by Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children

Teach Your Child to Respect Work

We know a girl who would not wear aprons, although it was lovely to have her closet full of clean clothes. She was also quite willing to admit that clean clothes were equal parts of washing, ironing, and Mother.

Reminding made no difference, however, and she continued to forget to wear aprons. Clean clothes never really registered in terms of someone else’s work.

Finally it was agreed that if she did not wear aprons, she would wash and iron the soiled dresses herself. So came the day when there was nothing to wear. “Your dresses are all out in the laundry, dear, waiting to be washed.”

“But . . .”

“No buts about it, my darling. We agreed that you would do them yourself if you didn’t wear aprons.”

It was a long and weary session of washing, hanging, gathering, dampening, and ironing a full line of clothes. But oh, the respect for the work.

Now it’s socks washed at night, blouses ironed, aprons over skirts (or pay for the cleaning). It’s a great lesson to learn before twelve: work does not do itself.

All our comforts are the result of someone’s work. We must learn to respect it, if not the easy way, then the hard.

The thing that’s so deadly about much of daily work is the repetition. Children continually pull against this goad, as do their parents. We can help them appreciate the necessity of it if we point out its parallel in the spiritual life.

We labor day after day at the same faults (work of another order) and find, after meditating thoroughly on “forgive us our trespasses” that the next day we must battle the same old inclination to bear a grudge.

It’s the constant picking up where we left off and doing all over again that finally makes for accomplishment. Unless we maintain at least the status quo, we’re losing ground. Unless we labor at the venial sins, we’re one day going to be so cluttered with them that we won’t resist the mortal.

So this constant reminding of the importance of repeated daily tasks, and being firm about it, is part of the forming of a child’s character. Just as conquering little weaknesses makes us stronger and more able to go on to be giants for God, so forming the habit of doing readily and well the small daily tasks, we’re ready to go on to more stimulating challenges.

A far better way than bribery to get a child to do what must be done is to allow him to do more mature work when it’s done.

Monica has a real talent for cooking and will hurry with her room if she’s to be allowed to bake a cake or a batch of cookies. Jamie fairly flew to collect the trash recently because he had been promised a lesson in attaching a plug to the end of an electrical cord.

These are real rewards, not just because they’re novelties, but because they push the horizon back a step further and give a child a taste of more mature accomplishment, a sense of growing up.

One of the most difficult disciplines of work is respect for tools. This is the despair of all parents. More fathers have come close to dementia because of lost hammers and screwdrivers. More mothers have cracked up for the day at the sight of a sink full of cake-baking paraphernalia.

The only cures for these lapses are the painful ones. No more building jalopies. No more baking of cakes. Or no dinner until the tools are found, the pots and pans washed and put away. Or, “You must buy a screwdriver to replace the one you lost.”

There’s nothing new about this; the only trouble is we don’t hold firm. If all parents adhered to this discipline with their young, this sort of carelessness would probably disappear off the face of the earth.

The ideal wife gives comfort and encouragement when needed. She is wise with a woman’s intuition…

At any rate, she has by nature the power, the art, and the disposition to please, to soothe, to charm, and to captivate. It is a wonderful power; and we see daily women exerting it in a wonderful way. Why will not women who are truly good, or who sincerely strive to be so, not make it the chief study of their lives to find out and acquire the sovereign art of making their influence as healthful, as cheering, as blissful as the sunlight and the warmth are to their homes? – Rev Bernard O’Reilly, True Womanhood, 1894

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With his facile pen and from the wealth of his nation-wide experience, the well-known author treats anything and everything that might be included under the heading of home education: the pre-marriage training of prospective parents, the problems of the pre-school days down through the years of adolescence. No topic is neglected. “What is most praiseworthy is Fr. Lord’s insistence throughout that no educational agency can supplant the work that must be done by parents.” – Felix M. Kirsch, O.F.M.

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