Kids and good work habits have a reputation for NOT fitting well together. Check out these 10 strategies to teach your kids to work unto the Lord. It’s time for a change!
Have you ever noticed that everyone in the Bible worked? From shepherd boys to kings, work was a part of life in Bible times just as much as it is now. It was also a central part of Jesus’ life here on earth (see John 5:17).
He healed. He provided food. He taught.
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me
and to accomplish his work.” John 4:34
I love this verse because it shows us the attitude Jesus had about work. He didn’t wake up every morning and grumble, “can’t believe I have to do this” under His breath. His very sustenance, the thing that kept Him going, was to be able to do the work of God.
The trouble is, what we believe about work has been marred by the world so much that we don’t actually know what God said about work!
What does it mean to work as unto the Lord?
The Bible has a lot to say about work, but there is one thing we really need to know when it comes to teaching kids: We are called to work unto the Lord.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.
You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
This means whatever kind of work we are involved in (a career, mothering, schoolwork, volunteering), we are to do it as if we are doing it directly for God–like He is our boss!
In the next section, we will break down exactly what that looks like and how you can help your kids work unto the Lord, but just for a minute allow this to sink in.
Can you imagine how well people would work if they actually worked as unto the Lord? (Let’s just say McDonald’s would blow our minds.) People would actually serve others well, with the right attitude, and without complaining. Sounds like heaven, right?
People who work unto the Lord…
- are others-focused
- do things with excellence
- take initiative
- work diligently
- have integrity
- work with a joyful attitude
10 strategies to help your kids work unto the Lord
You’ve likely landed on this post because you want to help your kids work God’s way. I applaud you! God commands us to teach our kids His Word and to lead them in His ways. There is much included in that command. Teaching our kids about work is one of those things.
Before we get to the practical part, I want to remind you of two truths:
- We can’t make our kids work unto the Lord. As much as we want our kids to listen to wise instruction, we must remember that it’s their job to choose to. Our job isn’t to make them. Our job is to teach them, equip them, and influence them. In the end, they have to decide who they will follow!
- Everyone is created differently. Duh, right? We know this and yet we don’t act like it. Our kids are all different. Let us not forget that different personalities will impact the way we work just as much as the type of work we choose.
Ok, let’s look at some practical ways you can help your kids work unto the Lord!
1. Model both good work habits and a good work ethic
Let’s just get this one out of the way because we all know that no one likes to hear it. We are responsible for practicing what we preach. Can we seriously expect our kids to empty the dishwasher when we whine about going to work?
Kids catch 100% of our behavior and only a small percentage of the things we tell them. It’s the most frustrating part of parenting because we KNOW BETTER, but don’t do better.
Don’t expect perfection, but be sure you hold yourself accountable for modeling good work habits and attitudes. This includes not bad-mouthing your job/boss, not complaining about going to work, not turning in lousy work, and even things like not cheating your boss.
In case you think it’s easy for me to say that we need to model a good work ethic, let me share a peek into my story.
This is one of my favorite pictures of me working when my kids were very little. My husband left when I was pregnant with my 4th child. At the time of this picture, my kids were 7, 6, 3, and 1. I had just started Not Consumed!
I won’t lie, working full-time as a single mom and homeschooling my kids has been something I’ve only been able to do by the grace of God. Some days are so hard. Some seasons are so hard. But I am IMMEASURABLY thankful for the opportunity and I make sure that’s what my kids see.
And yes, I totally love it when my back becomes a car parking lot while I type blog posts. It’s a little distracting at times, but I wouldn’t trade those footsteps in the hallway for anything!
2. Change your attitude: work unto the Lord
We talked above about working unto the Lord. Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? One thing that keeps us from working like this is our perspective. We’ve become so jaded about work because we’ve believed the lies the world tells us.
We’ve believed that the sole purpose of work is to make money and feed our families. It’s become a ball and chain. A drudgery. Something we can’t wait to get away from. Our kids know this and take on the same attitude.
We must stop the madness! One thing we need to know is that God says the exact opposite about the work He gives us.
…and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil–this is the gift of God.
Oof. A gift? Work is a gift? Trust me, I find that as hard to believe sometimes as you do, but it’s still true. Work is how God provides for us not just financially, but spiritually, emotionally, and physically!
We get this mixed up because there is often pain associated with work. But did you realize that work was given to us by God and called GOOD before the fall? The pain we associate with work is a consequence of the fall.
But the gift of work remains, even in the midst of the pain! When we get this right, we can work unto the Lord with joy!
