Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Headgate Step #2: Require Work

Through Headgates and a variety of other articles and inspiration I know that it is vital for my children to learn to work hard. I have even blogged about it here when I discussed Elder Christofferson's October 2011  2010 conference address.

We require work because our children need to learn to do hard things. They must learn to figure out how they will handle insurmountable tasks. They will need these vital skills to have a world class scholar phase (which will look differently for every youth) and so they can find success in life.

I think we agree we can all agree on that point. Reviewing Headgates and listening to Elder Christofferson's recent talk about receiving divine correction have brought it back to my face that I need to do better with this. We are working, we are cleaning, but I feel strongly that something is amiss. I see several problems.
  1. We will run out of things to clean.
  2. My children will find it ridiculous to clean "clean" things.
  3. I am lazy. (I should move this to spot number one).
  4. I don't think that cleaning a toilet is teaching them hard things. It's teaching them that sometimes you don't get to do things you want to do which is a vital lesson, but it's not teaching them how to handle "insurmountable tasks."
  5. Seasonal projects like gardening or snow shoveling really are still not teaching them how to handle hard things. Again the vital lesson of your day can't be spent doing everything you want to do is being learned though.
  6. Did I mention I am lazy?
About the lazy me part. I need to muster up the battle gear to go at this long term. I am great with short-term projects that need to be pushed through, but it's the long-term ones that I start fading on. For example I've been very dedicated to this work principle this last two months or so, but now that I have cleaned every last thing I can think of three times I'm starting to slack off because it is no longer meaningful. I am finding that I'm assigning one extra job after our morning routine and then giving them way too much free time. I must push through whatever plan I come up with and stay with it until it becomes habit.

So here I am in a quandary. I absolutely believe this is a true principle-my children must work-but I am left with needing to find some different application. (Also because I have more boys than girls). For our family working in the mornings is right for our ebb and flow in life. I have always been naturally a work hard girl in the morning and then have a more relaxed afternoon. What to do about this hard work thing?

I've been praying about this. I appreciated Elder Bednar's talk about remembering that revelation comes line upon line. As I study, ponder, pray and discuss I am finding ideas and these ideas are building on each other. My thoughts have led me to consider all sorts of things. Some of those things have included piano lessons, requiring math, and physical fitness programs. Of course whatever I choose would still include cleaning, gardening, working outside, sewing, service, etc., but I need to throw some things in there that are hard.

I realize I could cause some of them to grow up hating piano or math, but I don't really care if they learn to do hard things. Meaning an ability to work hard through difficult times/projects is more important than if they like the piano and decide to play the piano as an adult. It's a tool.

If I did decide to require, let's say piano lessons, this would necessitate that I have to be there, side by side with them, reminding them and helping them practice. This is where I, in my present state, would fade long term. I recently listened to this 'conversation' with Sister Beck. She required her children to take piano lessons because they did not live on a farm or own a milk cow and she needed something to teach them how to work. They hated it! One daughter said it wasn't until she was 16 that she decided she liked piano. For ten years Sister Beck dragged her to piano lessons. At one point, I'm not clear for how long, they were required to practice for three hours a day! Kudos to Sister Beck is all I can say about that! If you have a chance I encourage to listen to the interview if you are thinking about these things.  There are also other interesting things discussed.

So I don't have any answers yet. I am applying myself, line upon line, searching for my answer. I see a need in my children and I don't believe that I am currently meeting that need. I'll let you know when I figure it out.

So now my friends: What thoughts do you have to these questions?
  1. What are your thoughts about children needing to do hard things?
  2. What work/things do you require in your home? (Math, soccer, piano, etc).
  3. Any other comments would be great.


Jenp8 said...

I can so relate to your "I am lazy" thing. I am the same way. I am not cleaning house just for the sake of giving myself something to work at when it is clean and totally acceptable the way it is. I don't have all the answers but a couple of thoughts I had were:
1. Building a mentality that when it's time, you dig in and do it because you just have to. I think the necessity of the "thing" is really what creates the hard work ethic. Gardening because this is all we will have to eat this winter is different from gardening for a few side vegetables to supplement our mostly store-bought diet. I believe we are headed for some hard times that are going to give us some real life opportunities to learn this kind of hard work. Our lives have been so much easier in this regard compared to those in the past that it is hard to artificially create those kinds of opportunities.
2. Giving your children lots of stories about people who had that hard work ethic and how they developed it. (I heard Marlene's talk last year after the forum and it was great!!) Being able to relate to real people who went through real experiences I think will help them know that when the hard times come, you just dig in and do it! I know they inspire me.
3. As for requiring piano, math etc. I think you have to watch each child carefully. Some that will work for and some it won't. I guess it's about being the expert in your own home and really knowing each child and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

And I'm still sitting here thinking "Do I know how to do hard things?" I don't know! I hope I can!
Just my 2 cents...

