Teaching children responsibility: It’s a concern every good parent has. When I was growing up, it seemed that my parents excelled in teaching my two siblings and me to have a strong work ethic. Unfortunately, it’s been a challenge to teach my sons the same lessons. As parents, we know all too well how life requires everyone to work–and work hard if they want to be successful.
So how did my parents do it? For that matter, how did my in-laws do it? They successfully raised seven hard-working, responsible children. Both sets of parents allowed life consequences to play their roles. In other words, you had to put forth effort for yourself because no one else was going to do the work for you. Let me explain with a few examples.
Savor a job well done. My parents would often point out how it feels to do a job well. There is no way to feel true self-accomplishment without work. You can’t buy the feeling or give it to someone. They have to work and put forth the effort for themselves. If a child is struggling in school, for instance, teach them to work hard to learn. Tutors can help, but your kid has to gain a work ethic in addition to knowledge.
See and do the work. My parents would tell us what needed to be done, of course. But we also learned to look around and do what we needed to do–without being told. It helped that my chores revolved around animals. If I didn’t take care of them like I was supposed to, they would suffer. I didn’t want that. So I made sure they were well tended. I was taught to do; perhaps that’s why my name (Kerry) is a verb. 🙂
Work in all conditions. My parents showed us that all work is honorable. I’ve mucked stalls, hauled buckets of feed and water, washed dishes at a restaurant, and worked in a couple of factories. You can bet that I very much appreciated my college education and my eventual career as an editor. Every day I dressed up and worked in a nice office. Today, I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I’m back to mucking up poop, but at least it’s contained and my little pooper is very cute. 🙂
Work to Earn Money and Save It
Earn money. My parents and my in-laws made their children earn their own money. My parents raised sheep. Dad told us children that we could earn money the same way he did. In exchange for working a ton, we were given one or two ewes a year. Over time, we each built up our own small “herds” and earned money by selling the lambs our ewes produced. We had to work for months before we received any pay. And some years, the ewes didn’t produce very well or something would happen to the lambs or the market price would be low. So our income ebbed and flowed. Nowadays, kids get paid every week, sometimes for “fluff” jobs (not done well). My parents’ “natural consequence” strategy could be applied to others’ parenting situations. Don’t do a job well, and you could get fired. Or you will still have to do the chore until it’s done right, but you don’t get paid for it.
Save money. I was taught to spend half and save half. From the half that I could spend, I was expected to purchase my own school clothes. I also paid a 10% tithing to my church on all that I earned. There wasn’t a ton of extra, frivolous money left over, which replicated my parents’ own finances. But there was always some money for savings. They led by example and saved money in the bank, spending far less than what they made. The 50-50 spend/save ratio may not work for your children, but you should definitely set guidelines with them. To reflect the realities of life, spending all should not be an option.
Take care of your money. As a kid, I’d sometimes leave my hard-earned cash around the house, stashed on a shelf or whatever. If my dad saw it, it went in his pocket. Sometimes he’d say something; most times he’d just take it and wait to see how long it would take before I’d notice. I soon learned to keep my money in a wallet and in the bank. I also learned that money is cash–not a credit card. I do use a card now because it’s pretty much required in today’s world, but my husband and I review our statements regularly and track the spending. Teach your children to keep track of what they spend and save.
My husband and I have tried to replicate our parents’ teachings for a strong work ethic and money-management skills. My husband is one of the hardest working men I know, always doing an exceptional job at any project he’s asked to do. I also like a job to be well done and know how important it is to work for success.
So how do we teach our sons to work? We don’t own a farm. Neither do my parents anymore. So we do yard chores with our kids. We also make household chore lists. My oldest son helps me do data entry for a website and babysits his brother. In recent months, he’s made real progress in showing us that he’s responsible. For years, we fretted that he wouldn’t be. But we have lots of hope now. Things seem to be clicking more. I’m so glad we didn’t give up and just do things for him. He has high-functioning autism, and if he didn’t learn to do challenging things, apathywould be his biggest disability–not the actual autism.
My husband and I continue trying to lead by example for our children’s sake. We pray for them every night. We want them to be successful and to feel proud of their accomplishments. We try to help them focus on the good feelings that come when a job is well done. As parents, we realize one of the greatest accomplishments we can help our children to achieve is a solid work ethic. We’re trying, and we’ll never give up.
How do you teach your children responsibility? Do you have a chore chart or allowance system that works? How do you help your children to take pride in their work? Please chime in. We’d all love to learn.