Reviewed by: Faith Nakhla
Teach Them to Work: Building A Positive Work Ethic in Our Children, by Mary Beeke. Reformation Heritage, 2021. Paperback, 224 Pages, $7.00. Reviewed by OPC member Faith Nakhla.
The short version of Teach Them to Work, according to the book’s author, would be the four words, “just do your work.” While we might be thankful if following this directive came easily to all of us and to our children, “this book is for those of us who might not be naturally inclined to diligence or who have children cut from this mold. This book is for parents striving to instill a positive work ethic into the fiber of their children’s personalities” (ix). In the rest of the book, Mary Beeke proceeds to share biblical principles and practical strategies to help parents achieve this goal in the lives of their children.
As one might expect and hope for from a book by an author with a solid Reformed background, Beeke (wife of Dr. Joel Beeke) first lays the foundation of biblical principles for work and for teaching our children and then follows up with many practical applications of these truths. Thus, the first part of the book presents “how to think,” and the second, “what to do” (83). For example, Beeke reminds us that work was part of God’s good creation and discusses how God redeems it since the fall. We are called to work for the glory of God and the good of our neighbor. Children are sinners and will need their wills subdued for their own good and maturation. Beeke includes practical ideas for working with our children, advice for speaking to our children, ways to work on our own attitudes, and much more. As one reads the book, one will notice overlap in these two larger sections and between chapters. This may seem repetitive at times, but it effectively keeps bringing us back to the foundational principles first presented, and it demonstrates again and again how our perspectives and attitudes (biblical or sinful) interweave with every area of life and work, affecting the process and outcome of all we do. Readers will also appreciate the questions included for thoughtful study and application to one’s particular household, an appendix of age-appropriate task lists, and a selected bibliography with resources for parents and kids.
Beeke writes with a no-nonsense tone, unapologetic to current cultural ideas of coddling and negotiating with children, relying instead on scriptural authority and practical evidence. However, she maintains a humble tone when it comes to recognizing our own sinful tendencies to selfishness, impatience, and laziness as parents. She continually calls us back to God’s Word in examining our own attitudes and encourages us to rely on the Spirit and gospel to change our own and our children’s hearts, hopeful of his doing just that for his glory, our good, and our witness to the world.
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