Sea Star said...

I have run into this same problem. What is work I can have my kids do. We live in the city so don't have animals to tend. We rent our house and the owners don't want us to plant a garden. They even provide gardeners to take care of the grass and bushes that are in the yard.

Other than just the everyday cooking, cleaning, and such I haven't been able to come up with things for my kids to do. My kids are young so there is still lots of room for improvement in even these day to day chores but I haven't ever thought they were quite enough.

It is interesting to think of Math or Piano as some of that work that they are required to do. I haven't listened yet to that conversation with Sister Beck but it is downloading right now. I will listen. I do require math and some writing. The rest of our school subjects and things are pretty light. My kids haven't shown a whole lot of interest in piano even though I would love for them to play. Perhaps I need to push them a little more.

Good food for thought!

Jenp8 said...

I just thought of something else so I had to come back before it leaves me :).

I am thinking of the huge part that motivation plays in a person's willingness to put in the hard work. They are either motivated to succeed or at least motivated enough to avoid the failure.

A couple of examples:
I played piano for a number of years even taking lessons off and on through high school and a few in college. I enjoyed playing a variety of music but I was never motivated enough to put in the hours and hours of hard work required to polish a single piece for a major competition as my friend was. I simply didn't value that type of success enough to do (earn) it. Does that mean I don't have a hard work ethic? I don't think so. My husband on the other hand was required to take piano lessons for a few years growing up and absolutely HATED it. He didn't even value the avoidance of failure (not being able to play) enough to work at it and to this day he can't play a single note and doesn't care either. Yet he works hard going to a job everyday and doing other things.

When it comes to survival, to matters of life or death, that is often enough motivation for a lot of us to desire success (have food, shelter etc) or at least avoid failure (starving, freezing etc). And I think many of us would put in the hard work when it came down to it out of sheer necessity.
But will we all put in the hard work necessary with EVERYTHING we do? I don't think so. Only those things we truly value. No one on earth will be a master at everything, including our children.

I was thinking about this as I was contemplating requiring things of our children simply to teach hard work. I think we have to be careful where and what the motivation is (ours or theirs) and are they really motivated to put the hard work in because they desire the success or are they simply being motivated to avoid our punishments for not complying?
When a person truly values something - they will put in the hard work. So maybe we need to focus on helping them to value worthwhile things that we would hope they would be motivated enough to work hard for.

Sorry my comments are so long. I'm not always good at saying things concisely. Thanks for making me think tonight!

Emily said...

Interesting post. I come from a kind of different school of thought and background, but wanted to share a few thoughts I just had.

In regards to doing hard things, for me the hardest things were facing my peers and standing true to my convictions. I remember growing up in SLC where many of my friends used bad language. They'd ask me why I didn't. What did I say to that - it's against my religion? It was against theirs, too! It was so hard to be different in an area where everyone supposedly had my same standards! I had to be true.

The other hard things I've done where I've really learned were when it was extremely physical -- trail blazing and childbirth. Have to say those are the most difficult physical things I've ever done.

My husband once told me that he heard something stating that it didn't seem to matter how much parents read to their kids, but it mattered more if kids saw parents reading (then the kids read themselves!). I've kind of taken that approach with work, I think.

My parents were very hard workers, but didn't require a ton of work from us (i.e. I had to have roommates remind me how to do laundry in college). I think, though, because I saw my parents work so hard, that was the expectation as I grew. So, I didn't have to do tons of hard stuff, but I knew what was required once I was an adult.

I've always been told I was a hard worker, I think mainly because I want to do the best I can in whatever I do. I always got good grades because I took pride in it, I guess, not because that's what my parents wanted.

I've always been slightly envious? of people who homeschool because of that closeness the parent must have with the children. So, it was funny to me to hear you say piano would require your time so you could help. You probably already spend TONS of time with your kids!! I laughed because piano is actually one thing we do at our house! And, yes, I do help. So I guess I do do something good and close with my children! :)

So, I'm going to guess that your children feel a closeness to you because you teach them so much, and because of your lifestyle, I'll bet you are teaching them some great things about work without even really trying, and hey, if you still want them to learn something hard, send them to public school (just kidding!).

