There seems to be the idea that in order to spend quality time with their children, parents need to partake in their kids’ favorite activities. Whether it be video games, basketball, going to museums, horseback riding, watching Dude Perfect on YouTube, etc. parents are expected to join in despite the possibility they themselves do not enjoy the activity. This theory isn’t false but it also isn’t the only, or always the best, way to get quality time with one’s children. Kids also need to be able to work when there is work that needs doing and not be afraid of putting effort into something they may not want to do. I am going to talk about combining work with spending quality time with your kids.
If a parent is always focusing on what the child wants to do then that child may very well develop greater feelings of selfishness because they are being shown that their parent’s world revolves around them. Likewise, if a parent only spends time with their kid when they are doing something that the kid wants to do then that child may come to value what they want above what others want. Neither of these two options is likely to produce an outcome that most parents desire. Therefore, they need to be balanced by working alongside your child. Whether it be at a chore that the parent enjoys or one that nobody wants to do, both scenarios are capable of teaching children valuable lessons.
One of the lessons that working alongside your child can teach is that work is not inherently boring. It seems to me that most people, myself included, fall into the trap of thinking that work is an exceedingly dull experience. That nothing about it can be enlightening or interesting. However, as you are working alongside your offspring it gives you an opportunity to show them how to solve problems that you will inevitably come across. It might be how to use a fulcrum for leverage or a counterweight to lift something high into the air. The scientific side of work can be quite compelling. These ideas may be basic science, but how often do people actually think to use them or see their true potential? Work can be a great way to train out-of-the-box thinking.
Working alongside your child also gives you the opportunity to impart organizational skills in a practical setting. When washing dishes does it make more sense to wash cup, plate, fork, pot, cup, bowl, plate, etc. or does it make more sense to wash all of one group, then all of another group, and so on? How you organize your dish washing will greatly effect how efficiently the sink and drying rack fill up. This has many applications throughout a person’s life, ranging from being able to think ahead to being able to maximize the use of limited space. Organization also comes into play when folding laundry. Clothes and linens are more efficiently stored when they are folded in repetitive ways so that each item type is folded the same way. This affects the space the items occupy, thus helping illustrate the need for thought when completing tasks. No shelf or closet has unlimited space, which means critical thought needs to be used when deciding how clothes and linens are stored.
When you labor beside your kids it gives you the chance to show them the value of a strong mind. I couldn’t beat my mother in arm wrestling until I was in high school, despite her having wrist problems. It wasn’t because I was weaker than her physically, but rather that I was weaker than her mentally. She was determined not to let me win, she wanted to show me the value of being able to set your mind on something. That, and what parent wants to be surpassed by their kids? Anyway, I think mental grit is lacking in our society today. That is partially why “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” are becoming more and more prevalent among young adults. These people probably never learned what mental toughness is all about and the role it plays in creating a strong nation. So as you and your kid are digging a trench for a retaining wall, washing laundry by hand, shoveling snow, fixing a car, or whatever the job may be…model mental toughness and an unwillingness to be defeated by difficult work. This doesn’t have to be a macho thing though, it can also be manifested in knowing your limitations and knowing how to recover after a setback.
People who play on sports teams, are in the military together, or are married, know that there are few relationships stronger than the ones that are tempered through facing trials together. Whether it is practicing a specific drill for hours each day, hiking through enemy territory, or facing the difficulties of everyday life, seeing that someone else is laboring alongside you fosters respect and admiration. These feelings are integral to a strong relationship and whether or not a child will come to you in their time of need. Your kids need to see you as someone who is strong and reliable. Sweating, bleeding, and even crying together can help ensure they grow to see you in that light.
Entertainment, society is constantly telling us that we deserve it…that we need it. The desire to be entertained is not inherently a bad thing, but if not properly moderated it can certainly become an idol. Working alongside your children can help teach them that a fulfilling life is not one spent pursuing entertainment around every corner. Video games, movies, listening to music, playing board games…they can all be enriching. However, none of these things or anything like them can give you a full life on their own. A person needs work, it keeps us both physically and mentally active. Through work we can help those around us or show someone they have value to us. Laboring beside your kid can show them that you value work and that they should as well. After all, nothing we have was not provided through work.
Everyone likes to feel satisfied, right? Well, in my experience there are few things as satisfying as a hard days work. Taking off your boots at the end of the day, washing the dirt and grime off your body, thinking back on the accomplishments and skills practiced…it can make your heart swell. This feeling needs to be shared with people, especially children. The world tells our youth that their satisfaction should be found in clothing, facebook friends, the music they listen to, what they look like, food, sex, etc. We need to fight against this faulty messaging, we as parents need to teach our kids better and more lasting ways to find satisfaction. Work is one of those ways, nothing in creation was brought into existence without it. The best way to teach work as valuable is to model it as such.
This may have gotten heavy toward the end, but that is only because this is a serious subject and an idea that seems to be lacking in this day and age. I hope something I said will provoke thought, and that if you have something to share you will feel free to do so. I do value feedback, thanks for reading.