“Family Work Projects for Fun and Profit,” Ensign, June 1972, 6
Why is it that many of today’s youth seem to have lost interest in hard work? Perhaps part of the reason is that there aren’t enough good examples around them. Many parents don’t work hard physically and yet they still make enough money to support a family.
Perhaps we should add another reason: attitude. What attitude do your children see when you get up in the morning? Are you anxious to begin a new day of work, or do you awaken with moans and groans, dreading the tasks of the new day? This attitude may be your child’s conception of what your day is like. Parents have the responsibility not only to teach their children how to work, but also to instill within them the desire to want to work and to enjoy it.
Children can easily develop a love for work if their parents create a happy environment, are generous with praise, and take pride in their children’s accomplishments. Through even such small tasks as picking up a toy, a small child can develop a positive attitude toward work.
The Church has maintained that work is a fundamental principle of the gospel. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., stated: “I believe that we are here to work, and I believe that there is no escape from it. I think that we cannot get into our brain that desire too soon. Work we must if we shall succeed or if we shall advance. There is no other way.”
In today’s society where labor-saving devices perform many household chores, parents may find it a little difficult to find work experiences for their children. However, with some creative thought, many opportunities can be discovered. A number of lessons in the current Family Home Evening Manual offer excellent suggestions for helping children develop a positive attitude toward work: “Work Is a Blessing,” “Working Together,” “Job Assignment Work Party,” “How Our Talents Relate to Our Work,” “More Than Just a Living,” and “How We Plan for Our Life’s Work.”
Family work projects can provide experience, family association, and financial gains for individual members. By capitalizing on the talents or interests of members, these work projects can be fun for all involved.
Through working together, family members grow closer and learn more about each other. In one Latter-day Saint family where the father was a physician, the parents were concerned that their children learn the value of work. They realized that they were passing up an opportunity for their children’s growth by hiring a custodian to clean the office.
The children, excited about the opportunity to earn a regular income, took over the task of cleaning the office each morning. Teamwork became an important factor. The girls in the family would clean the office one morning while the boys stayed home to assist with household duties; then on the following morning they would rotate duties.
The project did require extra effort and time on the part of the parents, for the mother was required to drive the children to the office each morning. But the values gained by the children were worth far more than the extra effort required. As a result of the project:
1. The children became familiar with their father’s vocation. They learned what he did, what his surroundings were, and what the people were like with whom he worked.
2. The children felt that they were a part of their father’s business, and they felt a personal pride in his work.
3. The children had a regular work project with daily tasks to perform and a feeling of responsibility for seeing that the job was done.
4. The children developed teamwork. Working together and alternating housework with office work, they soon learned of the value of working together.
5. The children had a regular income.
Another father tells how his family banded together to achieve a goal. They wanted to have a shower installed in their basement and so they formed a “Shower Club.”
The children were so delighted to belong to the “Shower Club” that officers were elected and business meetings were held. The club planned how funds could be raised to finance their project and involved each family member in the construction. It was agreed that the club should have social functions and be a fun organization. And so along with the work, parties and other activities were planned.
The children had so much fun with the club that after the shower was installed, the club continued to meet and gradually evolved into a family council. The father saved the minutes of the club, and they have now become one of his most prized possessions as a record of his family’s work, activities, and accomplishments.
Another family has chosen a sizeable newspaper route for their family project. The route is large enough that it requires two boys to operate it each day. The family has become involved in doing bonus work and recruiting new customers. The values that this family gains from this project include:
1. Team effort. If one son is busy or unable to work, the others fill in.
2. Continuing effort. As the older boys outgrow the project, they train the younger boys to take over the tasks. The boys are able to use this as a stepping-stone to other jobs.
3. Business experience. The family has an opportunity to learn how to operate a small business, and the children learn that income depends on the quality of work as well as their collections.
4. Income for the individual family members and a source of revenue until the children are grown.
When selecting a family project, don’t overlook volunteer work for special community or Church service projects. Volunteering to help others builds character, and there is no finer way to learn how to work than to do so unselfishly without the thought of getting paid. These projects could include work on a Church building, helping a disabled person, service at a hospital or rest home, or involvement in community drives.
As you teach the principles of work in your home, don’t forget that children need a vacation or a day off now and then.
Just as adults enjoy vacations, children also look forward to them. If they are given a day off each week when they don’t have to do housework or don’t have to feel guilty about not doing anything, they will be more likely to enjoy work the following day. Also, if they get a week’s vacation free from household tasks each year and if mother does also, they will gain a greater appreciation for what family members do.
The success of our efforts to teach our children to work will depend on our optimistic outlook and enthusiastic attitude toward our own work. Perhaps one of the best ways to help our children is to analyze our own feelings and attitudes and then to find joy in our work. As Brigham Young has stated:
“Each one will find that happiness in this world mainly depends on the work he does, and the way in which he does it.”