Creating a Joyful Work Spirit in Children

Picture a world where all people realize their potential, through good work, to be an integral part of a family, of a community, of a world that thrives together.   It may seem like an impossible dream.  But this dream is built through individuals, starting with how each child is raised.

The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”  -  Maria Montessori

As parents, we cannot control how every child is raised.    We CAN make sure OUR children know that their help is needed, that their time is of value, and that we depend on their labor.  We CAN set up the environment and expectations of our home to allow our own children to value the process of work, value the role each person plays in the process, to take pride in completing it well,  and to enjoy the fruit of that work together.

“It is true that we cannot make a genius.

We can only give a child the chance to fulfill his potential possibilities.”

- Maria Montessori

 

I know the thoughts of many parents, including me, “Yes, yes, I agree.. but HOW?”   There is no handbook for parenting that includes how to do this, because every child and family is different.  This is not going to be a handbook, but a collection of thoughts, perspectives, and hopefully, inspiration to motivate us as parents to help our children learn to enjoy helping themselves and others through their labor.

“The child can develop fully by means of experience in his environment.

We call such experiences ‘work’.”
  –
Maria Montessori

 

In the earliest years of a child’s life he has a natural instinct to help. Girls like to “play house” and dust, scrub, wash, sweep, make doll dresses etc. Boys like to “play store” and make things. It is then that the child wants to help, and work is play to him.

“Such experiences are not just play….

It is work he must do in order to grow up.” 

- Maria Montessori

The wise parent will be careful to nurture this instinct, creating a joyful experience, and pointing out the beauty of their excellent work.

Oh, in my house, I help clean up,

With a dust-a-dust-a-dust-a-dust all day.

~ Kindermusik Our Time:  Milk & Cookies song

 

During these early formative years, it is important to provide opportunities to participate in these tasks, and to make tasks enjoyable, for the sake of a job well done.

Set it up for success by inviting them to work at a good moment, when they are full and rested, and eager to use their energy creatively.

Introduce new tasks as exciting teaching moments, “Do you want to learn something NEW?”  Seize upon the natural instinct in a little child to learn new things, to understand how it fits into life, and to understand their ability to make a difference.  They WANT to know these things at this young age.  Hint:  Don’t wait until they are a teenager.

Men are made stronger on realization

that the helping hand they need

is at the end of their own right arm.

~ Sidney J. Phillips

Start by pointing out the issue, and give them the vision of the end benefit:  “LOOK at all this dust.  All that can make us sneeze and make our allergies worse.  When the dust is gone, it will look beautiful and we will breathe healthy air.”  Actually, with boys, and some girls, you could get into the “dust mite” details, and really get them to want to “wipe out” these invisible bugs.

Take a moment before starting the task to observe, even take pictures, so you can compare the results.

Use the right tools, those that are appropriate to the job, AND the right size and style for the child.  Children love to use real objects, like a soft microfiber dust rag, or a real broom that is made to fit their height.  Show proper techniques at a pace that a child can catch on to.

“But an adult, if he is to provide proper guidance,

must always be calm and act slowly

so that the child who is watching him

can clearly see his actions in all their particulars.” 

-  Maria Montessori

 

ADD factors that enhance the enjoyment, like singing a song about cleaning, or that specific task.  Or put on some music that gets the body moving.  In our house, we LOVE to listen to Benny Goodman when we are cleaning.  The beat of the Jazz music keeps my mind and body upbeat. (There are some great Jazz songs perfect for this on the Milk & Cookies CD.)  For others, it may be the “Wipe Out” rock music that works best.  For my daughter, a person addicted to stories, she loves to listen to audio books while she folds clothes.

“The essential thing is to arouse such an interest

that it engages the child’s whole personality.”

- Maria Montessori

 

Let the child be as independent as possible.  Get them started, and do “your” section, while they do “their” section.  True pride comes with independent completion.

“These words reveal the child’s inner needs; ‘Help me to do it alone’.”

