Work is not a Four-letter Word


I was commenting today on Life in a Shoe on her previous post, Chore List, and it reminded me of some ways in which we trained our children to work.  Some of these ideas may be repetitive to you, but maybe there’ll be something new, and I’d love to hear how you have taught your children to work, or do a specific chore in the home.

Known for Hard Work

First of all, I was determined that my children were going to know how to work, and be known as hard-workers, because I did not know how to cook, or really, to work, when I got married.  Not that my mother didn’t try to train me–I just wasn’t interested, and I had/have a very merciful mother.  My husband, as I have mentioned many times before, came from a farm family that was over the top in their work ethic and ability.  I am grateful for his example and training of our children, and of our son, especially.

Getting A Vision For Your Family

When our daughter, Kelsey, was 2 years old, I remember telling my mother-in-law that Kelsey always wanted to climb up by me in the kitchen when I was making supper. I remember my mother-in-law’s instantaneous response, “Well, let her!” Then she began to tell me all the little ways I could include her in the kitchen, and her chuckling way of expressing that, yes, it wouldn’t go as smoothly or as fast as it would’ve, but she’s got to learn and she’ll get used to being there, and that’s how she’d learn to like to be in the kitchen, and that’s how she’d done it with her four daughters. That was about all the encouragement I needed, because watching Mom with her four grown daughters in the kitchen, all accomplished cooks, and listening to the laughter and chatter as they worked, gave me a vision for our family.

What A Child Can Do

So, pull up a stool next to you at the counter.  2-4 year olds can tear lettuce for a salad, put silverware and plastic plates on the table, or napkins. (Not necessarily in the right places.) Four to six year olds can set the table. “How many people are there in our family? Now, how many forks do you have already–how many more do you need?”  You just did a math lesson, Mom!  At six, he can climb up on the counter to put away plastic dishes and cups and Tupperware from the dishwasher.  If this is not acceptable to you, perhaps there is a lower cupboard that you could empty or switch, so that he can put the dishes away more easily.  These ages can all fold washcloths and small towels, and match socks, fold diapers, and stack them, and take them to the appropriate rooms.


At 8 years old, we began to teach our oldest, a boy, I might add, how to do laundry.  Not folding and putting away, but how to use the actual machines.

I wrote out the instructions, step by step, on a square card, and covered it with clear contact paper, and punched a hole into the bottom, putting a long piece of yarn through it, so he could wear it around his neck and look at it for reference as he went through the steps.  We started with towels and socks.  Before the washing process, I taught the children how to sort the clothes into baskets for washing.  The first time he watched me do the job, explaining as I went. Then we did it together, then he did it with me very close by and answering questions, then little by little, he did it by himself.  He felt so proud of himself.  This method could be transferred to other chores very handily.

Morning Routines

We also had a written list for our morning routine, and what was expected, posted on the refrigerator, for years.  We would modify, and update it, from time to time.  You can put it in a plastic sleeve to protect it.  For awhile, we had a chart on the wall.

Our children were expected to get up, make their beds, get dressed, brush their teeth, wash their faces, eat breakfast, and read their Bibles before school each day.

With kitchen chores, and anything that needed to be divvied up, Dane had “even” days, and Kelsey, “odd.”  Responsibilities and privileges alike were decided this way.  Whose day to go out and get the mail after lunch, whose day to use the “coveted” red cup, whose day to empty the dishwasher, etc.  The fact that there are 31 days in some months, just meant that Kelsey had an extra day once in awhile.  (I have since heard of an idea which I think is a good one–they could do the job together on the 31st.)

Other Jobs

Also, as they got older, we divided up the housecleaning tasks, starting at least by 4 years old: (Dane: dust, vacuum, 1 bathroom–yes, boys can do bathrooms, just not as well:) take the garbage out, help Dad with the outside work and garage clean-up periodically, etc. Lawn mowing became his job at 9 years old.

Kelsey: Glass-plussing (cleaning all ceramic lamps, mirrors, things that weren’t wood and couldn’t be “dusted,”) sweep and wash the floor, clean the entryway, clean 1 and then 2 bathrooms, adding the jobs each year) but trading jobs periodically, so that they each learned everything, and no one was stuck with a “hated” job forever.  However, the fact that you didn’t like a job meant nothing to the expected performance of said job.

No complaining was allowed. It was heard occasionally, however. “We all have to do jobs which we don’t like–it’s part of life.  I don’t love to change diapers.  Daddy isn’t always excited to get under the car to fix it.  It needs to be done and we do it.  Let’s be thankful that we have hands and arms and legs that work, and that we have food to eat so that we have dirty dishes to wash.”  These were the kinds of conversations that would ensue.

Having a scheduled list of chores each day and week helped greatly.  If you aren’t doing this now, start by informing your children that you’re going to have a regular routine. Write down the list of tasks to be done, and when, before school.  Post it prominently.  Use stickers or draw clock faces to show the times–make it colorful.  Put pictures of a person doing the job on the chart for those who can’t read.  Then, all of you, get up, get dressed, and follow the routine.

If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy

Oh, about mornings.  This is my most important tip.  Someone once told me that Mama’s attitude first thing in the day sets the tone for the whole rest of the day.  Do you say “Good morning!” cheerfully to your family when you greet them in the morning?  (Not obnoxiously, but cheerfully.)

Do you wear a smile or a frown as you go about your morning ritual.  Do you get dressed, or are you in your robe and slippers until 11:00?  Do you start the day in prayer with your children, thanking the Lord for another day, and for His mercies, which are new every morning?  Do you say, “I love you”?  Do the children see you say a sweet goodbye to Daddy, if they’re up when he leaves? If your children are grumpy and mornings are a difficult time in your family, check your attitude first.  Try playing some uplifting, edifying music in the morning–some families play marches!  Have breakfast together.  You will be amazed how much your joyful attitude in the morning will affect the tone of your day, and your family’s.

8 Replies to “Work is not a Four-letter Word”

  1. I used to defer doing the housework because I was caught up in things which I felt were more important – looking back, they really weren't. I used to get up late and not start the day properly and early and I missed out on a lot because of that, not to mention that I missed out on valuable time with my partner. I can't believe I ever let myself become that way! I like to get up early now, I feel like I have so much better a day.

  2. Oh, Jami, I'm so glad to meet you! Thank you for the lovely words–you made my day! I love your wedding photo–you look so happy! I look forward to getting to know you better:)

  3. Hi, I recently got married in May of this year and we do not have any children yet and are not planning on any for a while (Lord willing). But I do plan to stay home and homeschool our kids and this is such an inspirational story. Thank you for posting it! We have lately been discussing ways in which to raise our children and this is definitly an important topic! I think it is so important for kids to be raised with this type of work ethic. Otherwise they move out and have no idea how to do anything.
    Thank you for this post 🙂
    I hope to be a mom like this!

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