Thomas Edison said, "There is no substitute for hard work."
Years ago, when I was planning a Teaching Self-Government trip to China, a good friend of mine said, "Nicholeen, what are you going to tell parents in China who don't understand why their child should do an extra chore? The middle and upper classes don't have their children do manual work."
I was raised by a mother who made sure we were able to sew and cook as well as fix, build, clean and organize just about anything inside and outside of a house. So, I couldn't imagine societies where children didn't work.
Thomas Edison worked hard until he found the answer he sought. This was his greatest characteristic. He said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
He also said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
By far, the most common comment I get from parents who don't have their children work is, "But, if I make my children work, won't they end up hating work?"
Are we forgetting the American legacy?
Many children say they hate work, but here are 4 ways parents can help children enjoy hard work.
1. Change your own attitude about work
A mother once told me, "Sure, work is awful. I hate it, too. But it has to be done, or we will live in a pigsty."
"Have you always hated work?" I asked.
"Yes," she confided.
"Well, if you don't like work, then your children won't like it either," I responded.
This statement really took her back. Suddenly she saw a piece of the puzzle she hadn't seen before.
If we teach one thing and do another, then we're not teaching properly. The old adage, "Do as I say, not as I do" is a reminder of the foolishness of hypocritical teachers. We have to walk the talk.
When we look forward to work with a happy countenance and a good attitude, we will not be surprised when our children turn out just like us one day: happy, hard workers.
2. Do more work
No one who never does work, or rarely does it, will ever love it.
I have a good friend named Les. He's a nearly-80-year-old shepherd. When I recently visited him, I saw him running after baby lambs in his field to catch one for us to see. Les has had a lifetime of hard work, and even though he may say he's slowing down a bit, I just don't see it. He loves his sheep and all the hard work he does to care for them. He told us he doesn't know what he would do if he couldn't work.
Children these days lack self-confidence. They need to do more work, not less, to build confidence up. They need to repeatedly feel project mastery, improvement and success. This will help them see their worth and thereby instill confidence.
The children I know who weed fields, move sprinkler pipes and mend fences are always the happiest children I meet. Their futures are bright. They know how to fix problems and know the strength of their wills and bodies.
Lazy people are never happy because they don't accomplish anything or live with purpose. And, coddled children often become lazy.
3. Work together
Knowing how to work alone is useful, but working as a family builds great relationships. Working alongside children will create lifetime bonds. You will have conquered together. The shared experience of working together will be a treasured memory.
4. Prepare for work-time success by pre-teaching
Children are naturally anxious. They worry about details and unknown experiences. Decrease childhood anxiety about work by making sure you properly teach them each task, especially while they're young.
Pre-teaching a new chore by doing it with the child or by demonstrating it will help the child be more confident doing it themselves. Often a child actually becomes excited to do a chore when he/she sees how to successfully complete it.
Learning to work increases freedom. One of the greatest gifts you can ever give your child is the opportunity to do and enjoy some good hard work.
This article was originally published on Teaching Self-Government. It has been republished here with permission.