Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - May/June 2002

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

The Value of Work in Building Character

by Dorothy N. Moore

Teaching children to work is a vital part of the Moore Formula and is so important, in fact, that if either work or study should have precedence over the other, it would be more important to include work. We should apply the principle given by Jesus in Matthew 23:23 when he said, "...these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. " The Bible says a great deal about work. Some people don't realize that the fourth commandment includes work, but if we are to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God, it is pretty plain when he commands, "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work." Jesus Himself gave us an example by working in His father's carpenter shop.

From a very early age, children should be taught to work, beginning with taking care of their own possessions. At this point their willingness far overshadows their value, but that's when you need to capitalize on it. I think of when our daughter's eighteen-month-old Byron was a nuisance around the dishwasher. She finally decided that she should make use of his eagerness and let him put her almost unbreakable dishes away in a low cupboard which he could easily reach. Later on she told her then four-year-old [Byron] to put his blocks away before leaving in the car for errands, and two-year-old Brent said, "Me help, too."

Several years ago we visited the Harold Brewer family in New Jersey. Four-year-old Josh got up early in the morning, went to his daddy's bedside, patted him on the face and whispered, "Daddy, let's go play in the garden." When work is done with your child, especially at an early age, he can learn that work is fun. Whether raking leaves, making the bed or doing the dishes, help your children enjoy it by doing it with them as much as possible, at least until they really learn how to do the job well. Teach them to sing while they learn to work efficiently and happily. Do you remember the Snow White dwarf who sang "Whistle while you work?"

Work is good for children. One research study found that the willingness and capacity to work during childhood is the most important forerunner of mental health in adulthood. It supersedes native intelligence, social class or family situation. Household chores help train the child's memory, as well as concentration, self-discipline and the ability to complete a cycle of activity. Along with service, it is also the best way to build a healthy sense of self-worth.

Probably nothing is more devastating to a grown person than never to have been trained to work in childhood. I read of a woman who was asked by a rehabilitation center to counsel men who had been classified as unemployable. They were not derelicts. On the contrary, they were well-dressed and articulate. As she worked with these men, she discovered a common denominator. None had learned to work as children. Either through neglect or indulgence, the effect is the same.

William Kilpatrick, in his book Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong, tells of a Harvard study which followed the lives of 465 boys into middle age. It was found that the boys who had jobs or household chores grew up to become happier adults, had higher-paying jobs and attained greater job satisfaction. They also had better marriages and better relationships with their children and friends, and were physically healthier than adults who had not had such responsibilities as children. George E. Vaillant, the psychiatrist who conducted the study, explains that boys who worked in the home or community gained competence and came to feel that they were worth-while members of society. Because they had a good self-concept, others had confidence in them also.

When Paul sent his second epistle to the Thessalonians, he reminded them in chapter 3:8-10 that he did not "eat" anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: "If anyone will not work; neither shall he eat." This principle applies to the obligation of everyone in the family to share in the chores as they benefit by food and shelter. Children should feel that they are needed and valued as members of the family team.

Virtues such as neatness, diligence, responsibility, punctuality, attentiveness, self-restraint, and appropriate personal habits don't just develop. They are learned by the example and encouragement of parents who care enough about their children to nurture these traits in work experience, either at home or for others. As soon as children are old enough to do simple neighborhood jobs to earn their own money or get into their own business, they will reap even greater advantages, such as the importance of promptness, courtesy, reliability and being businesslike - one of the best ways to learn and practice good social skills. If they really get involved and excited about their business, they will lose interest in some of the things you really don't want them to do anyway - immersion in video games, TV, other amusements and even sports, which often become addictive. A good job or business is often a solution for young people who have burned out in school or in other ways have gotten off the track.

Instead of spending long days at school, homeschoolers have the time to become volunteers, entrepreneurs, get neighborhood jobs or apprenticeships and thus gain skills which can become lifelong careers, or earn money for college or special training. This may be the means of changing the trend of poverty for children of very poor families.

Here are some of my favorite quotations on this subject: "An education derived chiefly from books leads to superficial thinking. Practical work encourages close observation and independent thought. Rightly performed, it tends to develop that practical wisdom which we call common sense. It develops ability to plan and execute, strengthens courage and perseverance, and calls for the exercise of tact and skill." Education, P. 220.

"For their own physical health and moral good, children should be taught to work, even if there is no necessity so far as want is concerned. If they would have pure and virtuous characters, they must have the discipline of well-regulated labor, which will bring into exercise all the muscles. The satisfaction that children will have in being useful, and in denying themselves to help others, will be the most healthful pleasure they ever enjoyed. Why should the wealthy rob themselves and their dear children of this great blessing?" Fundamentals of Education, p. 36. [Italics mine].