Parents have opportunities in the home to teach their children the value of work

"We believe in work for ourselves and for our children," President Spencer W. Kimball said in April 1976 general conference.

"We should train our children to work, and they should learn to share the responsibilities of the home and the yard. They should be given assignments to keep the house neat and clean, even though it be humble. Children may be given assignments also to take care of the garden, and this will be far better than to have them for long hours sitting at a television."Someone has said, `Nobody ever lost his shirt when his sleeves were rolled up.' "

Below are three articles that discuss general principles of teaching children to work, and that cite examples of families who have been successful in doing so.


Opportunity to do work as a member of the Church is never scarce. Family history work, callings, becoming self reliant, chores, and working at our places of employment are but a few examples. We even have the unique privilege of doing work for the dead. With all these possibilities, it would be natural to assume that our children can acquire a strong desire to labor and work for the support of themselves and their families.

Instilling within our children a desire to work is instrumental in allowing them to fully realize their mortal capabilities. The Lord warned the early Saints, saying, "I . . . am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them and their children are also growing up in wickedness." (D&C 68:3 1) Sometimes parents may find it difficult to provide meaningful work opportunities to their children. This becomes even more difficult with the general shift over the past decades from rural to urban life.

Leo Hill, a father of six children and twice a bishop, recently returned with his wife, Marie, from a Welfare Services Mission in Eastern Europe. He feels the days when he had an opportunity to work on his father's farm with his own children aided in beginning their solid working foundation.

"I think as you work together as a family, it's very important to build love and respect and cooperation. A lot of the very important qualities of human beings are found in working together," recalls Brother Hill, adding that he finds work an important tool in overcoming adversity and difficulty.

He feels that most projects present one with unexpected obstacles, and overcoming these teaches endurance and problem-solving skills. "When children work, they gain confidence in their abilities and are willing to accept responsibility," he added.

Often the children in the Hill home worked together to earn money for family causes, such as helping support older children on missions. "That way, the work experience means something for everyone," Brother Hill said.

Later, as he found himself in a professional career, he remembered that it was more difficult to include the children in his own daily activities.

"If you are a profession and your kids can't work in what you are doing, there still is something they can do. If you look hard enough, you will find it," he declared. "I could have given things to my children, but I thank the Lord that I had them work with me."

Brother Hill's children are still profiting from his example, as one of his sons, Craig, a member of the Medicine Hat 2nd Ward, Taber Alberta Stake, tries to foster the same beliefs in his children.

Like his father, Craig Hill believes that family efforts are "a good opportunity to teach the kids the value of work and how to do a job and do it well, and be responsible at doing it."

Almost three years ago, Craig and his wife Joy decided to find a part-time occupation that would provide an opportunity for their family of six children to work together. They soon began delivering newspapers to both homes and newsstands, and have all but the youngest family members involved.

Rising every day at 4 a.m., Craig Hill and one of the older children head out to meet the delivery of newspapers from Calgary. Soon, they have dropped bundles to most of the newsstands in Medicine Hat. When they return home, Burke, 12, and Laurel, 10, ride off on their bicycles in the early light to deliver newspapers to residents in their neighborhoods. Both children also deliver another local paper after school.

With the busy schedule, both Craig and Joy Hill see the need to continually monitor their own time, along with the children. Church and school are primary priorities, and work needs to be completed before play. Even so, the Hill children still enjoy a variety of after-school activities, with both Laurel and Burke participating in sports and musical interests.

"I really appreciate the children for taking on the responsibility. Its hard getting up that early in the morning," Craig said, adding, "I think they are glad to do the papers, and that's a good attitude to develop."

He also sees his children learning about the true worth of a dollar. "They realize how much things cost, and they offer to pay for family activities and clothes of their own," he said. Both older children have savings accounts where funds for missions and school are being stored.

A benefit Burke sees is a difference in his own spending habits. He said, "I used to just buy the first thing I saw, but now I shop around for a good price."

Soon, after Medicine Hat residents are finished reading papers delivered by the Hills, they can help the environment thanks to a unique idea of another LDS family in the Medicine Hat 3rd Ward.

Ken and Audrey Wallace, along with three of their five children, operated a recycling pickup service in Coaldale, Alberta, before moving to Medicine Hat. Now they are beginning the business again.

With a background in environmental biology, Brother Wallace, now an investment adviser, was looking for an opportunity that would involve the whole family and have an entrepreneurial flavor to it. Sister Wallace came up with the final idea, feeling that many people would like to recycle, but without a door-to-door pickup service, most people just don't get around to it.

With Brother Wallace driving a pickup truck containing bins for each type of recycled product, the three oldest boys, Shaune, 16; Trevor, 15; and Devin, 13, went through the streets of Coaldale, a small community outside Lethbridge, Alberta, picking up recyclable materials from more than 100 residents who subscribed to their service.

This time, both Sterling, 7, and Spencer, 10, who were a little young to help in Coaldale, are looking forward to working with their older brothers.

The boys are already planning their advertising and marketing strategy based on the knowledge acquired in their last location.

"It was a good experience. I think they really gained some things in terms of business acumen," said Brother Wallace, adding that the boys were responsible for keeping the records of their customers, along with formulating a route map to ensure efficient pickups.

"We learned to work together, and to work as a team, and are saving up for our mission, too," said Trevor. - Rod Gustafson


"We have always believed that children need to learn that work is not a bitter pill you have to swallow to get to the good stuff in life," said John

and Connie Susa of the Providence Ward, Providence Rhode Island Stake. "There is a lot of satisfaction in the work itself. It doesn't matter what it is. The process is just as important as the goal."

