Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when the rising generation is taught to work. The most important work that we can do is known as family work. Family work is that work which is done in the home to comfort, protect, and provide for the family. It is sometimes known as “housework,” and it includes cooking, cleaning, gardening, and everything else that is done in the home for the benefit of the family.
Kathleen Slaugh Bahr and Cheri A Loveless wrote an article titled “Family Work.” They shared some history about the changes in family work. They told how family members once worked together for the good of the family. Then the age of industrialization came along and caused changes in the family.
Where father, mother, and children once worked together, industrialization took father and often other members of the family out of the home and into the factory. Now most fathers and a large percentage of mothers work outside the home, and children have changed from being an economic asset to pampered consumers who feel entitled to everything they desire.
The authors suggest that we follow the example of Jesus Christ and served His Apostles in a very demeaning task. He knelt and washed the feet of each Apostle to give them an example of how to serve their fellow human beings. (See John 13:12-15.)
Family work is often “mindless, menial, repetitive, and demeaning,” but it is the type of work that is necessary. When we do family work, we serve the members of our family, whether it is in preparing a meal, doing the laundry, or cleaning the house. Even though life has greatly changed since families worked together all day every day for the good of the family, there are some ways where families can still gain the blessings of doing family work. The authors suggest the following five ways that families can work together.
Tilling the Soil. We can teach meaningful life lessons to our children while gardening even though it is may be more cost effective to buy our tomatoes and peas from the grocery store. Many discussions of important topics can take place between parent and child while planting seeds or pulling weeds. One important life lesson is the law of the harvest – we reap what we sow.
Exemplifying the Attitudes We Want Our Children to Have. Children and youth adopt the attitudes of their parents. If we want our children to appreciate a clean and orderly home, we must appreciate a clean and orderly home. If we want our children to appreciate a beautiful green lawn and lovely gardens, we must show them by our words and actions that we do. Whatever the attitudes we wish our children to have, we must develop them first.
Refusing Technology that Interferes with Togetherness. Technology has improved many areas of family live. No one will argue that doing the laundry on a washboard or with a wringer washing machine is better than the modern washing machines, and most people appreciate the modern dishwashing machines. However, there are technological improvements that may decrease the opportunities to spend time together as a family. Therefore, parents are wise to consider how any scientific “improvement” may affect their family for good or bad.
Insisting Gently that Children Help. Most parents find it easier to do a task ourselves rather than take the time to teach the skill to children. However, we are losing valuable opportunities to spend quality and quantity time with them. With time and careful mentorship, children can learn to do the task as well or better than we do it ourselves, and they will gain greater self-esteem with each new skill that they learn.
Avoiding a Business Mentality at Home. The home is different than the workplace, and children are not employees. A parent can mentor their child in a much different way that a boss can train an employee. Some parents believe that they should pay their children for chores around the home, while others believe that work should be fun. While working with family members can be enjoyable, it is still work. Children should be taught to work with the family because they are part of the family and not because they will receive any money.
The authors say that parents should work side by side with their children and not simply assign chores to children while the parent does something else. They quoted the following words from President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Children need to work with their parents, to wash dishes with the, to mop floors with them, to mow lawns, to prune trees and shrubbery, to paint and fix up, to clean up, and to do a hundred other things in which they will learn that labor is the price of cleanliness, progress, and prosperity. (See “Four Simple Things to Help Our Families and Our Nations,” Ensign, September 1996, p. 7.)