Teaching Children to be Hard Workers

Teaching Children to be Hard Workers

If you have been a parent for very long, you may have noticed that most children do not naturally like hard work. Actually, I think that is true for most human beings.

Most people I know, myself included, would choose sipping sweet tea and reading a book on the front porch rocker over getting blisters digging post holes any day of the week.

Children, at least the eight children I live with, must be taught to work hard.

Little children up until about the age of 7 or 8 years old aren’t really all that helpful in the work they provide. What I mean is that many times we adults end up having to do over the work they have done. Ask a child under 7 to make up your bed, and you’ll see what I mean.

After about the age of 7 or 8 though, I have found that children who are taught to work hard can be productive and helpful members of your little miniature society, also known as a family.

Teaching children to work hard

We recently had to reinforce a LOT of the fencing around our chicken yard and hen house. You see, our neighbors were complaining about our free ranging chickens ranging into their flower beds, and we needed to make our fence more secure.

This was the kind of work that required a team. One person needed to cut wire ties, one person needed to heft the heavy roll of chicken wire and unroll it, and several of us held it in place and twisted the ties around the chicken wire to attach it to the existing fence.

You’ll see in the above photo that my 8 year old was cutting the pieces of wire we used to secure the chicken wire in place. (Her mouth is in motion, as usual, because she was entertaining us with a “radio drama” in the style of “Adventures in Odyssey.”)

Those wire cutters were heavy and sharp, but she willingly and confidently used them for well over 2 hours safely and with no injuries or complaints.

This project was a whole-family event. Everyone pitched in and pulled their weight. Even the 3 year old fetched us tools or gloves when we requested them.

Here are some of the ways we have taught our children to be hard workers:

Work along side your kids. 

Let them see you rolling up your sleeves and digging in. Show them what a hard worker looks like.

Encourage them while you are working.

I don’t mean the kind of encouragement I hear these days that is really false praise and flattery. Don’t tell them they are doing a good job if they really aren’t. While we are working, I tell my kids things like, “Keep it up,” and “You can do it,” and “Don’t give up,” and “Look how much we have done!”

Discourage complaining. 

I don’t tolerate whining, and I don’t want to hear how a) hot b) cold c) tired they are. I tell them that each one of us can feel the temperature the same as they can and no one appreciates a whiner. Whining and complaining about work only make it harder for everyone.

Remind them that “many hands make light work.” 

Living in a large family makes this evident daily. All 10 of us can clean out the van in no time flat, when it would take a single person much longer. The above project was a good example of this. We all knew that none of us would have been able to complete the fence on our own, but together we knocked it.

Remind them that hard work builds character. 

I’m sure this is one of those statements that my children will recall when they are older, and laugh about how many times they heard it from me. They have also heard these on many occasions. ”You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it,” and “It doesn’t have to be fun. It just has to be done.”

Don’t offer a reward for every job.

Now, I know this one goes against some popular parenting strategies, but I’m going to stand by it, and here’s why. Sometimes the reward for hard work is a feeling of pride and accomplishment and the result of the hard work. And nothing more.

In the real, live, grown up world, if you spend a couple of hours mowing and edging your lawn, you will end up with a nice looking yard. If you spend some time patching some damaged drywall in your living room and touching up the paint, you will have a nice looking room. No one will be handing out ten dollar bills because you worked diligently. Your reward is the result of your work and the good feeling you have inside. And that is more valuable than any sticker on a chart.

Kids need to know that sometimes work is hard and dirty and needs to be done not for a reward at the end, but just because it needs doing.

Teach them to be independent workers.

I tell my big kids, “If I have to help you help me, that is not helpful.”

They know the most helpful thing is to find something that needs doing, and just do it. If a meal has just finished, chances are dishes need to be cleared from the table, the floor needs to be swept, and food needs to be put away. Start doing!

The next most helpful thing is to ask what needs to be done and do that.

The least helpful thing is to require someone to guide you in every step.

Discourage laziness.

My children know that almost nothing is more annoying to me than to find one of them idly watching everyone else work. No one likes someone who isn’t willing to work or finds excuses to get out of work and leave it to others.

If it is work time, and I see one of my children being idle, I tell them, “Pick something up! Wipe something! Get busy! Make yourself useful!”

We can teach our children to be hard workers by expecting them to work.

How do you teach your children to be hard workers?

