15 Ways to Teach Kids How to Work Hard

It was the first day of summer in 1984. He was 14 years old.

His dad woke him up before work and said there’s a load of sand in the driveway and shovel. He told him by the time he got home from work, he wanted the low spots in the backyard filled.

There were similar projects all summer long.

That’s how my husband was raised.

(I was raised scooping dog poop in the hot Texas sun, so don’t feel too sorry for him.)

There was also summer fun for both of us -bike riding and baseball playing,  But there was also a lot of hard work. We didn’t sleep until noon or play video games until the middle of the night while mom fixed lunch everyday and did all the laundry.

We have come along way, huh? Maybe it’s time to backtrack.

Because when I declare it’s yard work day at my house, it’s like the End Times around here. We ignore the groans and moans and wailing and push through). Because hard work is good for kids. Not only does it teach them to be grateful for what you do all day long, it creates a work ethic in them that will carry them into adulthood.

Pile of dirty washing in bathroom

Here are 15 ways to teach kids how to work hard:

  1. Don’t do everything for them: It sounds simple, but kids will let you do everything for them as long as you do everything for them.
  2. Require them to take care of their own space. They won’t clean it up you say? Try the age old “you can’t do or have this (fill in the blank) until you clean up this (fill in the blank)” and I bet they will.
  3. Make them sweat a little. Like literally get their hands dirty picking up the busted trash in the street, washing the car, or the bottom of the trash can. It’s okay. They will survive.
  4. Start early.
  5. Make work part of your family routine. This is just something we do. We take care of what God has given us.
  6. Let them learn from their mistakes (don’t jump in to fix or redo everything they try to do) Let it go.
  7. Make work fun (chore roulette).
  8. Be an example of hard work-Let them see you working hard.
  9. Serve as a family (perspective is everything). This has been huge for us.
  10. Be an encourager (and not a control freak).
  11. Let your kids be in charge of dinner (from grocery shopping to putting it on the table). Last week my son prepared dinner for the family. I needed his help and he did a great job. He doubted at first, but ended up really proud of himself.
  12. Give them a chance to earn money, so they can learn how to handle it. This has been the single best thing to eliminate the gimme gimmes.
  13. Teach them to save and give a % of their money.
  14. Give them projects that require time management skills (like dirt on the driveway)
  15. Be consistent

I married a hard-working man. And I need to tell his parents thank you.


9 Things We Should Add to Our Kids Lives to Help Them

The day after my husband and I got matching tattoos, we told our kids over breakfast.

And my straight-laced, rule-following, good-girl first born daughter burst into tears.

I could see the confusion etched on her face as she tried to fit the parents she knew loved God into her framework of right and wrong.

Right then and there, I knew we had made some mistakes.

And getting tattoos wasn’t one of them.

Somewhere along the line in an effort to teach our kids right from wrong, good from bad, we had inadvertently taught them that people who love God don’t get tattoos or don’t (fill in the blank). We had made faith about a set of rules.

More than I want my kids to live by a set of do’s and don’ts, I want them to follow Jesus and from that relationship, they will know what is right and what is wrong. Of course, we teach absolute truth to help guide their moral compass, but living life by strict black and white lines leads towards legalism, guilt and bondage.

And there’s no freedom in that.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote 9 Things We Should Get Rid Of To Help Our Kids. And crazy enough, it was read by 3 million people.

I think I hit a nerve.

But for everything we get rid of, we leave room to add something. I’ve been thinking about things we should add to our kids lives to cut out entitlement and produce well-rounded, grateful, God-loving children who put others first.

9 things we should add into our kids lives to help them

Here are 9 things we should add to their lives to help them:

