Teaching Your Child About Work


by Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children

Avoid doing unnecessary work on Sunday

 One of the effects of the war effort was to accustom people who worked odd shifts in factories to doing a full day’s work on Sunday, either in the shop or catching up on the laundry and house-cleaning at home.

This has carried over into postwar years, so that now we find people saving work for Sundays. Nevertheless, if it isn’t absolutely necessary to work on Sunday, then it’s a violation of the Third Commandment to do so.

But what about the family (ours, for instance) for whom Sunday is the only day the father has free? If we’re to have a garden, the largest part of the gardening must be done on Sundays.

We know families who can work only on Sundays on the houses they’re building. This kind of work, dedicated to a richer family life, with a direct relation to our service of God, seems to me an important means of sanctifying Sunday, if it’s necessary to do it on Sunday.

But we must not let our children become confused. If we must garden or build on Sunday, we can make a special act of dedication, asking God to bless our work, understanding that if it could be done otherwise, it would be.

Avoid using work as a punishment

There are two cardinal don’ts about children and work: don’t ask children to do so much work that they miss their fair share of play; and don’t ever use work as a punishment.

Children, like adults, will work better between periods of rest or play, and they need a far greater portion of play than grown-ups do. Cheated of play, they easily become embittered about all work; they, too, will decide that work is a curse.

It’s easy to avoid this abuse if it’s understood that such and such is the work to be done, and done well, after which their time is free for play.

To punish a child by making him work is asking for trouble. Then work becomes synonymous with unpleasantness and resentment, and all subsequent sermons on the dignity of work are going to go in one ear and out the other.

Even young children can pray for insight into discerning their vocations

Praying for the grace to know his vocation goes hand in hand with teaching a child to work. We can help children send out vocational feelers by watching for signs of gracefulness and enthusiasm with particular types of work.

There’s something very intriguing about knowing one has a vocation picked out for him by God and watching to see it unfold.

Little girls will want to be nuns one day, mothers the next, and ballet dancers the next. It’s utterly reasonable, then, to include in one’s prayers, “‘Please, Blessed Jesus, help me to know if I am to be a nun, a mother, or a ballet dancer.”

And the days when they decide it’s “mother” they’re supposed to be, it’s a handy suggestion to be reminded to ask God for help finding the right “father.”

Other people have wasted their entire lives trying to find their vocations. It isn’t too early to begin praying in childhood; and if one’s vocation is to be motherhood, then fathers are a most essential part!

Family prayer about vocations helps parents to keep hands off in the matter of following in Father’s footsteps, or being a lawyer because “I’ve always hoped for a son who would be a lawyer.” It helps level opposition to the first signs of a religious vocation, or the indication that early marriage is best for this girl or this boy.

It helps those who may one day become highly trained professional men and women to respect the more humble occupations of their less-gifted brothers and sisters.

Doctors, lawyers, scientists, and engineers could not do their work, for all their gifts and training, without the men and women who make their instruments, string their telephone wires, raise their food, and build their laboratories and offices.

And when we remember that Christ chose to be a carpenter, we dare not allow any of our children to cultivate any snobbishness about the unimportance of “workmen.”

Perhaps the lesson it takes longest to teach is reverence for work; this is an attitude that comes slowly, with maturity. It’s the final ingredient in the making of a good workman.

We can begin when the children are little by teaching them to notice the properties of materials, consider their source, think of the intelligence of mind and dexterity of hands that are needed to transform them into beauty and usefulness. As our children watch us work, we can point out these things as symbols of spiritual reality.

For instance, yeast. Yeast is a powerful and mysterious plant, microscopically small yet capable of lifting a mountain of dough. Scald it, and it will die. Chill it, and it’s inactive. Mix it with lukewarm water or milk, with the proper amounts of sugar and salt, fat and flour, knead it rhythmically on a floured board, and it springs to life and is the unifying principle of bread.

How like grace, which, scalded by passion, will die; chilled by indifference, will remain inactive; accepted with gratitude and love, used by the heart and mind and will, will transform souls into more perfect Christians, bearing more effectively their part in the restoring of society to Christ.

A father and son planting a garden work with the symbols of eternal life. Seeds, like self-love, must be buried and seem to die before they will spring to life and bear fruit. Rain, like grace, must water them. The sun, like God’s love, must warm them. Weeds, like sin, must be rooted out.

This is how Christ taught. The parables He used to teach His followers are under our very noses. Following His example, teaching with our own parables as well, we slowly communicate reverence, and when finally they’ve learned this, they will be men and women who know it’s not a curse, but a blessing, to work.

“The world is burning; now is not the time to be talking of unimportant things.” ~St. Teresa of Avila.
Faced with all this, however, we should not get anxious. On the contrary, we should be more and more trusting and childlike and peaceful. Mary is the Queen of Peace, and the more crisis-stricken the world is, the more we must be at peace and receive God’s peace, for we can be certain of His love and faithfulness. -The Way of Trust and Love, A Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux, Fr. Jacques Philippe

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Happy Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!

Saint Francis of Assisi
Feast day: October 4
Patronage: animals, the environment, Italy, merchants, stowaways
Francis was born into the privileged life of a nobleman. Eventually, by the grace of God, the worldly desires no longer satisfied him; he desired a simpler life with his love for poverty, nature, and simplicity. Eventually, he founded the religious order of Franciscans, whose brothers preached the gospel, made poverty holy, and worked hard to bring the word of God to the world that desperately needed it. He is known as the first person to receive the stigmata. ~Portrait of Saints


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