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Keeping Kids Safe Around Parked Cars

Keeping Kids Safe Around Parked Cars

We had a very frightful and traumatic happening here over the weekend. You can probably guess what it was from the title of this post, and I am so glad I can write this as an ALMOST tragic warning.

Soon after taking the photo above, all the kids brushed the sand of the beach from their clothes and feet and we stopped on the way home to get frozen yogurt. Everyone was happy and exhausted when we got home, and we all scattered to rest, read books, or just generally chill out.

3yo Peyton asked if she could stay outside and play with the bubbles I had bought for the beach, and I said “sure.”

A little while later, I realized I hadn’t seen or heard from her in what seemed like too long, so I asked if anyone knew where she was. No one did.

I called for her and checked her bed to see if she had fallen asleep after our busy day. She wasn’t there.

I went all around the house calling her name and started to get a little panicky. I rushed outside hollering for her.

No answer.

I ran around to the back yard and yelled toward the woods.

I checked the swing set.

The trampoline.

The zip line.


I started to run frantically down to the hen house. That’s when I noticed the headlights were on in the old farm truck we rarely drive.

I rushed over there and found Peyton lying down inside the truck bawling her little eyes out. I opened the door and scooped her sweaty body up. She fell limp into my arms, sobbing between ragged breaths, “I… needed… you… I… needed… you…”

She had just that week been so proud that she figured out how to open the door to the van and get in all by herself. She just hadn’t figured out how to open the doors from the inside yet. I never thought to warn her that she should never get into a vehicle without us.

I am so very thankful the weather was mild that day. Even though the temperature outside only reached about 72 degrees, she was still hot and sweaty by the time I found her. Where we live, in Texas, it isn’t unusual for summer temperatures to reach over 100 degrees. This site shows that even on an 80 degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 123 degrees. That is enough to kill.

Every year, somewhere around 38 children die in hot cars from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside.

If she hadn’t turned on the headlights, I would have never thought to look in that old truck. I am so thankful God has plans for Peyton to be with us a while longer.

We will be locking our empty vehicles from now on, and we have also had numerous and lengthy discussions with Peyton about getting into cars without us.

Please do the same at your house.

Together we can keep kids safe around parked cars.

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Reestablishing Good Habits

For almost 20 years, we have had a daily nap time at our house. This was a hard and fast rule. No negotiating. For one hour each day, rain or shine, everyone was to go to a quiet place for a nap or quiet contemplation for the older set.

Did you notice I use the past tense in that last sentence?

When we had a major construction project going on at our house a little over a year ago, there was sawing and hammering going on while construction workers shouted to one another over the music blaring from their boom box. (I’ll never forget the day the kids learned the words to “Black Betty.” Good times.) One end of our house was completely open to the elements for weeks, except for a piece of black plastic sheeting stapled to the ceiling and walls.

That’s when our almost 20 year habit of nap time flew out the window. Or out the open end of our house. Whatever. Nap time was gone.

So, you can imagine the resistance I received recently from my 3 year old when I tried to reestablish our old nap time routine. She revolted! She could not even remember the time when this was a routine. Or even a one time event.

I explained to everyone that we were starting our daily nap or quiet contemplation routine again. Everyone would need to find a book, a notebook, and a pencil and go to a solitary place for one hour. They would know when the hour was up when the music stopped.

Everyone complied. Except the 3 year old. She cried, fussed, and/or screamed for the entire hour.

Fortunately for me and unfortunately for her, I am more determined than she is, so she stayed in her bed for the duration. I can’t say it was altogether restful or relaxing for me, but I have set my mind to reestablishing this good habit.

Past experience tells me that she may very well keep up her resistance for a few days, but if I stand firm, all will be peaceful soon.

Moms, if you have let a good habit fall by the wayside, there’s no time like today to reestablish it. Here are a few tips for doing that.

  • Explain to the family that everyone is going to be doing (_fill in the blank_) again.
  • Remind them of the procedures for above routine.
  • Don’t be taken by surprise by resistance.
  • Establish consequences for disobedience.
  • Stand firm in your expectations.
  • Keep up the routine, regardless of resistance.

Now, go reestablish a good habit today!

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What About Homeschooling Preschoolers?

What About Homeschooling Preschoolers

I have been formally homeschooling my 8 children for 13+ years, so I’ve seen my share of homeschool curriculum designed for preschoolers.

I frequently see curriculum for sale with sensory bins and water play and balancing activities, worksheets for cutting practice with special safety scissors, special manipulatives for fine motor skills and gross motor skills. The list goes on.

