Discipline is probably the last thing your kids want to talk about. Even the words may conjure up thoughts of lectures, time outs, and toys taken away. It probably makes sense that bringing up “discipline” with your kids will be met with some resistance.
But today we’re talking about the other kind of discipline: hard work and faithfulness. (Actually, your kids probably like this one about as much as the other.) Even though your toddler doesn’t have a nine-to-five yet, it’s important to teach them the value of hard work from an early age.
Navigating Cultural Messages
This is especially important when you consider that the majority of young children in America will experience their most formative years in the midst of a culture bent on convenience. Most information is one Google search away. Communication is easy. Groceries can be delivered to your door (a saving grace, at times). It is paramount to establish habits that encourage hard work early on in order to navigate the contrary messages culture may send.
There may be no better place to seek out insight on this subject than the wisdom book itself: Proverbs.
How Should We Work? Wisdom from Proverbs
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (NLT)
Obviously, it’s important to discuss that this verse isn’t just talking about money. Your kids shouldn’t interpret this as meaning that studying hard for a spelling test will make money rain from the sky, or that impoverished people around the world just didn’t plan well enough.
In Christian parenting, it’s important to talk to your kids about how taking time and being careful about their work produces a higher-quality result! The essay that they spend a few nights on will always turn out better than the one they slapped together in an hour. Teach your kids early on that instant gratification is usually a cheap prize. Taking time to work hard is the real treasure.
“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” Proverbs 12:11 (NIV)
Our kids are growing up in a world where celebrities are increasingly visible for ridiculous reasons. It seems like the way to “make it big” is as simple as recording a funny YouTube video and landing a bunch of followers. What our kids don’t see, however, is the fact that while many of their favorite famous people seem to be overnight successes, there is actually a lot of hard work and discipline involved.
When you’re teaching kids Bible wisdom, help them understand that success will probably not just fall into their laps if they get lucky. The key to abundance is hard work.
“Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4 (NLT)
Let this be a lesson in hard work and contentment. We could sit around dissatisfied with all of the things we don’t have, or we could put our hands to work and be grateful for the abundance we can cultivate.
“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.” Proverbs 12:24 (NLT)
Again, take this opportunity to explain the importance of metaphor and figurative language in Scripture when you’re teaching kids about Jesus and the Bible. Certainly, this verse does not advocate slavery or imply that working hard gives anyone the right to exercise undue authority over others.
But what this does suggest is that those who want to be leaders should be working hard. Laziness results in drudgery, rather than meaningful accomplishments.
“Hard work always pays off; but mere talk puts no bread on the table.” Proverbs 14:23 (MSG)
In one way or another, whether it is a physical product of their labor or just the feeling of a job well done, hard work pays off. Just talking or dreaming about what should be done leaves us anxious about our to-do lists and yields no fruit.
“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” Proverbs 6:10-12 (NIV)
It’s important to teach our kids the true value of resting well. While this verse warns against sleeping when there is work to be done, the Bible speaks about the importance of rest on numerous occasions (Psalm 4:8; Matthew 11:28).
Use this verse as an opportunity to talk about the wisest ways to rest. Self-care and self-indulgence are not the same things. Certainly, rest should follow hard work to recharge and refresh, but rest without hard work leaves us without accomplishment.
“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off like an eagle.” Proverbs 23:4-5 (NIV)
While working hard is important, this verse teaches us that wearing ourselves out for the sake of money is a foolish pursuit. Discuss the importance of balance with your children and how working hard is about more than money.
“All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.” Proverbs 21:26 (NIV)
While talking about hard work, it is also important to talk about what to do with the result of hard work. If your kids are at an age where the fruits of their labor are monetary, open the floor for a discussion about wise ways to be a good steward and the responsibilities of Christians to give generously, as described in scripture (2 Corinthians 9:7).
“Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.” Proverbs 22:26–27 (NIV)
It’s important that kids learn early on how to live within their means. Use this verse as an opportunity to discuss the consequences of spending more than you have and being a wise steward of what you work for.
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
This verse expresses both our responsibility and the grace of God. Reminding our kids to commit their work to God illustrates the responsibility that we have to produce good work. But there is a distinction to be made here between hard work and perfection: God is proud of the former and he does not ask for the latter. If you have a perfectionist child, let this remind them that God wants their best, not the best.
These kids’ Bible lessons are short, simple truths to incorporate into your family devotionals to help teach your children about the wisdom of hard work. For additional tools for learning about Jesus, kids Bible stories, and more, check out these parenting resources!