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

These are such great comments! Just what I'm needing. Thank you! Keep them coming! : )

Ranee said...

Great topic! I am pondering this very topic right now, for our family! I think that every person in this world, who is capable, needs to do hard things. It is vital to their self confidence and self worth, to have a knowledge of skills that contribute to their place in this world, wherever that is. If there is anything I have learned, having a few kiddo's who have various special needs, you should never underestimate them and their abilities. Our youngest daughter can barely count to 2 most days (she's almost 5 and has Autism), but she is the best baseboard cleaner you'll ever meet, and it gives her a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Our youngest son, struggles in his cognitive abilities, yet can fold dish towels, properly, and put them away. Our second oldest son, worries me just a bit, because he gives up on himself too easily. I am pondering a way to help him KNOW that he can do good work that is acceptable for the task at hand. He always thinks it's not good enough, when his finished result doesn't look like mine. Right now I am trying to get him to feel good about his drawings. (He's 5.) Our kiddo's are having fun working, for the most part, which I think is good, but I do feel a responsibility to teach them that it's not always fun, but is still worth it and that the best part is seeing the completion of a task, through to the end, having sweat or toiled through it. Hmmm...I hope this lesson is learned more as they get older.
As far as work that is actually required in our home, every morning the children are responsible for doing their "Morning Basics", ie. Make your bed, say your prayers, bathe/wash face, get dressed, brush your teeth. I help the little's. Sometimes that's enough to do some of my kiddo's in ( our oldest daughter struggles with motor planning and impulsivity and attention issues.) Then we go downstairs for breakfast, and afterwards we work together. Sometimes we use our chore cards and I send kiddo's off to do individual chores by themselves (that they've completed "Job Training" for), or sometimes we bag the chore cards for the day, and they just help me complete what needs to be done. This is usually, dishes, laundry (sorting,rotating, folding and putting away),sweeping/mopping or spot mopping floors, polishing cupboards/furniture, wiping baseboards/light switches/door jams, baseboards, bathrooms, vacumming, straightening up the Family Room/Loft, etc. We use the Teaching Self Government model in our home, for work and discipline, and I love it when our son says "Mom...is this work or an extra chore?" When I tell him it's work, he's happy to get it done! When I tell him it's an extra chore (if he's earned one), he says "Thank you for my extra chore, Mom!" :0) So sweet and precious! I am trying to teach them that their best is good enough and that hard work is rewarding and important!

Mr. Smith said...

"3. Any other comments would be great."

Your children are considerably older than ours, but why not create opportunities for projects of significant, and difficult, value and scope? Not unlike the YW Personal Progress values or an Eagle project.

I'm not overly familiar with TJED but from what little I know there's a phase, the last one, I think, where individuals go in-depth into stuff, presumably their area(s) of interest.

What I envision could be considered part of that same approach, but it may not necessarily align with their interests (though it perhaps could). What service opportunities can they not only participate in, but plan, coordinate, prepare, etc?

Kimberly said...

Personally, my mom made us take piano to teach us how to work and I hated it. She also tried to teach me how to sew to no avail.

But I did learn how to work. How? I played viola. I am not musically talented, but I worked my butt off to learn that instrument-to master it.

So for me the key might be to get your kids to choose a project. Choose an instrument, or some other skill to master. Might be wood working for the boys, or sewing for the girls or cross stitching. But let them choose-then the work will be far more rewarding and they will learn the value of it-accomplishment. Otherwise it's just work for works sake and that's just like the busy work required in public school.

Just my two cents

Christy said...

I've enjoyed all the other comments so far. This is something I have thought a lot about lately.

My comment ended up being really long, so instead of taking over your space here, I posted it over at my blog. :)

shannon said...

Thank you for writing about your ideas. There are very few places I feel like I can get a little education/think along with women who parent the way we do.

My first thought is to find service work to do for others. Is there some place you can work hard physically and benefit someone elderly/single parent/family down on their luck/public park, etc? It is different from say, visiting the elderly in that it is service using the body.

The idea of requiring piano or math doesn't strike me as the right way to go. I'd leave all learning activities out of it and instead focus on physical effort/skills.

I did like someone's reply that seeing you and your husband work hard will be much more significant to your children when they are adults than it appears now. I think that is right.

And Christy, I tried to read your blog post about it but I didn't have access.

shannon said...

