"I’m bored, Mom." It wasn’t the first time my daughter made the announcement. I’d already directed her to "find something to do," adding the threat, "or I’ll find something for you." And I did.

I pulled out projects and offered suggestions. When those failed, I aimed deeper – the word bored was now forbidden.

"I’m still . . . " She hesitated. "You know what."

I’m not sure how many times she didn’t use the word bored, but I got the message: We had a problem. And while boredom seemed the obvious culprit, it was only the symptom of a deeper issue – my daughter didn’t know how to be industrious.

It’s a word we don’t use often, but it’s a concept we can’t do without. Someone with an industrious spirit is energetic, diligent and productive. The book of Hebrews encourages it like this: "God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them . . . . We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (6:10, 12).

Training a child to be industrious opens the way for him to serve God and fully experience His promises. Without it, children often fall into laziness, whine for entertainment and lack the ability to manage their time. Being industrious is a character trait my kids need in order to live effectively for Christ.

So, despite past mistakes, I’m taking steps in the right direction. I’ve discovered that the solution isn’t to cram extra classes into their schedules or to load up on more projects. These things teach busyness—another interference to pursuing God’s will. Instead, I’m going for the heart of the issue. As you do the same, these principles can help guide you.

Take it to God

Industriousness is ultimately a matter of the heart, and our Creator is the most effective minister in this area. If your children find it difficult to be industrious, ask God for wisdom and guidance on how to help them.

Pray with your children in an age-appropriate and encouraging way. Notice when they show an industrious spirit, and be intentional in offering praise.

Talk it over

Give your kids permission to be honest about their feelings. In doing this, you’ll provide teachable moments that help them learn industriousness.

Preschoolers to preteens: Use confessions of boredom to explore and encourage. Ask, "If you could do anything, what would you do?" Listen to their answers. Together, brainstorm ways to pursue their God-given interests and take steps toward these.

Teens: Use the same strategy, but go further. Share your own struggles to do what’s truly beneficial. Do you sometimes watch TV instead of following through on your plan to study the Bible? Show your teens you understand that being industrious isn’t always easy, but encourage them to keep trying. Teach them that it’s their responsibility, not yours, to deal with their boredom and take actions that move them toward a more productive life.

Paint a big picture

Ultimately, we want our kids to join Christ in finishing the Father’s work. But they have to know what that work is. Introduce them to God’s purposes found in Scripture. Then help your children see how they can contribute more specifically.

Preschoolers to pre-teens: Read stories about characters such as Esther, Ruth and the disciples. Teach them that God has a plan for everyone – including them. Help them find ways to live out God’s purposes. Guide them to gain the skills they need to join in the work.

Teens: Consider studying the parable of the talents (Matthew 25) or the Great Commission (Matthew 28) together. Relate Biblical truths about life’s purposes and the ways in which God uses people. Brainstorm ways they can serve. As your teens research, choose and act on service opportunities, they’ll gain the discernment essential for being industrious.

In the end, it’s often how you and I live that makes the difference. Be honest with yourself about your habits. In what ways do you model productivity and a genuine desire to accomplish God’s will? Where do you struggle and why? What needs to change? Lead through example.

I confess that learning to be more industrious hasn’t been easy for my family. But as I persevere, I trust it will be one of our most rewarding victories. We have nothing to lose. We have all God’s promises to gain.

Janine Petry served as a writer and editor in Christian publishing for more than 10 years. She’s worked on the staffs of several Christianity Today International (CTI) magazines, including Today's Christian Woman and Virtue, and as the assistant editor of Marriage Partnership magazine. Janine’s also been a columnist for the Women's Connection and MomSense e-newsletters. Janine lives with her husband and four children in Carol Stream, Illinois.

© 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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