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Advice for Parents Struggling to Get Children to Work

March 2nd, 2010 - Category: Teaching Kids to Work

It is a popular complaint from parents today that they don’t feel like their children are engaged in as many work related activities as they were at the same age. Parents feel like they were put to work at younger ages and had much more responsibility than their kids do. A 2001 Time/CNN poll stated that 75 percent of American adults believe children today do fewer chores than did the children of 10 or 15 years earlier. Many parents struggle with the fact that their kids are “spoiled” or feel like they are given everything on a silver platter. In fact, from the same Time article, 68 percent of parents think their own children are either “somewhat” or “very” spoiled.

Why is it Important to Teach Our Kids to Work?

Though it is easy to think that we as parents somehow had it “harder” than our children do today, these types of numbers do indicate that children today are experiencing less responsibility or are required to do less than children from generations before. When children have little responsibility they have more leisure time. This leaves more room for them to develop other, less productive, activities to engage in and also promotes laziness. All of these things can lead to huge detriments for children and their likelihood of succeeding in the future.

Teaching Kids to WorkIt is vital to give children responsibility and it needs to start at a young age. You may think that a 4 year old is not old enough to be required to do chores. However, it is very common and highly suggested that even younger children have daily tasks that are required of them. Brushing your teeth, showering, picking up toys after being used, putting your own dishes in the sink after dinner, and eating vegetables are good ideas of simple tasks for those not yet old enough to engage in other, more difficult chores.

Breaking the Laziness Cycle

If you have started late in teaching your children to work, it may be a bit more of a struggle to break the habit of laziness. Many parents are scraping and clawing trying to come up with ideas of how to help their children get off the couch and stop playing video games. If you are having difficulty motivating your child to do simple chores or take on other responsibilities around the house or, with teenagers, trying to get them to find a job, here are a few bits of advice that you may want to consider.

1. Don’t Give Them Everything They Want

It’s easy to fall into a habit of providing things for our kids when they are in need. “Dad, my friends and I are going to go to the movies tonight, can I have $20?” “I need new shoes for basketball.” These are very common questions and statements from children and there are millions of others that are geared for the same end result, you giving them what they want. It is a good idea if you are struggling to get your kids to work, to cut them off from this to some degree and require that they start earning some of the things they enjoy having.

My Job Chart offers a free online chore chart where you can customize rewards for your children. When they earn enough points, they can cash them in for prizes, money, or any other reward that you set up with them. You decide the chore and the points, and they can decide how to use their points. This is a great tool for teaching kids to work

2. Reward Your Kids

Piggy-backing off the previous statement, it is very important to offer incentives for your children to do work. It goes hand in hand with not providing everything for them for free. Once you cut them off from the source of the things they need, they are required to work for it. It is important to reward them for their work. No one wants to do work for free. Incentives are a necessary part of motivation.

3. Show Them How to Work

It is important that you do not just simply “tell” your children what they “have” to do. This is often met with a negative response and it is less likely that they will do what they have been told. If they do end up conceding, they will not enjoy the work and they will more than likely give a half hearted effort and not take away the value of the job that they could have otherwise.

Teach your children “how” to work. Work alongside them on outdoor projects. Build a play house “with” them. Teach them how to use different tools. Let them hold the flashlight for you while you change the oil on your car or change the tire. Teaching your children simple life skills will be a benefit to them and will help them understand the value of being able to accomplish tasks by themselves.

4. Let Your Kids Know They are Needed

Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something. Kids want to feel useful to their parents. We need to let them know that we really NEED their help (even if we really don’t). It may be WAY easier for you to stir the hamburger helper by yourself or to just take over and set the table. It may be more hassle than it’s worth to try and force your 13 year old son to unload the laundry and fold the clothes. However, it is essential that you take a back seat at times and have your children help. Work alongside them but let them work. Let them help and teach them that they really are helping.

Any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated. Let us know your success stories or your struggles through the comment section below. We can all learn from each other when we work together.

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