3. Teach good work habits and a good work ethic
Of course, it’s not all about just being an influence. We do need to teach our kids specific habits and skills. We need to show them what is expected. We need to teach them how to develop good work habits and how to have a good work ethic.
- Good work habits are the things you do regularly to become a better worker, such as reading daily, practicing your trade, sharpening organizational skills, and eating well so you can stay focused.
- Good work ethic is the reputation you have as an employee. It’s things like taking initiative, being dependable, contributing new ideas, and being a team player.
One great way to teach those is to compliment other people’s work as you are out and about. Talk about the great job a server did at a restaurant or the happy attitude of the cashier at the grocery store. Point out an employee who went above and beyond and those who didn’t bother.
Of course, it may not be appropriate to do this in front of the person (everyone loves a compliment, but complaining customers not so much). I typically talk about these things as we walk out of the store or on the drive home.
Whatever you do, DON’T just harp on the bad fast food employee or the customer service rep who made your day frustrating. While it can be helpful to show our kids what the employee could have done better, it’s far more impactful to show them employees who are doing excellent work.
This might mean you need to change where you shop. Haha. Seriously, I do choose where I shop and dine based on the customer service I can expect, and you likely do too. Express this to your kids so they can see it as well!
Another way to teach excellent work habits is through chores. We will get to that in the next section.
4. Create jobs for your kids
If we want our kids to learn to work, we have to create jobs that will help them learn the skills they need. This means allowing them to do chores even if it’s much easier to do them yourself. It also means looking for ways your kids can pick up bigger jobs that you might hire out, like lawn work or even painting.
I know a homeschool mom who pays her 16-year-old to babysit her younger siblings in the afternoons so she can work. Genius! This helps Mom a ton and teaches the older child incredible work skills. Plus, she has the opportunity to earn money and learn to manage it.
You might also look for things your older kids can do to save you time and to help them make money, like creating a grocery list or even shopping for you. Remember, time is money. Pay your teen and give them work experience while at the same time helping take some things off your plate!
Of course, for most families, chores will be the main way we can create jobs for our kids. There is no shortage of chore chart ideas out there. We’ve tried them all. And most of them don’t work.
Many years ago I developed a chore chart idea that actually works for kids because you develop the system WITH them. Check it out. You’ll love it. Plus, there is a free fully-editable printable to help!
The other secret to the success of this was that I had specific steps for completing each of the chores all typed out on the back of their chore cards. This gives them no excuse for getting the job done well!
5. Create opportunities to strengthen their strengths
Often, we harp on the weaknesses our kids have. We try to get them special help or set up programs to get them to practice more. What if we put as much energy into strengthening their strengths?
I like to call it the zone of genius. Everyone has something they excel at. As a homeschool mom, it’s my mission to find this thing for each of my kids and feed the fire. Because it’s a LOT easier to fan a fire than it is to fight an uphill battle!
We want our kids to use the natural strengths and talents God has given them and pursue those things with all their hearts. We can help them do this in several specific ways:
- Help them see their strengths.
- Give them tools like classes, subscriptions, and books that will help them sharpen their skills.
- Help them learn about career options that best utilize their strengths.
- Connect them with mentors who have similar strengths.
I would also note here that it’s SUPER important to capitalize on opportunities when your kids are young. Pictured above is my toddler “helping around the house.” Little ones LOVE to help, so take advantage of that and give them jobs. Let them develop those good work habits!
6. Teach into their weaknesses with purpose
Of course, we do need to work on weaknesses. I just want to emphasize again that I believe the FOCUS of our time should be to better develop strengths. Work on weaknesses only to the point that is necessary for life.
For example, not everyone has to love to cook. If they know the basics, that’s good enough. They don’t need to master the Creme Brule.
My oldest child is a gifted writer. Language arts emerged as a clear winner before she was in middle school. So as she entered high school with her heart set on a biblical studies and/or language major, I lightened the math load so she could focus there and not get frustrated.
She still took math and even did well enough on the ACT to get a full scholarship, but I didn’t make her take Trig, Calculus, or any other advanced math classes. Instead she took three years of Latin, a year of Greek, and finished her basic college English requirements before she was even a senior in high school.
This way she can focus on the thing she loves and is clearly gifted to do: write! (Secret: she wrote several of our products before she even graduated high school!)
You can do this with many skills and subjects our culture pushes as “normal” or “mandatory.” Think outside the box and really ask yourself what your kids NEED.
7. Show your kids that work is THEIR responsibility
It’s hard to watch your kids fail. Might even be one of the hardest parts of parenting. We naturally want to jump in and rescue them, shielding them from the negative effects of failure. But we must resist when it comes to work ethics and habits.