This attitude toward work has rubbed off on their three sons. Joe, 23, is a husband and father balancing pre-med studies at the University of Rhode Island, a full-time job, and responsibility as the "house spouse" and primary family cook. Frank, 20, is a junior at BYU, a philosophy major with significant extra-curricular involvements. Mark, 17, is a sophomore in high school sampling vocational options, organizing fund-raising efforts for a favorite charity and keeping up with his classwork.

These are fine credentials for any young men. What is of particular note is that the two younger boys have lived since childhood with serious physical disabilities. Frank has had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since he was 6. Although he can walk unassisted, he has severe orthopedic limitations. He cannot pick anything up off the floor. He can't tie his shoes. His thumbs are locked. Mark was born with cerebral palsy and has some mental retardation. He has serious motor control problems and uses a wheelchair.

The Susas have found that having a network of support is a major factor in instilling an ethic of hard work. "From the time Frank was 6 he capitalized on experiences he had with adults, primarily his doctors and therapists," explained Brother Susa. "All of these people emphasized to him over and over again the need to be independent and self-reliant, to be committed and conscientious in doing whatever he was doing. Initially this encouragement was in relation to his therapy, but he generalized it into every aspect of his life."

John and Connie Susa learned that they had to supplement existing social and education systems to help Mark.

"School tends to focus on Mark's deficits, on remediating what is wrong. Our whole approach as parents in helping him work toward adult life has been the opposite. It has been looking at his areas of strength, recognizing the things that give his heart a thrill, looking at the way he spends his time when he chooses what he is doing. That's where we want to make a match."

Brother Susa sees that as an appropriate approach for any parent. He said: "I learned along the way as a father to be more interested in my boys' visions of their lives instead of my visions for their lives. We try to put our efforts into reinforcing the positive and capitalizing on their strengths. That's how they will become productive, independent and fulfilled."

Having genuinely motivating goals is great work incentive for the Susas. "When Mark has some chore to do, we tell him that if he wants to live in his own apartment some day he needs to learn how to do this," Sister Suas said. The chores Mark does around the house are adjusted for his abilities. He sorts the silverware, dusts the baseboards, and is the primary operator of the family's hand-held vacuum cleaner. During this year's brutal New England winter, Mark went out on his own accord to scrape snow off the cars.

John and Connie Susa have set strong examples in their home and community. To improve the supports available to others with social or physical deficits, the Susas are very involved in city and state arenas.

Brother Susa knows the power of example personally. "I came here as a little immigrant boy from Italy when I was 6 years old," he explained. "My first five years in the U.S. I went to a weekly citizenship class taught by Mr. Puglisi. I still remember his name. He put a lot of emphasis on participation in the process. I have always been very influenced by that. Our boys have seen us involved in issues and heard us talking at the dinner table. It was just a natural part of growing up in our household to recognize that there is a larger community out there that includes the Church, the city, the state and the nation."

The Susas believe that, although their circumstances are extraordinary, what effected the successful lives of their sons applies broadly. Everyone works better with clear powerful goals, encouragement, support, accommodation to individual needs and skills, and especially the power of example. - Linda Hoffman Kimball


What do musical performances, meals and home remodeling have in common? Michael and Nancy Harward of the Christiana Ward, Wilmington Delaware Stake, know. Those are three great ways children can learn the value of work.

"Every year our children's school has a family talent show. We always participate," said Sister Harward. "We do a song and dance number complete with costumes, choreography and memorized lyrics. This isn't something that we throw together at the last minute. We spend weeks learning and practicing, doing things over and over. The important thing we learn from this is that to do something well takes work. The children also learn that the actual performance is not all there is. There is a lot of preparation that precedes it."

The Harward children - Soren, 12, Hillary, 10, Nathanael, 8, and Stella, 5 - have been helpers in other musical events.

Besides being ward music director and executive secretary, Brother Harward is the director of the Newark Ecumenical Chorus. He recently arranged a "Messiah" sing-along for the Easter Season with the director of the Methodist Church. "Soren set up the music stands and acted as stage manager. Hillary and Nathanael handed out programs while Sister Harward checked out scores. This was something we could do together, something that would let our children help the community, and it also gave them a glimpse of the little details that go into a performance of beautiful music."

Cooking meals provides another occasion for the Harward children to learn life lessons. "We like food. We spend a lot of time with it," Brother Harward said. "We take time and make it clear that a meal doesn't just come out of a box magically. The children help us with the cooking. There's preparation, ways to put things together, equipment to use; it actually takes some work to put a meal together. This is another way to show that it takes time and care to produce something good."

Household remodeling projects have offered other examples of patience, care, and practice. "One thing I try to do with the remodeling is make it clear when I'm learning something new," explained Brother Harward. "I don't pretend I always know what I'm doing. I want the children to learn not to be afraid to try to do things they don't know how to do."

One example of this was when he installed a new shower, not having previously known anything about plumbing. "We all gathered around the shower the night we turned it on for the first time and cheered when we heard the water running down the drain," Sister Harward recalled.

On a scale less grand than a production of Handel's "Messiah" or the installation of a shower, the Harwards have learned a few important lessons about routine household duties. One is "be specific."

Another way the Harwards approach work is to minimize competition. "Around here it is never `let's see who can get their work done the fastest,' " said Brother Harward. "We try to turn potentially competitive situations into cooperative learning experiences."

They take a similar approach to weekly chores. Four main categories of chores rotate every week among all family members. This creates a feeling of equity, as well as empathy. "Everyone does everything," explained Brother Harward. "On our job chart, there is no job that is boy or girl, mom or dad, kid or parent. We all share. We all work together."

For the Harwards, that's one more way to make beautiful music together. - Linda Hoffman Kimball

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