  1. The words “It’s Okay” Because it is. And if it’s not, we will figure out a way to get through whatever tough spot we find ourselves. Knowing that there is grace to learn and fail is half the journey. Because our kids are going to mess up. And so are we. And at the end of the day, we just need to know that it’s going to be okay because love wins.
  2. Hard work: “A little bit of hard work never hurt anyone” as the saying goes, but it’s the lack of hard work that is crippling this generation. Kids who have never done physical, hard work are missing out on the pure exhilaration and satisfaction of completing something challenging. It’s okay for them to sweat a little. We are one of the only cultures in the world who pays other people to do all our hard work. Save some for your kids. It’s good for them!
  3. Perspective: Without a doubt, this word more than any other, changed our home. When we pull back the curtains and expose our children to different ways people live or struggle too, we don’t have to say much. And this can be done right in our own cities or across the globe. Exposing our kids to the needs of others will not only shift their perspective of what they think they need, it will also remind them of what they already have.
  4. Absolute Truth: I believe there are absolute truths that should guide our lives. I find mine in the Bible. In a culture that is constantly redefining truth, we need a standard that does not change. If we don’t teach our children absolute truth, they will be tossed around with every new wind that blows into their lives. Give them something to hold onto that does not change.
  5. Compassion: When we choose to live and abide by absolute truth, we are going to meet people who don’t. We  need to teach our kids tolerance for those who believe and live differently than we do. Love is more important than being right, even if we don’t agree with other people’s choices, especially then. We can stand for what we believe in without hating those who disagree with us.
  6. Jobs: We have regular chores we all share around the house, but we also have occasional jobs that pay a bit of money. It’s good for kids to understand the value of money because then they will begin to understand how hard you work for yours.
  7. A Bank: Give your kids a piggy bank or bank account or envelope marked “savings” and another one labeled “giving.” Start teaching them the value of saving for something they want and giving some of it away. It’s a lesson that will shape their future.
  8. Opportunity to serve: There is something beautiful that happens when children serve. Find tangible, practical ways to do something for someone else. Here’s a few ideas. It will touch your family in ways you can’t imagine.
  9. Their Own Laundry Basket: When kids start reading in my house, they get their own laundry basket. If you do it all, they will let you. Don’t. It takes a family to run your home, so put your family to work. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be completed.

It’s okay to add these things, go ahead and try it!

 


Maybe We Should Stop Entertaining Our Kids So Much

15 hours. One way.

That’s how long it took us to drive to New Mexico on Spring Break. Getting there, my children were delightful. On the long drive, they occupied themselves with reading, drawing, watching a couple of movies and asking questions about the change of scenery, and they got along well.

Clearly, we were amazing parents.

And then we piled in the car a few days later to come home. We arrived in the Land of Enchantment with one set of children and discovered they had morphed into entirely different ones for the long road home. Because all their books had been read, movies watched, pictures drawn.

There was squabbling and bickering and mostly, a lot of boredom.

While I wasn’t looking forward to the drive home either, the getting home part is sort of unavoidable, you know?

The complaining heightened to an all time high and at some point a kid from the backseat actually demanded, “Give me something to do.”

In other words, entertain me.

And this is the price we pay when we constantly entertain our kids: They cannot entertain themselves.

maybeweshouldstopentertainingourkidssomuch

Remember when we used to play outside for hours?

Now we have half a dozen screens to choose from between ipads, ipods, iphones, iii-yii-yii

Remember when kids used to use their imaginations?

Now we over schedule them with extracurriculars. .

Remember when going to the park, zoo, circus, playplace, you-name-it-in-kid-entertainment used to be reserved for a special occasion?

Now we do something every other day because our kids aren’t the only ones who are bored. Parents are too.

Maybe we should stop entertaining our kids so much.

Maybe they will start creating fun instead of depending on us to manufacture it.

Because it’s really way more about entitlement than entertainment.

Now, I have done it all. I’m a guilty parent entertainer. But I’ve realized the more I do, the more they want and the less they do for themselves. 

We live in a culture that thrives on entertainment. We crave the thrill of it. And that’s great for special days, but maintaining it constantly is doing more harm than good.

If we stop doing it, they will stop expecting it.

Because sometimes we have to wait.

Sometimes we don’t get our way.

Sometimes we are bored.

My kids ended up surviving the road trip. There was sleeping and made-up-game-playing and just old fashioned car-riding imagination.

Life isn’t always entertaining.

And the sooner our kids realize that, the sooner they realize they have the power to change that.


9 Things We Should Get Rid of to Help Our Kids

She borrowed something from me.

And then she lost it.

Accidents happen.

But it was the whole “It only cost ten bucks-you can get another one” attitude that I couldn’t let happen a moment longer.

So, I gave her a job that required hard work and gave her the $10 she earned and then I made her pay me for what she lost.

Child counting money (Shallow DOF)

Listen, when I realized I was more than half the problem in this whole entitlement parenting challenge, it was a wake up call. Kids naturally want what they haven’t earned, especially if we are handing it out for free.

But what we have is an entire generation of young adults who got everything they ever wanted with little or no work; we have a cultural norm and it’s a problem.

Because reality is, life doesn’t give us everything we want. We don’t always get the best jobs or a job at all. We don’t always have someone rescue us when we have a bad day or replace our boss just because we don’t like them. We can’t always have what we want when we want it. We aren’t always rewarded in life.

Here are 9 things we can get rid of to begin eliminating entitlement in our children:

1. Guilt: Often we give into our kid’s requests out of guilt. We need to stop feeling guilty for not giving our kids everything they want. It’s hard to swallow, but we foster the attitude of entitlement in our homes when we are ruled by a guilty conscience. It’s okay to ask kids to be responsible for what they lose and to require consequences for actions.

