Whistle While you Work
From “Snow White and the seven dwarfs”
Music and Lyrics by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey
Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace
And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom is someone that you love
And soon you’ll find you’re dancing to the tune
When hearts are high the time will fly
So whistle while you work
That’s what Disney has to say about chores, and it’s not half bad. Especially since it reveals the biblical principle of rejoicing in our work (Ecclesiastes 3:22) and all things (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; Deuteronomy 12:7; and Psalm 118:24).
But what else do we know about work from scripture?
- Well, God dignified Adam with meaningful work before the fall. Work was not part of the curse (Genesis 1:27-31; Genesis 2:5-15).
- Their work was not self serving, Adam and Eve were part of a global community even before that term was popularized. They were given charge over the good of the land and the creatures (Genesis 1:28). And God stayed with them as they did their work (Genesis 2:19).
- Frustration in our work was (and is) part of the curse (Genesis 3:17-19).
- They were accountable to God for their work. Adam was in constant relationship with God as he named the animals – we know this because God was there as Adam discovered that there was no helper suitable for him (Genesis 2:18-20). Later in Scripture, we learn that those who do well are rewarded with increasing responsibility (Luke 19:12-27).
As we structure “chores” in our home, we base our plans on the work ethic God established. We assign meaningful work, provide the training and tools needed to do the job, inspect for opportunity to encourage, praise, or correct, and promote them to new jobs. And we try to do all of this with a happy heart and a little whistle. 🙂
Assign Meaningful Work
Last week I published a huge list of possible jobs for children of any age. Based upon that list and a given child’s ability, we assign tasks to our children.
Provide Training and Tools
When a child is learning a new skill, we demonstrate the skill, talk them through their first attempt, observe them doing it on their own (sometimes we observe them for many iterations over an extended period of time), and then give them the freedom to perform the skill with creativity. Once they have gotten the hang of it, we simply assign the task and inspect it after they complete it.
Part of the training process is taking into account what they can reasonably be expected to do, while pointing them to the time when they will be able to do more.
You can do this with any task, but if we think about setting the table with an older toddler, it goes something like this, “Right now I want you to learn to fold the napkins. When you are done, I want you to put them here, on the left side of the placemat. One placemat for every person. One napkin friend for every place mat. Put the napkin right here on every one. Great job! When you are really good at napkins, I’ll show you how to add the silverware in just the right spots, too! And do you know that someday you’ll be able to set the whole table – place mats, napkins, silverware, dishes, cups, trivets – well, the whole thing ALL BY YOURSELF?!?” So, I’m demonstrating the job I want done, allowing the child to do what he/she is capable of doing, and building an expectation that there is more to come.
Later we can add a specific goal, like, “If you can fold the napkin nice and flat like this (show them) then I can let you put the forks on the table, too. See how the fork won’t lay flat on the ball you made? That’s why we need it flat, like this. You can fold a rectangle or a triangle. Watch! (show them) Which way will you fold them today?” I’ve just added the freedom to do the job creatively.
There is also flexibility in whether they fold all the napkins and then distribute them or take the pile around and fold each napkin as they place it.
I know it doesn’t seem like much, but the freedom to choose how to do the job and to add their own flair is HUGE in developing a dignifying work ethic that includes significance, problem solving, initiative, creativity, and joy. (Ha! I just noticed an acronym can be made from those attributes: SPICY – how fun is that?! Who wouldn’t love a SPICY job?)
We also make sure they have the tools they need to do the job – sized right for little hands. For instance, removing a section from the handle of a Swiffer sweeper makes it the perfect tool for a young child to use.
What’s Next?As you begin (or modify) your chore habits, I’d encourage you to pray about where your kids need training. It will take longer to teach them to do a task – even for them to perform the task – than it would take you. There is no question about that! But there is more than just time in question here.
Next week we’ll get to inspecting, promoting, and doing it all with a happy heart.