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

- Maria Montessori

 

Point out and celebrate progress along the way.  Create your own “Done Dance”.   At our house, when one room, or part, gets finished, we will start dancing and sing the word “Done” over and over with a melody that comes to mind, like the Star Wars theme song, or the Congo Line melody.  The melody doesn’t matter…  it is the feeling of joyful completion at each stage.  We often continue the song and dance to the next part, or next room.  Depending on the age and ability of the child, this may need to be scheduled to another time.

 

When fully complete with the task for the day, take a special moment to enjoy the serene feeling of a clean room.  Breathe deeply, hug each other as a special personal appreciation for helping it feel this way.  Often, the brain feels cluttered when the space around it feels cluttered.   When a space is clean, and a task is completed, it frees the mind to concentrate on other things.

“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” 

- Maria Montessori

 

Helping children realize the feeling and benefits of a clean space, and the pleasure of a job well done will make a huge difference in their life now, in the future with their own family and work spaces.

The child becomes a person through work.”

- Maria Montessori

 

A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life

depend on the labors of other men, living and dead,

and that I must exert myself in order to give

in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.

~ Albert Einstein

 

Parents should make all work honorable and insist on honest, hard work. No matter what the work is, if it is honest and well done, it is dignified and honorable. Let him know that every job has its own particular charms and interests, and the more he knows about the job the more interesting it becomes. Hence, whatever one does, if he does it well, he should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. 

John D. Rockefeller


I love the part of that quote that says, “let them know that every job has its own particular charms and interests.”  When children start to see the “charms” of specific tasks, they can begin to look for them in other tasks.

 

The whole unit of the Kindermusik Our Time: Milk & Cookies unit (for 1 ½ to 3 ½ year olds) is devoted to the joy of being a part of a household; building a house, cleaning, cooking, and being a part of a loving family.  Please ask if you’d like to know more.

 

On this Labor Day, I really enjoyed the perspective of this quote which honors the labor of each person.

“Labor was the first price,

the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. 

It was not by gold or silver, but by labor,

that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.”

~ Adam Smith

 

What do you think?  Do you agree?  How do you approach including your child in the labor in your home?

4 comments

  1. Amy Foltz /

    Around the time Logan was 4 years old, he started contributing a significant time and effort on a daily basis to the maintenance of the household. We established chores as a routine. Logan picks up for himself and keeps his living space clean. In addition, In addition, he does chores in the “common areas” of the home such as things such as dusting and vacuuming. Without chores, a child is a mere consumer, on a perpetual entitlement program, and entitlements do not strengthen people or culture. Grow a strong child.

    • Debbie Mondale /

      I totally agree. We must allow our children to be a full part of the family, so that it comes naturally as they have their own family, and be a part of their community. SOMETIMES, it is hard to do. It takes forethought to plan, work to prepare it for success, and patience to let the child do it themselves. Often it would be much easier to do it ourselves, but it does not serve our child well to do so.

      • Gwen Allen /

        Sooo agree!! I’m so thankful for my husband who plays a critical role in modeling and guiding our children in this enjoyment of labor. I have learned of him and when I do put the forthought into calling on the responsability of the kids to “do their part” or to work as Ray likes to put it, “in order” the whole family bonds through the task at hand – each one contributing his part and helping the other when they are complete with their own. I’d like to add to this that Ray’s “in order” refers to the responsability we have to say for instance, make sure our rooms are clean BEFORE we go to bed – no matter how late. Or in another instance, picking up our current play area gives us the freedom to move on to another kind of play – or to snack time. Diligent labor provides freedom and ownership that leads to stewardship. Thank-God for my husband who knew to teach these valuable lessons to my kids …and me!

  2. There’s nothing magic going on. There are the right tools for the job (small, specific, functional). There are tasks organized around a child’s size, skills, and interests. There’s patience in the teaching of work skills and habits, and sufficient time to get the job done. And above all, there are occasions to rise to.