What We Should Teach Our Kids about Work

work on labor day

When Labor Day rolls around every year, do you ask yourself, “What am I teaching my kids about work?” Probably not. If you’re like me, you’re more likely to be asking, “What are we going to do with this extra long three-day weekend?” After all, it seems like Labor Day is a celebration of not working…we celebrate work by taking a day off, right? Well, we may be missing a great teachable moment.

Also, if you’re like me, you might not know much to share with your kids about the history of the holiday, like some of these interesting facts:

  • The first Labor Day parade in the USA was in 1882 in New York City, where about 10,000 workers took unpaid leave to join the event.
  • Congress made Labor Day a legal holiday in 1894, over 120 years ago.
  • When Labor Day became a holiday, the typical American worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and children as young as 5-6 years old worked in factories and mines.

So Labor Day not only helps us honor the hundreds of millions of Americans working hard in our society but also to talk about the importance and virtue of hard work. I previously wrote about 5 Reasons Your Child Should Work.  This year, I’m challenging you to be intentional about what your kids are learning and believing about hard work, manual labor, and the people that work hard all around them.

Here are some key things to share with your family this holiday weekend about hard work:

  • Hard work is a good thing, not a bad thing. If your family has never discussed this before, bring up the topic.
  • Hard work is something God designed us for.  Share with your family how God worked when He created the world and continues to work, and how He made us with the ability to work and create things too.
  • Hard work is what creates opportunity. The most innovative inventors and thinkers didn’t usually just stumble on great ideas. Hard work and even frequent failures were often behind their biggest breakthroughs and opportunities.  Robert Goddard developed rockets but had ideas rejected and mocked for years while he struggled to put his ideas into practice. Thomas Edison was told he was stupid when young, but he invented the lightbulb…after over 1,000 unsuccessful attempts. The Wright Brothers had many, many failed prototypes before they finally made the first flight. Where would we be without their stubborn hard work? We would be in the dark, without the ability to go to space, much less fly from one side of the country to another.
  • Hard work is what stimulates prosperity. Great athletes, musicians, and leaders your family has admired are probably known for their skills and talents, but often there was a lot of hard work behind their success. Michael Jordan was cut from his freshman basketball team in high school. The Beatles spent years honing their skills on tiny stages before their records starting selling (and after one record company said they would never make it with their guitar-focused band). Abraham Lincoln, while a successful lawyer, lost multiple elections before he finally won the national election for President in 1860. If your family looks into your favorite role models, you’re likely to find similar information on the hard work they’ve had to combine with skills to be successful.
  • Hard work helps us achieve our goals. Make some goals for something you want to accomplish as a family.  Consider together what role hard work will play in meeting those goals.
  • Hard work builds character and perseverance. The satisfaction of a finished task is something every child needs to learn. Share your stories of both failure and follow through and what you learned about work along the way.
  • Hard working people should be respected. Talk with your family about the importance of respecting all hard-working people regardless of race, position, title, social class, etc. Share examples of some of the people that might be ignored or dismissed but who deserve respect for what they do.

What are some other facts about hard work that you think are important to pass on to your kids? Please share your comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.