Working at my grandparents’ place was always magical. Growing up, my sisters and I would often receive invitations from our grandparents to come over to the ranch and spend some time helping outside. My grandpa was what you’d call a workaholic, and my grandma always had several projects going at a time.

When I was very young, Grandma would sit outside in the sun with me while I helped her pick weeds in her flower gardens. We’d make a game of it and I’d pretend to be a superhero named “Captain Kitty” (I really liked cats) who had come to save the garden world from evil trespassers. My grandma would laugh at my jokes and show me the most effective ways to pull weeds, patiently teaching me which plants were weeds and which were not. I’d also help my grandpa pick fruit, shuck corn, harvest and shell walnuts, mow the lawn, prune, and do other assorted tasks in the yard.

I hold onto these experiences with fondness and have warm memories that include meaningful conversations, dirt and sweat, lots of laughs, and an always healthy lunch with delicious homemade bread to end the workday. These people knew how to work and how to love working. Because of these experiences as well as my own at home, I too was able to learn the value of working together as a family.

Work: It Doesn’t Have to Be Torture

Work and play both hold large roles in a family’s success and happiness. Being able to balance work and play is crucial for success. It’s also an important skill kids can learn at an early age. However, sometimes work has the connotation of “anti-play”. How do we prevent this negative light and teach our children that work is not necessarily the opposite of play—that work can be fun? Furthermore, how can we teach kids that work is important and valuable? We can’t always control how kids will respond, but we can control what we present to them and how we present it. I think the first step in doing this is to expose them to positive working experiences.

Make it Meaningful and Memorable

What was it about my previously mentioned experiences that made working such a cherished activity? As I reflect on the times spent at my grandparents’ ranch, two aspects of working there stick in my mind: good conversation and fun traditions. These made working a blast!

First, make family work time meaningful with conversation. Spend time learning more about your children and helping them learn more about you. Talking encourages connecting and learning. Tell stories, and ask questions. You may surprise your kids with the stories you have to tell, and they might even surprise you! When my parents and grandparents talked with me they made me feel like I mattered. I was important to them, and they wanted me to know why. They were willing to share pieces of themselves with me, teach me, and listen to what I had to say. They always answered my questions (some serious, some silly). Through our hours of conversation we were able to strengthen bonds and better relate to one another. This meant a lot to me then and means even more now as I look back.

Second, consider adding in special traditions to make working together memorable. These traditions could involve wearing silly costumes, going somewhere afterward, playing games, having a movie night, or eating a scrumptious treat. They could even be as simple as taking a walk or relaxing outside and enjoying a job well done. Whatever you and your kids decide, traditions give kids something to look forward to and aid in associating work with positive feelings.

Work Gives Us Value

The world we live in runs because of the work people do. Whether it’s physical or mental work, it’s all important in the end goal of getting things accomplished and living happily. From computer programming to banking to farming, the work that one person does can influence millions of people. Show your kids why work is important by pointing out their accomplishments and the beneficial results that could or did come from their actions. Help them see how happiness and fulfillment can come from work. Kids want to feel capable and responsible. Giving them opportunities to make a difference and succeed can boost their confidence and feelings of self worth, and they will be able to trust in their own abilities to get things done and do a good job. Additionally, encouragement from you can also draw them closer, help them feel valued, and cause them to desire greater achievement and learning.

Why Working As a Family Matters

The family as a unit has an incredible influence on an individual. When parents can give children constant love and instruction, those kids will be that much more prepared for the world ahead of them. An individual raised with a strong work ethic is better equipped with mental/physical tools to help him or her succeed in a future career and home life. Parents, what does work mean to you? How you feel about work will show, and that sentiment will probably carry over to your children. Teach them to give of themselves and to love giving. Their service will benefit future generations to come just as yours has. Children, learn from your parents to cherish the skill and gift of work. Embrace the time together.

My grandparents showed me their devotion to each other and our entire family through how hard they worked. That love was also felt from their desire to work with us side by side. I came to treasure those moments, the laughs, the lunches and homemade bread, and I eagerly looked forward to the next phone call to come help out at the ranch. When made meaningful and memorable, work can be gratifying and bring families together. As my grandparents did, you too can leave a legacy of hard work and dedication to family for your children and the generations that follow.

 (Intro quote from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/05/28/inspirational-quotes/)

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Christy Monson, a retired family therapist, provides in simple language concrete examples and clear language to family success through family councils.   While families are diverse and the...
The Family Council Guidebook

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