Lazy Legacy: Teaching My Boys About Elbow Grease

Eli Toto goes to work on the lawnAs a child I had one regular chore to tackle each week, and I dreaded it even though it took minutes to wrap. 

That’s lazy, right?

As a parent, I spend nearly every waking moment not being lazy. I scrub the kitchen floor, stack sippy cups in the dishwasher and pick up all the stuff my boys have left behind. When given a block of free time my first, second and fifth thought is, “what can I clean?”

So on paper I shouldn’t be worried when my oldest son gives me that, “aw, Dad” look when I ask him to do the simplest task. After all, Elijah is just taking after papa. Must be the genes.

I’m worried all the same.

My parents gave me my work ethic indirectly. They didn’t preach, they got things done. My Dad  was always in motion, only settling down to watch the Yankees or catch a movie at night. Whenever my mother would get a new job we’d hear stories of how her co-workers loved her instantly. That was partly due to her personality, but it also stemmed from how she never pushed projects onto others.

My boys must, on some level, process how much my wife and I work to make our household run. I still won’t be taking any chances. We’re teaching Eli to clean up his room now, and I plan to give him a series of regular chores as he gets older – no matter how much fuss he kicks up in homage to his Daddy.

When we tell Eli to, say, clean up his room, the effort takes roughly 20 times longer than if my wife or I tackled the task. It’s tempting to say, “forget it, I’ve got it,” and finish the job ourselves. It’s an urge we consistently resist.

A sturdy work ethic may be the greatest gift a parent can offer a child. Consider the last time you went to the store, hit the Mickey D’s drive through or visited a restaurant. Did the workers hustle, do their best to make you happy and ensure all your needs were met? If so, I bet that job will be a stepping stone on their path to work that means something special to them. If not, you might be seeing them there for some time.

A child should have options when they eventually hit the work force, and as a parent it’s never too soon to help make that happen.


  1. JMK says

    Yes, full steam ahead! We already encourage our 1yo to put her toys BACK in the bin. It’s not “a chore”. Think of it as “wholistic arrangement”….

  2. Christian says

    Like the terminology! We’ve been less strict with our soon to be 2 year old, but your input tells me we need to fix this … stat.

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