Monday, June 17, 2024
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Why Work Is Not a Dirty Word

Photo courtesy of Mark Stosberg via Flickr
Photo courtesy of Mark Stosberg via Flickr

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23 NIV).

Single parents often carry more than their portion of guilt. Guilt over the failed marriage. Guilt over not ever marrying the other parent. Guilt over not being financially able to provide fun things for the children. That guilt can translate into overindulging the children. Then parents feels guilty if they expect the children to work in the home.

Words from this Tough Old Bird: When parents avoid requiring children to do chores, they are doing them a disservice. Work is an essential element of life. One of the responsibilities of parents is to raise children to be productive and responsible.

Teaching Responsibility

I was raised with the expectation that I would be productive and responsible. I must say it seems that parents today pamper their children and don’t think they should expect anything of them. I recall when I was a high school teacher, parents of a student telling me how they didn’t know what to do with their 14-year-old son. He didn’t exhibit any sense of personal productivity or responsibility. These parents had the means to provide well for their son and had done so. As punishment for his lack of effort, they said they had removed everything from his room—his stereo, his television, his computer. My thoughts were how did he earn each of these unnecessary gifts in the first place? There was no mention of how he had earned or whether he deserved any of those luxuries. The assumption was obvious. Why doesn’t he do his part when we have given him everything? It is common for parents to expect a child to be responsible when they haven’t taught the child to be responsible for himself before.


I tend to agree with Dr. James Dobson, who said years ago, “Never do for a child what he is capable of doing for himself.” I raised three children as a divorced single mother for 16 years. We functioned with chore charts. (Numerous examples can be found online.) Each child was expected to perform on the level of his or her capabilities. I made it clear that we were a team. And, of course, they received rewards for good behavior. As we all do. Children can be taught very young to be responsible and productive.

Speak Softly

We know that children respond better to a male voice than to a female voice. It seems that single mothers are no different than married ones. They talk a lot. Children learn early that talk may not mean much. Telling a child what you are going to do if he doesn’t pick up his dirty clothes and then not following through sends a major signal. They learn early what you will and will not do.

Advice from this Tough Old Bird: Speak softly and do as you say, or don’t say it in the first place. Consequences ought always to fit the behavior, and chores shouldn’t be used as punishment.

Work is Good

Work ought not be used as punishment. Good, hard work is what puts food on the table, clothes in the closet and the roof overhead. Work should be respected and expected of everyone. When a child completes a chore, he respects himself. When parents don’t require anything of a child and then complain that he has no self-confidence, don’t wonder why. When parent require clearly assigned chores of a child, they give the child a gift.

According to Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D., in The Children the Challenge, “Doing for a child what he can do for himself is extremely discouraging, since it deprives him of the opportunity to experience his own strength.”

Just a few direct thoughts from a Tough Old Bird with a Soft Spot for Single Moms. And a proud parent still—because my children are all grown up with children of their own and are highly productive and responsible.

About Gail Showalter

Gail raised three children as a single mother for sixteen years before she married Sam. She was an educator in regular and special education for eighteen years, finishing her professional career as a Braille teacher. In 2007 She founded SMORE for Women - a nonprofit association whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, & Empowered. She is a certified Women’s Transition Coach and her stories have been published in several Christian books and magazines. She released her first book Living Learning Loving in 2015.
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