How we Taught our Children to Work

Let’s face it; there is a lot of work involved in running a house. The stream is endless: laundry, dishes, cooking, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, mopping, cleaning windows, etc. not to mention all the other tasks associated with small children such as changing diapers, picking up toys and books. If you are a homeschooling family like us, it can be worse since our children are home all day.

A few years ago I was very frustrated with the lack of cleanliness and order in our home. I felt I was always cleaning, but the house was never really clean. I was overwhelmed trying to do it all myself. I had four girls, ages 7, 5, 3 and 1 year. Then I became pregnant with my 5th child. I became very, very sick – much worse than I had been with the others (it turns out I was carrying my first boy!). I was so nauseous and weak that I couldn’t even get out of bed most days. This went on for several months. We had a real problem. The work of running the house had to be done by someone. We couldn’t afford to hire help. My husband couldn’t do it all. So, being the determined man that he is, he decided to train the girls out of necessity. I cannot take any credit for this, as I was lying in bed moaning.

He took the two older girls and explained the situation. Mom was sick and could not fulfil her duties for a while. He then proceeded to teach them how to do all the basic jobs between the two of them. They would be responsible for washing all dishes, sweeping floors, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, straightening the house, dusting, making beds, and helping to care for the little ones. He would do the cooking and oversee the other jobs.

At first it was very slow. He had to take the time to actually teach them each job and watch over them till they could perform every step of that job successfully. For example, they had never washed a dish before, so he had to go through the steps of filling the sink with water, stacking the dishes, washing, rinsing, draining, and putting away. Then he had to walk them through it a few times until all the rough spots had been perfected. They made lots of mistakes and big messes! But they did this together every day until things flowed more smoothly. It probably took a few weeks, but we had the advantage of being homeschoolers, so we had lots of time when the girls were home. We did all the chores first each day, concentrating on developing a system. The girls took turns with different chores daily, so they would master the basics.

I would never have chosen to do it this way. If I hadn’t become pregnant, I probably would have kept trying to do everything myself. We mothers sometimes don’t want to invest the time and effort into training our children. It’s just easier and faster to do it ourselves, isn’t’ it? But what a disservice this is to our children. Yes, it will take longer to get things done while you are teaching them, but later on you will see the fruit of this training.

Now we have five children aged from 18 months to ten years. I don not do any housework, except for putting in the laundry (to keep from ruining clothes) and heavy spring cleaning-type jobs. The girls do all the folding and putting away of the laundry. I am so grateful for this. I have also seen the older girls begin to train the younger two to work, without my encouragement at all. Our four year old already makes her bed, dusts, sweeps, picks up, fold laundry, and is learning to wash dishes. She wants to be like her older sisters.

Some of you are probably saying, “Well, this is easy for you. You have girls. I have boys. Boys can’t do housework.” I would like to disagree. If you have older boys, teach them to do the housework. This will serve them well in the years to come. They can work just the same as girls. I also firmly believe boys need to know basic household skills like some cooking, sewing on a button, changing a diaper, etc. There is nothing wrong with this. They will thank you for it in 20 years (and so will their wives)!

I am grieved and saddened when I see a family with children aged six to eight or so and the mom is still doing everything for them. No wonder moms are always tired and discouraged. Now that my girls are older, my task is to begin teaching them some cooking and baking. My goal is to have them baking all our family’s bread in a year or so and preparing some meals.

I’ve even seen many families with teenage daughters in which the mother is still doing all the housework. My desire is that when my girls are teens, they will basically be managing the home totally (planning menus, shopping, cooking, entertaining guests, cleaning, etc.). This will serve two purposes. First, I will then be free to serve in other capacities, such as helping young mothers, serving the church, ministering to the needy, etc. Secondly, my girls will be preparing for marriage by learning valuable skills. Some would say this is cruel of selfish but I disagree. How much conflict in new marriages is caused by the lack of domestic training? How much godly character is built by hard work and perseverance? What a wonderful testimony to a watching world when our children are well-trained and productive!



Gordonsville, Tennessee, USA


Morgan and Melanie Cryar have five children – Sophie (10), Tilly (8), Kelly (5), Phebe (3) and Abraham (18 months). Apart from his greatest calling of fatherhood, Morgan is a singer and song writer. On his latest CD, “Love Over Gold”, he has written a number of songs that minister to the family. His albums are available in Christian Bookshops. You will also remember Melanie sharing from her heart in Above Rubies, # 41.


For further study:

Ecclesiastes 9:10; Jeremiah 48:10; Proverbs 13:11, 14:23, 18:9, 20:11, 21:25, 31:26-31; Romans 12:11; 1 Corinthians 4:12; Ephesians 4:28; Colossians 1:10; 3:17, 23; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12.

© Lues 2012