I get emails and messages asking for my recommendations for curriculum for preschoolers, so I am going to address that today.

I don’t use any preschool curriculum. 

Or checklists for that matter.

Homeschooling Preschoolers

I let my preschoolers play.

Homeschooling Preschoolers

And climb. And dig.

Homeschooling Preschoolers

I read books to them. We have conversations.

Homeschooling Preschoolers

They help in the kitchen.

Homeschooling Preschoolers

We have tea parties.

That’s it.

I don’t buy any curriculum at all. I don’t buy little colorful plastic teddy bears for counting. We count the apples in the fruit basket or coins in my purse.

I don’t have worksheets for cutting practice. I leave scissors around and let them cut things.

Preschool cutting practice

Just today my 3 year old asked me if she could cut up an empty egg carton. “Sure,” I said. “Go for it.”

It wasn’t on the schedule. It wasn’t part of a curriculum or checklist. I didn’t have a lesson with her. She initiated the activity herself, gathered the materials she needed, and got busy.

Yes, the scissors were sharp. Yes, she made a mess. But she learned.

  • She learned that she is imaginative enough to create “baby doll tea cups” from an egg carton.
  • She learned that she can come up with a good idea and present it to an adult in a way that is persuasive.
  • She learned about manipulating scissors.

All without a lesson plan or curriculum.

Now, if you have the money and the inclination to spend hundreds of dollars on a preschool curriculum, I would say “more power to you” and “whatever floats your boat.”

But if you don’t have the money or the inclination to buy a preschool curriculum, I would say it isn’t necessary. Optional, yes. Necessary, no.

It might give you peace to know that someone has come up with ideas to keep your preschooler busy, but here’s a little secret. (Looks around and lowers voice to a whisper) Your preschooler will come up with those ideas herself if you let her. 

If you enjoy using a curriculum, fine. If you feel burdened by it, set yourself free, Mama.

Preschoolers don’t need homeschooling.

They just need home.

*Note: Each of my children is creative, imaginative, witty, and on or above grade level having used this “no preschool curriculum” approach.

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Fun With Our Zip Line

We have been having SO MUCH fun with the zip line we got for Christmas!

zip line platform

We had a platform built in our back yard for take off.

zip line set up

And a small one built in the woods beyond for landing.

This is the zip line we have. (Affiliate link) It is 90 feet long, very well made, and holds up to 250 pounds! It has a seat and a handle with a rubber grip for holding on.

The kids are out there at first light zipping away! Okay, maybe I have been enjoying it a little, too!

Here’s a video so you can see for yourself how fun it is! And a little bonus of me singing. Can you believe my kids think I’m embarrassing when I drive them around?!

And in case you love that song as much as I do, here’s where you can buy it! (Affiliate link)

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How to Manage Your Mouth for Kids! {Coming Soon!}

How to Manage Your Mouth for Kids {eBook}

ONLY $5.97

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Guess who finished A 30 Day Wholesome Talk Challenge for Kids just in time for New Year’s resolutions? This girl, that’s who!

This ebook has 30 scriptures on controlling the tongue, and I briefly explain what each one means in terms my own children would understand. I give examples of what the scriptures would look like in daily life, and include some dialogue that might occur between siblings or friends. Each lesson is short, intended to take 10-15 minutes to complete, and focuses on the scripture of the day.

I wrote this with my kids, ages 7 – 13, in mind, and it includes printable pages with dotted lines for copying the scripture and completing the S.O.A.P. method of Bible study for each scripture. (You can see a video of my then-kindergartener doing S.O.A.P. here.) There is also a cursive and a printed example of the scripture for the purpose of copy work, so this can even qualify as your child’s handwriting assignment.

This 30 day challenge can be used for 30 consecutive days, or if you wish, 5 scriptures a week for a unit of 6 weeks, or even one scripture a week for a 30 week unit.

How to Manage Your Mouth - A 30 Day Wholesome Talk Challenge

ONLY $5.97

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I used the same scriptures, in the same order, as the adult version of How to Manage Your Mouth, which will finally be made available in pdf for those of you who prefer reading it that way. (I also included printable journal pages in the adult version.) You can participate in the challenge right along with your children!

I will be making both of these pdf versions available Thursday, the day after Christmas, so you can print them out to kick off 2014 right!

And guess what? My email subscribers will be receiving a discount code in a super secret, BFF email, so be on the lookout for that!

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If you aren’t already an email subscriber, be sure to sign up so you will get the discount code!

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