Got it, Christy...

Jennifer said...

I like the physical fitness idea, too. I got that same impression for my 10 year old.
What about turning over more adult responsibilities to them, like meal planning and cooking for a week?

Kestrel said...

I am musing on this, but in the meantime before I post my brilliant thoughts that will stun everyone into silence and possibly cause the Internet to momentarily implode, I just wanted to point out that Christofferson's talk was in 2010. Unless I took a longer nap than I was planning on. Uh oh.

The Lazy Organizer said...

I have considered requiring piano as well. Especially for children that are not interested in playing for the love of it because playing the piano is a wonderful service we can give to others. My 13 year old son plays for priesthood every week.

Like you, I don't care if they become concert pianists. My thoughts are that if they haven't shown an interest by age 12 then they will be required to take lessons till they can play several basic hymns. It took my oldest two about 6 months of lessons. I think that's doable for any child and doesn't require years and years of torture for the whole family. Besides, who wouldn't rather practice the piano for 30 minutes rather than clean bathrooms? Talk about inspire!

That's the same reason I started requiring sewing. Not everyone wanted to push through the hard parts during free time but during family work they were perfectly willing to keep trying.

I think the biggest reason my children work as well as they do is because I never tell them what they have to do. I make a list of what needs to be done and they decide who will do what. If one child absolutely hates washing dishes they will be willing to do more of other kinds of work so it's worth it to their siblings to wash all the dishes. My six year old likes folding clothes and putting them away so we do laundry together and I usual get to vacuum because everyone hates it and it's my favorite job! If someone doesn't want to sew they are welcome to wash windows instead so we are all happy while we're working.

I agree that your children seeing you read will turn them into readers faster than reading to/with them will. That may work with work when they are adults but that doesn't get the work down now. Homeschooling and/or large families needs help from everyone to get the work done so it has to be required.

I don't think we need to make up stuff to do however or clean things that are already clean. I think you're right that learning to work at things that are harder than cleaning toilets would be a wonderful thing and it's something we are working toward.

My dream is for my husband and children to build us a house from start to finish. We also want to build green houses and gardens and stone fences.

That being said I don't think it's the big hard things that strengthen our character. I think it's the little relentless jobs we have to do every day that prepare us for hard things when they come. It's washing dishes three times a day and cleaning the bathroom every day and washing baseboards once a week. It's not being lazy (like we want to do!) and giving up when things look clean enough that we forget about them until they are disgusting and scream for our attention again. It's making every meal from scratch and not eating out just because we are tired of potatoes and don't want to chop up one more salad.

The Lazy Organizer said...

I am writing way too much so I had to start a new comment!

I don't know about requiring math. Like Keri says they can learn math but if it's not something they are going to use it's worthless because they will just forget it. I know I did! The kind of math they use in every day life can easily be learned in every day life.

I also don't like the idea of requiring sports or physical fitness. I think most of those things are a waste of time and damaging to our bodies. I would rather they get physically fit by hauling rocks or hay. If we just need a little exercise I think going for a walk is healthy and we can do it any time and anywhere.

Take running for example. Running a marathon is un-natural, unhealthy and selfish in my opinion and what mother or father would have time in their schedule to train for something like that without neglecting their family? That is what I have been thinking for my family anyway. Someone with a different mission might get different answers for their family.

Good luck figuring this out and let us know as you do!

We have a whole new family project we're working on this month with all new work to do. There just never seems to be a shortage of work as lives and situations change.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

This has been great. Thanks. I have done a lot of discussing with my children. It is wonderful that my children are old enough for me to "teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves."

I explained to my children that I was concerned about them learning to do hard things and things they didn't want to do. After lots of discussion three of the children have decided to start piano lessons up again. Two of them already play out of the regular hymn book. We had taken a break for a while. But three of them said they wanted to get started again. I told them they had several days to think about it and they needed to pray to make sure they wanted to. They are ages 10, 11, and 12. So they are older.

My 8 year doesn't want to do anything extra right now. So he isn't going to.

So in the morning they do their regular morning routine that includes their rotating dish chore, scriptures, bed, clothes, teeth, pray, etc.

They also have 1 hour of family work. This includes housekeeping, gardening, other outside work, etc.

They will then practice the piano (or take turns) for 1 hour. They all committed to an hour of practice.

On Monday afternoons we go to a nursing home and sing and do projects with the residents for 2 or 3 hours. It is wonderful.