Don’t jump in to rescue your child when they don’t come through! If your child leaves an assignment at home, don’t rush to the school or homeschool co-op to deliver it. It’s better to learn this lesson in middle school than it is to learn it in high school or college. The stakes only get higher as your kids get older, so the younger they learn about natural consequences, the better!
My kids have missed youth group activities because they failed to sign up. My youngest even went without lunch one day between work and piano because he forgot to pack it. I DID rescue him multiple times, but I had to draw the line somewhere. After literally dozens of times of forgetting and me rescuing him because he is so young, one day I couldn’t make it work.
Guess what? That was the last day he forgot to pack his lunch. What a clear reminder to me that when we rescue our kids from consequences, we enable them to keep up lazy or poor behaviors! More importantly, we hinder their growth.
Remember what I said when we started. We have influence as parents, but we will never have ultimate control over the behavior of our kids. They have to choose to take responsibility for their own work habits and work ethics. Our job is simply to equip them to do so!
If teaching responsibility is something you’d like more ideas for, check out this post. I’ll walk you through the practical steps of teaching responsibility in all ages, both at home and with school work.
8. Remind them that everyone works
When I wrote the Work Unto the Lord Bible study, one of my favorite parts was discovering all the ways people worked in the Bible. You’ll find everything from mother to tentmaker, with so many cool options in between.
But the biggest thing you’ll see is that everyone worked–moms, dads, kings in battle, priests in prayer, kids in the fields, and yes, even Jesus!
Sometimes we are fooled into thinking that work is a job or career. Nothing could be further from the truth. Work is so much bigger than that. Just ask a mom. Most moms hold down dozens of “jobs” without even stepping foot outside the house.
Even if that’s not true in your home, show your kids that everyone helps around the house by implementing a strong chore system. Also reinforce excellent work ethics by holding them accountable for school work. Both of these things are a child’s “season” of work. They aren’t exempt.
The Bible is rather harsh on this topic:
If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
2 Thessalonians 3:10
Of course that doesn’t mean your toddler can’t eat if he doesn’t unload the dishwasher. There is certainly an age of accountability here, but note that it’s likely WAY younger than most parents realize. Even a toddler can set a napkin at each person’s plate while setting the table.
Teaching kids to contribute from a very young age is crucial. Chores and school are both what God has called kids to do with their lives. The cool thing is, both are used to prepare them for whatever He has next!
9. Teach kids that work is a reflection of who you are
On the rare occasion that my family eats fast food, you can count on it being Chick-fil-A. I’m sure you know we don’t pick it because it has the shortest line or the cheapest menu. In fact, both of those aren’t so.
We pick Chick-fil-A because their customer service is a reflection of what they believe in. Yes, it’s a Christian company and that says a lot, but the company invests a lot of resources in developing its staff, including the sweet young lady at the drive-thru window. And it shows.
We know we will drive past another fast food restaurant with an empty line and cheaper menu just to get to Chick-fil-A. We do it because we can count on their excellence. And we skip those unnamed fast food joints because we know we can count on the opposite experience most of the time.
Paint that picture for your kids. When people can count on your excellence, they will choose to work with you. Poor work ethics are a barrier to good relationships and excellent opportunities. Even more so, poor work ethics are a barrier to future opportunities. Don’t let that happen to your kids!
Work ethics start at the core of who you are. If you are faithful to clean your room or turn in an assignment, you will be faithful as an employee. If you are faithful working a drive-thru window, you’ll be faithful as the manager.
And if not, you simply won’t be. People know this about you. Your character WILL impact both today’s opportunities and those given to you in the future!
10. Teach your kids what God says about work
This one seems obvious, but I’m not going to lie–I waited WAY too long to do it. When kids are young, we lead by example. But as our kids get older (by age 6), we must faithfully teach them God’s truths!
Remember those diaper-wearing toddlers who will do anything to help? They turn into work-hating teenagers if they aren’t taught the true value of work along the way. You can impact a teenager with a sudden chore system, but it will be FAR easier if they have been doing one since they were 5 or 6 years old.
Kids need to know:
- where the idea of work comes from
- how God uniquely designed us for work
- how work is a gift from God
- how God tells us to work
- how God uses work to grow us
I know this seems like a daunting task, but I’d love to help. In an effort to teach my own kids this valuable info, I wrote a Bible study. In this Bible study, Work Unto the Lord, we address all of the above, as well as how we can develop good work habits.
Remember, the world says work is a dirty word, but it’s a LIE! Work is a gift. While we still have kids in our homes, we need to take advantage of the time we have to teach them the work habits and ethics they will use for many years to come!
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.