2. Overspending: I think it’s good for our kids to hear us say, “We can’t afford that” Or “We will have to save for it.” Because that’s real life. We don’t have All The Money to Buy All the Things. I’ve known families before who are working multiple jobs to keep kids in extracurricular activities, when honestly, the kids would probably be happier with more family time.

3. Birthday Party Goody Bag (Mentality)-I’ve been guilty of this like most of us. But, really? We take our kids to parties so they can give a gift, but they take a small one home so they won’t feel bad? It’s not their birthday. This concept of spoiling kids (which usually goes far beyond goody  bags) is temporary fun. It’s okay for them not to be the center of attention.

4. Making our day-week-month, our world about our kids-Working in the non-profit world has redirected our extra time. We simply can’t center our lives around our children when we are centering our lives around Christ. Child-centered homes don’t help children in the long-run.

5. The desire to make our children happy (all the time). If you visited my house, you’d find out pretty quickly that someone’s always unhappy. It’s not our job to keep our kids happy. Don’t carry that impossible burden. Typically when our kids are unhappy, it’s because we are standing our ground. And that makes for much healthier kids in the future.

6. Made Up Awards: You know what I’m talking about. Rewarding everyone who participates in every area only fosters an inflated self esteem. Kids don’t need rewards for every little thing. It’s okay to lose, they learn through failure as much as success.

7. Fixing all their problems: I don’t like to see my kids struggling. There’s a part of every parent that longs to make things right in their child’s world. But it’s not healthy to create a false reality. You won’t always be there to do so and not only that, if you’re doing it all for your child, why would they need to learn to do it themselves? Fixing all their problems is really only creating more challenges in the future.

8. Stuff: We could all probably fill a half dozen trash bags with just stuff. Excess. Try it. Bag it up and get your kids to help you and give it to someone who needs it.

9. Unrealistic Expectations: My girls are always asking for manicures. I didn’t have one until I was married, pregnant and 27 years old. I’m not opposed to the occasional treat, but it’s the attitude of expecting it because you as a parent or others have it. Just because I have an iPhone, doesn’t mean my children will get one. We don’t have to give our kids everything we have. It’s okay to make them wait for things in life.

It’s okay to toss out these things. Go ahead, give it a try.


Dear Moms of Littles, This Might Be The Most Important Thing You Do Right Now

She had a two year old wrapped around her leg, holding on for dear life, while she bounced her crying newborn in her arms as we talked.

“What’s new with Mercy House? Oh and the refugee women in Houston?” I noted the longing in her voice. I started to answer and she whispered wistfully, barely audible over newborn noises, “I’m jealous of your life.”

I almost laughed off the comment–because my day had consisted of a crammed  “to do” list,  computer issues, a rushed meeting, dragging boxes to the car to mail, two dramatic daughters, several carlines and a tension headache.

My life is hardly worth being envious of….

But I knew she wasn’t talking about my day.

She was referring to my season in life.

And in a blink, I was the one standing in the kitchen of an older friend with a strong-willed two year old and a nursing baby, longing for my days to matter.

Dreaming of doing something big for God or at least getting enough sleep so I could dream. Or actually sleep.

I took her baby and patted his back, “Right now, your days are long. But the years are short. What you are doing-the burping, the diapering, the chasing, these days matter. Love is not waisted. Loving your babies is the most important thing you can do right now.”

family foot

I suggested a few things she could do from home to help me out if she wanted to and she seemed excited.

But sometimes the best way to serve is to know our season.

And recognize its value.

This isn’t to say moms of littles can’t serve. But first you need to recognize being a mom of small ones is service. Service is never small.

Because you are the only one who can do it.

We often long to do more because we don’t believe what we do matters.

I love talking to others about saying yes. But we need to say it right where we are.

Maybe changing diapers is how God wants you to change the world right now.

I have more time to serve. My season allows it. But instead of having littles wrapped around me, depending on my body, I have kids who lean on me for a shoulder to cry on. And instead of sneaking out to Target when my babies were all asleep by 7pm like I used to, I’m up until 10pm listening to heartaches and headaches that tweens and teens often carry.

This is my season.

But just like winter blossoms into spring, seasons of motherhood change too. Sometimes they blow in like a storm or break the ground like a pastel miracle, new seasons are always coming.

So, don’t wish this time away. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Recognize it as your yes for now.

Because tomorrow the winds may change and you’ll have an opportunity to step out in a new way.

This just might be the most important thing you can do today.