Oh, the kids are calling their piano practice time, "stamina project." They are excited to get started again. They are excited to start this time with new goals and attitudes.

This has been really good for our family to think about these things.

One thing I have really learned is that every family is so completely different. I have also realized that the answers or needs are so different because it is based on family culture, where you live, how you live and what missions your children have. It is so wonderful that there even is a different answer for every family. It is amazing to think that Heavenly Father loves us all individually and there isn't the same answer for everyone.

If anyone has any other thoughts I would love to hear them.

It is so true that gardening for side vegetables is completely different than the family depending on them.

I also believe that the great character will also come from living the mundane over and over.

I appreciate all your thoughts.

And Kestel I am still waiting for that earth shattering comment.... : )

rneweyfamily said...

I just wanted to address the issue of running. I know a woman who does run a lot of marathons. She runs with her family. For them, running is something they do together. With the exception of the investment in a good pair of shoes, running is free. You find a trail, or make up a trail and away you go. At the end of the run there is a great feeling of accomplishment. Running gives you good endorphins. When the kids are little they get pushed in a stroller, but as they get older they join in. Recently at a 5k fundraiser her 8 yo son placed 2nd overall. It was a small race, but I tell you, I couldn't do it. He has learned to do hard things. Running isn't for everyone, but it can be a good activity for some families.

Coombs Family said...

I would love to read your blog, Christy, but don't know where to find it. I'm assuming I also need an invite?

Karen said...

Thanks for another thought provoking post. I agree with you and Lara that doing the mundane, boring, every-day things is what builds character. I can think of examples of people I know who would be willing to do something really hard for someone, but lack the character to do the daily things that matter (like scripture reading or prayer, etc) and they are very unhappy people because they have great intentions and lack the character to follow through.

I think that you might be able to pull of requiring piano if you did treat it as doing service for others instead of just something that will be good for them to know. No one appreciates being made to do what "is good for them". Part of what makes family work so effective is that everyone is helping out for the benefit of others and not just themselves.

I think you'd have a hard time pulling off requiring math though. Maybe you could get creative about how that would be a service for someone else, but it would be tricky. You also have to be careful about teaching them the "minimalist" mindset with academic subject (just doing what they have to do so they can get on to doing what they want to do). I don't think there is as much danger in that with work because you can actually go and see the job and make sure it is good quality. Also, family work is physical and not just mental labor so the body becomes accustomed to being ruled by the mind. It doesn't work the same way with academics.

Thanks for making me think about this. It's inspiring and good for me!

Heather said...

Just got a chance to read this post. This has been preying on my mind as well, especially since I have a neighbor who literally has given birth and raised/is raising 14 children!

She homeschools and ever since they moved onto our road, those children have worked: yard work, actually building workshops on the property, having a chicken coop and then purchasing a chicken house family business that the children work at each day (early), and a hydroponics lettuce business sold locally. The mom teaches her own children to play the piano as well! This woman has gads of energy.

Needless to say, I don't think my kids work hard enough. The family I've mentioned do not watch T.V. but do a lot of work activities together. They also have a lot of fun, and always seem cheerful.

When I was a kid, I liked to work around my house. I was a city kid, but my neighbor's grandparents lived in the country and she taught me a lot about homemaking. She always had a flower bed, her lawn was simple but neat, she even swept the curb in front of her yard. This inspired me to do a lot of yard work in my own yard growing up.

I also washed my own clothes, taking them to the dry cleaners if necessary. I did the grocery shopping and fixed simple meals. (My parents were divorced). I cleaned our 40 yr. old wood floors and helped paint the house inside and out.

Over Christmas break, I remembered some of these things, and under my direction, my three kids completely renovated our glassed-in porch. It looks beautiful! I didn't lift a finger! I was amazed at what they could accomplish with only a little direction from me. These are some of the things I consider work.

Tori said...

I honestly think that often enough the "hard" part comes from the repeated doing of "easier" things. "cleaning the thing that is clean"... there is value in cleaning it so it remains clean - God does it, me thinks... and He is working to guide us to be as He is. So, clean clean things. Have your kids do it! Doing hard things is valuable, but doing easier things repeatedly over time can feel hard because of the redundancy of it. At least, that's what I'm finding in my life. :)

Anonymous said...

Consistency everyday is a great lesson. Order and organization is essential for the spirit. It is the "small and simple" things that make the "big" difference not the "hard". I'm thankful for you sharing your thoughts on this we have a small one (2 years) that we need to think about teaching her these things. Good work!