish GREAT things.
This skill can be taught!
Praise kids for effort. The world is full of genius couch potatoes and average people moving ahead because they were willing to work. Perseverance often is the essential factor.
Allow kids to experience difficult but doable situations… and don’t try to take over. Encourage them to keep trying and to face frustration with hard work. Don’t do everything for them. It sounds simple, but the kids will let you do everything for them as long as you do everything for them. And where does that get you?
Work with your kids. It’s ok that kids see you frustrated… and see you work through something hard. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have watched me try and fail and try again at losing weight… or working on a set… or a lesson… or the weed infested garden. My failures often give the greatest learning experiences. I may never recover from humiliation, but hopefully, my kids learned something.
Work to let your kids take care of their own space. As they learn to care for their own belongs, and they are required to care for them, they will get better at working and respecting material blessings.
Teach your kids to sweat a little, to get their hands dirty “moving piles.” It’s ok. They will survive.
Tell kids stories of people who worked hard to acquire skills and accomplished great feats… especially family members. Some of my favorites are stories of my dad attempting to kill mice… over and over and over.
Start early! Even a 2-year-old can work alongside you to put away dishes, pull weeds, and picking up toys. When you make work a part of the family routine you can help kids care for what God has given them and you will teach them God’s way of work.
It’s ok to make work fun.
Serve others as a family.
Be an example of hard work and of taking responsibility for our families.
Teach kids to budget and to save money.
The best work to teach our children is to work on their faith and testimonies. Learning the scriptures takes work. Learning compassion takes work. Learning to seek Jesus takes work. Resisting temptation takes work. Attending the temple takes work. Serving in callings take work. Keeping the commandments takes work. Staying on the path takes work.
Teaching the value of work and self-reliance to our families is part of God’s work. Learning about the principles of work and self-reliance in temporal and spiritual ways will be what gives us and our children success and happiness in this life and in the life to come.