In my opinion, the moments after walking in the door after an outing are often the craziest. I imagine this changes as children get older. But for years it has felt like the most hectic minutes of the day. The car needs to be unloaded, any messes we left at home are now screaming at me, babies always need something, toddlers always need something…who am I kidding…everyone needs something!

BUT, there is a particular routine that has changed these crazy moments into extremely productive moments. We gave this routine an odd and uncreative title –we call it “the 10 minutes.” The name came from my children hearing me always say,“don’t forget about the 10 minutes!” …and so they knew when they got home, they first did “the 10 minutes.”

What is “The 10 Minutes”?

This simple routine is, well, simple. It’s just the understanding that when we walk in the door my children are to devote 10 minutes to helping (before they ask any questions, communicate their wants, or do anything else). They help unload the car, they help put things away, and they help get the house back in order (to some degree). After they complete the obvious tasks, they come and say, “what else can I do?”  To which, I basically look at the tasks ahead of me and figure out what they can tackle in this short window of time.

Admittedly, my older children (7 & 8 years old) are good at this, while the younger ones (3 & 5 years old) need a bit a lot more direction. But learning to be helpful is a process, and one worth starting early.

Why “The 10 Minutes”

The need for such a routine is obvious. It transforms a hectic time when I am scrambling to do everything, into a sane time in which we are all working together towards the same goal. But the benefit far outweighs how it merely profits me.

Left to their own devices, our children would quickly choose to be lazy, unproductive and selfish. And our consumeristic entertainment-driven society only increases these tendencies.Thus, this routine helps our children look outside themselves. It gives them a regular opportunity to be helpful and productive. It nudges them towards making a habit of hard work.

Biblically speaking, work is good. Contrary to what some might assume, work is not around because sin is around. God created us to work. The Genesis account of creation shows that God expected humans to work (Genesis 2:15), and God himself is said to work (Genesis 2:2-3).  The Bible even speaks of work we will do in eternity: judging the nations, having authority over cities, serving God (Revelation 22:3, Matthew 19;28, Revelation 2:16, Luke 19:17, 1 Corinthians 6:2). Needless to say, work is a good part of God’s design for people — which is a truth our children desperately need to learn.

“The 10 Minutes” No More

When we first started the “10 minutes” we used a timer. I thought the new routine would be hard for them to jump into – but not if it was only 10 minutes!  Most kids can give anything their all for just 10 minutes.

But what started as the “the 10 minutes” is no longer called that. But for reasons I’m happy to report. Because helping became a habit when they got home, they no longer needed the defined minutes. Instead, they know to be extra helpful until I say they can be done. Sometimes it’s only 5 minutes, sometimes it’s 20.  It no longer has a little name, but it has developed into a habit. Which is better by far.

Beyond “The 10 Minutes”

Most of our culture is pushing kids (and adults, for that matter) to relax, have fun, indulge, play, sit back and basically do whatever they want. There is a place for relaxation and fun, for sure – but indulgence should not be our mode of operation. If we want to raise our children to fight laziness and work hard, we need to be intentional to create those opportunities in one way or another; otherwise, the current of the culture will carry us.

Maybe walking in the door isn’t a crazy time for you, and your children’s helpfulness wouldn’t be all that helpful. But I bet there is some work you do around your house that you could hand over to your kids in order to nudge them towards the habit of hard work.

My personal hope is that I am always increasing in my expectations of my children. Not to make my life easier, but to make their character stronger. This is simply one routine that thankfully evolved into a habit….And hopefully, many more will be worth writing about soon…

[Side note: I recently read a book that was extremely helpful in thinking through our children’s work ethic. You can read the review here]

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