Teaching your children to assume the responsibility of work is paramount. Look around the city; most people are not diligent workers. And many of those that do work, do so begrudgingly, only to avoid discomfort. As adults your children will have one of two choices: either learn to work and make their own way in life, or become a Democrat. There is no happiness in the latter, only a sense of victimhood and entitlement. I will share my experience on how to teach them to work responsibly. I speak of children, not Democrats. As to the relevance of this subject, I offer the following Scripture.
To be the head of a family and not be a responsible worker providing for them is a moral fault equal to rank unbelief. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). The assumption of the text is that a man should work enough to provide for a circle larger than his family. And if he fails to meet the needs of his family, he is worse than one who completely rejects God and Scripture.
In Paul’s day there were those who looked to the social services of the church for their substance. Paul said, “[T]his we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). As individuals and as a church we should refuse to share our money or food with people who choose not to work. Hunger and deprivation are great motivators. There is an exception for older widows (1 Timothy 5).
King Solomon observed, “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth [always moving, never owning anything]; and thy want as an armed man [a professional soldier conscripted into military service who owns nothing] (Proverbs 24:30–34).
A French philosopher (I forget his name) said, “All work is pain.” We all want to avoid pain, and work is usually painful. It requires discipline to endure the pain of work, and the greatest pain is the deprivation of leisure and the boredom of repetition.
The baseball player Sam Ewing said, “Hard work spotlights the character of people. Some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” The way one works is a statement as to their character. Laziness is kin to dishonesty. The lazy man keeps an eye on his employer and pretends to be a hard worker when he is being observed but wastes time when he thinks no one is looking (Colossians 3:22–23). Such is a liar and thief, is constantly sinning against his conscience, living a continuous lie.
We want more for our children. They are not born with a work ethic, nor with a will to pay the price in pain and delayed gratification to be a responsible provider. It doesn’t happen automatically. And it won’t happen without taking premeditated action that becomes a way of life. It takes the same effort to teach a child to work as to play a musical instrument. The child who begins practicing the violin at four years of age will be a master at eighteen. If you wait until he is eighteen to enroll him in music camp it will not go well.
It is common for children to be raised like royalty who never lift a finger; they are there to be served while attending to leisure. Children who are not being trained to work are being just as effectively trained not to work. The child’s early life in the home is the model that forms their adult world views concerning personal responsibilities.
The freshest illustrations that come to mind are my two daughters Shoshanna and Shalom, who live in the community nearby. Their children are highly conscious of their responsibility to contribute to the function of the family. They were made a part of the maintenance and management routine from the toddler stage. The mothers never have to nag or plead for cooperation. It is expected and they expect to participate. They don’t know any other way. Mother conducts her children like an orchestra, and they respond in harmony—harmony in the home and harmony of spirit.
But this article is not written to remind you of your failure. Many of you didn’t know you needed to start violin—and responsibility—lessons so early in life. You did what you thought was right, which was to love and serve the “helpless” little ones, but now you realize you have a house full of elitists who resent having to work.
So the question is: How do I train half-grown kids to work? The answer is singular and simple. Do not become a slave driver with an attitude, criticizing and demanding. Rather, start by bringing them alongside you to share a cheerful and fun time of doing a chore. Don’t give them a job to do alone. Work together, and don’t work so long or do tasks so laborious that it becomes painful or a drudgery. Those trained from youth can endure pain in work. But that is advanced performance that your kids are not ready for. The first violin lesson is not four hours long when the fingers are sensitive. Work together and make work fun.
When my kids were young I didn’t know then what I know now. You have to make a few mistakes to know the difference. But I did have an instinct to not push them too hard. I found early on that when I gave the boys a dirty job that I didn’t want to do, it took them forever and they were not happy with it. So I learned not to practice slavery. No one likes Pharaoh, and everyone wants to escape to the promised land. The younger they were, the shorter the work minutes/hours.
When I saw them beginning to drag, we took a break to go swimming in the pond or threw knives. When we went out to work, I would always stop off at the store on the way home and we would sit on the porch and eat ice cream.
One boy performed at twice the level of the other, and I don’t know if I was able to conceal my disappointment. Today they are both exceptionally productive, but they remain different. One works hard and fast. The other works slow and methodically. If you want it built today you call the one; if you want it built extremely well in a week, call the other. I learned it is important to recognize the differences between children and never become generally displeased. No child ever increased his performance level to gain the approval of his dictatorial parent. If he did it would indicate a Stockholm syndrome.
Keep it happy, work together, accomplish together, and celebrate together a job well done.