One of the best lifeskills that we can teach our kids is to be useful, commendable workers. But, let’s be honest, kids would rather play than work. So how do we go about this? Jenny shares with us 12 ways to help children find meaning and enjoyment in work.

Jenny is wife to Richard and Mom to three grown kids. As a family they enjoy camping, travelling and talking! As a couple, Jenny and Richard have been presenting family seminars since 2006! Jenny writes and edits from home. She has a beautiful blog called Love More to Live and a YouTube channel where she chats about love, family, faith and homeschooling. You can also find and follow her on Instagram and Facebook. Without further ado, over to her!


God thinks work is important.

In a sinless environment He gave Adam and Eve work to do – tending the garden. He knew it would be good for them to be busy with useful occupation.

The Bible tells us “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27). Why? Because childhood and youth are the best time to learn good work habits. Unfortunately, children and youth (and some adults!) don’t always see the benefits of useful work – they whine, complain, and often shirk their responsibilities. That’s pretty sad because work has many benefits!  

Practical work encourages close observation and independent thought. Rightly performed, it tends to develop that practical wisdom which we call common sense. It develops the ability to plan and execute, strengthens courage and perseverance, and calls for the exercise of tact and skill.

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So, how do you get kids to buy into the idea of work? Make it more meaningful. Let’s look at 12 ways to do just that…

1. Make work a learning experience.

Don’t just tell your kids what to do, show them how to do it. Give clear, simple instructions and teach practical work processes like washing the dishes from left to right, dusting first and then vacuuming, or picking up the biggest things first and then the smaller items. 

A lot of work is repetitious and boring and we can’t escape that entirely, but try include chores that will interest your kids and teach them new skills.

If possible, help your kids start a small business so they can learn the value of work and money – how many hours of work go into the money they receive for that time?

2. Expect your kids to apply their minds to the task.

What does it mean to apply your mind to a task? Think about what you are doing. Try to do it better. Find ways to improve your efficiency. Stay focused. Instead of telling your child what to do next, ask them, “What needs to be done next?”

It takes discipline to keep the mind on the task at hand, but this skill will be a benefit to your kids throughout life and make them useful anywhere.

Those who learn to put thought into everything they undertake, however small the work may appear, will be of use in the world.

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3. Work together and talk while you work.

Your presence makes all the difference to a child. Don’t just assign tasks. Work with your kids.

And while you work, ask questions. Show interest in your child’s feelings and problems.

While the hands are busy and the mind is somewhat free, you will often find that your child will reveal inner thoughts that would never be shared over a desk or while seated in the living room.

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4. Memorise a poem or scripture while you’re working.

When the hands are busy the mind is free to learn and think deeply. Plus, focusing the mind on something other than the task at hand will make the work go by faster.

5. Teach object lessons from the work you are doing.

This is a great way to make work more meaningful. Ask your child, “What spiritual lesson can you learn from cleaning the bathroom (sweeping the floor, raking leaves, vacuuming the carpet)?

Once your kids learn to do this, they’ll begin seeing object lessons everywhere, and it really does make chores more meaningful. 

6. Break big jobs into smaller pieces.

Sometimes a big task can feel overwhelming and your child will stall, not knowing where to begin. Break the chore into smaller chunks and help him focus on one at a time. I always asked my kids, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Again, this skill will serve your kids well throughout life.  

7. Teach perseverance, thoroughness, and efficiency.

Perseverance is a mental skill as well as a matter of the will. Help your kids persevere when they start feeling tired. Be prepared to step in for a bit and do some of the chore with your child. Just having you there, working alongside your child, can help them overcome the mental hurdle and persevere.

Teach your children that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. Hastiness doesn’t get the job done well. Better to go a bit slower but do the job well.

On the other hand, don’t allow your kids to dawdle over tasks. Set a timer and make it a challenge to finish their chores by the time the bell sounds.

8. Stand back and admire what you’ve accomplished.

Help your child feel the thrill of finishing a job and doing it well. Stand back and say, “Wow! Look how great the yard looks with all the leaves raked.” Take a few moments to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

Focus attention on the effort your child made and lessons learned doing the chore, not just the end result.

9. Be positive!

Pointing out what’s wrong doesn’t work as well as giving positive comments about correct aspects of the job. A positive comment builds confidence and the desire to do better.

Try to end all work periods on a positive note, having accomplished something. Help your child succeed. If you create a positive working environment, your child will develop a positive attitude toward work.

Give genuine praise – “Wow, you did a good job!” Or, “You put in a lot of effort and it shows!” Write a note and leave it on your child’s pillow. 

But, don’t give false praise. If your child has skipped a chore or done it sloppily, don’t give them a false idea of their accomplishment by giving cheap praise. 

Does being positive mean you can’t point out what needs to improve? No. Just criticise the job not the worker. There’s a huge difference between “You did a sloppy job,” and “Hmm, the window has a few streaks on it. I think it needs a little more attention”.  

10. Teach your kids not to seek constant praise in order to work well.

In real life most labour goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Teach your kids to do their chores without needing to be constantly praised and boosted. If they can’t function without a huge amount of positive input then they need some help in learning to toughen up and just do the job.

11. Make it fun.

Chore charts work well for young kids – the visual reinforcement can be a great motivator. Sing while you work. Pretend to be soldiers armed with dishcloth and soap and tackle the “enemy” of dirty dishes. Draw a smiley face on your child’s hand when they do a job well. Get creative!  

Give rewards and use incentives – they motivate from the outside until inner motivation is developed. When a child puts in extra effort, reward them with some extra free time, let them choose a favourite dessert, or go for a swim.  

Rewards and incentives are great, but do remember that sometimes the reward is in the job itself – just getting it done.

12. Give your kids responsibility.

As soon as your children are able to bear responsibility, give it to them. This will make them feel needed and will boost their self-esteem. Being solely responsible for a task immediately provides ownership and accountability.

Use weekly chore lists that you can alternate between your children each week. Once in a while allow your kids to choose chores. Make a list and let each one choose from the list or write all the chores on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Then let each child pull chores from the jar. 

If you teach your child to bear age-appropriate burdens, the habit of working will become second nature to them, and useful work will never seem like drudgery. Making work more meaningful will make it much easier for kids to enjoy chores and develop positive attitudes toward work.

 The children should be educated for usefulness. They should be taught to do those things that are needful in the home life; and the parents should make these duties as pleasant as possible with kindly words of instruction and approval.

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