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Children and Chores: Part 1 - Teach Them to Work Hard

Even a child finds satisfaction in a job well done.

We live in a pleasure-obsessed society. So many people exist for the weekend. It is true that everyone needs a certain amount of downtime and children do learn a lot through play...but too much leisure in a youngster's life can bring listlessness and discontentment. Even a young child will find great satisfaction in working hard and a job well done.

Dr. Leila Denmark encouraged mothers to train their children to work hard. Enlisting their help with household chores is a great way to start the training and develop lifelong habits of industry. Read on to learn an effective approach...

Hi, I’m Madia. I have eleven children and one of the greatest privileges of my life was to know Dr. Leila Denmark. She practiced pediatrics for over 75 years and was my mentor for 32 years.

I can hardly express how much she helped me, both with the children’s medical issues and family life challenges. I would love to share what she taught me with you.


Teach them to Work Hard

1. Be a good example! Mom and Dad, do you work hard? Remember, your children are always watching you. Never ask them to be what you are not willing to be. Dr. Denmark always said, “You get apples off apple trees!”

2. Work together. There is certainly a place for commissioning kids to do chores while you are focused on something else, but generally it helps to work together, especially when they are young. Working together is more likely to develop a sense of teamwork.

3. Nurture a helpful attitude. It’s especially effective if Dad says things like, “Mommy looks tired. Let's clean the kitchen for her.” (music to a mom’s ears!)

4. Declutter your home. It must have been easy for Laura Ingalls Wilder to help her mother neaten the house. Pioneer families had next-to-no toys, papers, gadgets or décor so..very little to dust, sort or trip over! Don't overwhelm little children by jamming their bedrooms full of stuff and expecting them to keep it all straight.

5. Designate a place for everything and make sure your kids know where to put things back. That way they are less tempted to stuff everything under the bed! if you can't figure out where to put something, maybe it needs to be donated.

6. Start training early. Typically, little children are energetic and eager to help Mommy. Start instructing before lazy habits settle in. It’s challenging to train a little person and initially it might take longer to get the job done with their help. However, down the road, the training pays off.

7. Choose tasks which are realistic and age appropriate. “Is Susie able to make a salad, or is she too young to handle sharp knives? “. Children have differing abilities and a mother should be reasonable in her expectations. Typically (not always) mothers underestimate what their children are able to do.

8. Train by a three- step process:

- Demonstrate and explain a task

- Help them perform the task

- Watch your child perform the task alone until it is clear he or she knows how to do it.

9. Post a list of the steps that are necessary to complete a task for your child to refer to (if they need this reminder). We have a list that was posted inside our bathroom cabinet fifteen years ago. It has been a reference for our young children who had the responsibility for cleaning that bathroom. The list is as follows:


-Get broom and dust pan


-Put on gloves

-Collect cleansers

-Spray outside toilet

-Wipe toilet

-Spray inside toilet, close

-Spray and clean floor

-Brush inside of toilet

-Clean sink

-Spray and clean mirror

-Change hand towel

-Put away cleansers

10. Require diligence. Don’t let them get away with being sloppy. Make them do it over again if it wasn't done right. Again, Mom needs to be reasonable in her expectations.

11. Provide accountability. (more about this in parts 2-4 of "chore" series)

12. Reward a job well done. Don't fail to praise a diligent worker and if the completed task is unusual, some special treat may be in order.

From Madia:

"I will never forget the diligent, servant-hearted example of my mother. At one point, she was in charge of housekeeping for a missionary leprosy hospital. Mom did not hesitate to help with the most menial tasks, often cleaning toilets alongside the maids."

From Dr. Denmark:

"Why was I not born in the slums? I had a grandmother who knew how to work. She was widowed with two little girls to rear on her own. Not only did she care for her daughters, but she tended a big garden, sold eggs, and wove cloth from cotton she grew. She managed to save fifty cents a week to buy land that had to be cleared by hand. Eventually, my grandmother had four-hundred acres and a good home for my mother and aunt. She taught my mother that it was a sin not to work, and a sin not to give thanks for work; but to do every job as though she were working for the Giver of all things. I was saved the tragedies that have befallen so many children because of a grandmother and a mother who believed in God and work."

For more of Dr. Denmark's insights, read Dr. Denmark Said It!

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