Teaching Children to Work

by Sonya Barnes January 16, 2016

In past centuries, children would begin working the family farm or business at a young age to contribute their share—even if they went to school.  Some children, in their adolescent years, may have even been sent away to work as an apprentice in a trade for a variety of reasons.  But, in recent generations, the focus has shifted to classroom-based learning and “on the job” learning as an apprentice is lost in most children, unless they volunteer for community service hours or still help with a family business.

As teachers, we often have work to do at home, as do many other professions. So, is it a bad idea to have your kids help work on classroom projects around their own school and activity schedule?  I personally don’t think so.  Even if they don’t desire to go into their parents’ professions, there is still much to be learned from the experience.  They can learn time management, pre-planning projects, completing a job to the best of their ability, working with others, and so much more.  It is just important to make sure the task is age appropriate.

My children have always helped with work. I was a single mom for a long time, so it allowed us to get things accomplished and spend time together. My oldest would help in my classroom, although I didn’t become a teacher until he was eight. He would help organize, move furniture and, having been a student already, was valuable to me in learning what a good classroom environment felt like and flowed like. I think he helped me become a better teacher from the start because of his contributions. As he got older and his time was filled with sports and other activities, I recall taking my youngest to prepare my classroom as a two-year-old and him holding border as I stapled it to boards, finding letters for me as I sorted them out, and putting books on the shelf. Even at 2, he was a huge help and saved me lots of time—it was a wonderful bonus to be able to teach him skills, give him independence, and get time with him. As he has gotten older, his tasks have increased.  When I taught at the same school he went to, he’d help stack or unstack chairs, turn technology on or off, straighten things, wipe down tables, staple papers I had copied and even gather the day’s work from the turn in bin and clip it for me using my system.  When I had projects for my students, he’d do a trial run of creating them, give me feedback, and then prep the sets of supplies for me by class so it was ready to go.

Knowing what a huge help they were with work has allowed me to entrust them at home with chores beyond what I normally would have thought, especially my youngest.  My now eight-year-old not only cleans his own room, helps tidy the house and take care of his fish, but he also does his own laundry, loads the dishwasher, helps with meal plan and prep, cleans up after the dogs in the yard, and  helps his older brother bathe the dogs—a chore he will take over when his brother graduates and moves on. My oldest has been doing laundry since he was about eight, helping with the yard and housework, and even with his brother since he was a teenager when he was born.

They don’t just learn by working with me, either.  My husband is has a handyman business and can fix just about anything and includes them in home and car repairs as often as they are available (or willing)—a lost art for many, but something he learned by helping his father.  When something makes a noise, our youngest son will often try to fix it from what he has learned, or he tells dad so he can fix it.  While this can backfire sometimes, more often it is a blessing.  My oldest likes having a car paid in full, but that means repairs, so he has learned a lot about mechanics and maintaining his own vehicle. My oldest is into computers and they spend time together so my little one is learning from him about how they work and what he can do on them.  And both have been a huge help when I made videos and was prepping, taking photos or editing, even planning and setting up my office to work from home.

They may never grow up to do any of these things in their own career, but will have immense respect for the work people do, the effort they put in, and will have skills to take into a future of their own, whatever it may be.

I’d love to know how your children help at work or home and what career field you are in.  Comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe and get this article sent to your inbox!

One thought on “Teaching Children to Work

  1. Teacher here. My 4-year-old helps at home by putting back her toys when she’s finished. She helps wash dishes and can pretty much do her laundry by herself. She enjoys cooking with us and setting up the table. She dusts while I sweep and mop. She doesn’t quite have the dexterity to do those two chore yet. We used to have a vegetable garden at our other house. Maybe this summer we’ll start one up here too.

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