How to teach your kids to have a work ethic

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I celebrate it whenever I meet hard working students. I see them on almost every university campus I’m on, and in almost every high school I visit. These adolescents just “get the system” and realize you can achieve almost anything if you work hard enough. On the other hand, I also see far too many students growing up in a world of speed and convenience who’ve never developed a work ethic.

May I suggest a couple of reasons why this might be?

From a recent survey of parents, 82 percent said “doing chores” was a normal household experience for them growing up. However, only 28 percent of these same parents say they ask their kids to do chores. For some reason, it was good for us, but not good for them. We feel we’re not good parents if we stress them out with chores.

Why Do Parents Fail to Expect Chores From Kids:

How to teach your kids to have a work ethic

  1. Many believe their kids are just too stressed to add chores to their homework.
  1. Many know that trying to make kids do chores leads to an unpleasant argument.
  1. Many can assume they are bad parents if their kids have to work.
  1. Many say that it’s just easier to do the tasks around the house themselves.

The Benefits of Chores Go Beyond Work Ethic

A study released from the University of Mississippi collated data drawn from over 25 years, (beginning in 1967) and discovered the obvious. Dr. Marty Rossmann says “chores instilled in children the importance of contributing to their families and gave them a sense of empathy as adults. Those who had done chores as young children were more likely to be well-adjusted, to have better relationships with friends and family and to be more successful in their careers.”

What adult wouldn’t want that for this next generation?

In fact, Dr. Rossmann says that “asking children to help with household chores starting at age 3 or 4 was instrumental in predicting the children’s success in their mid-20s.” Do you realize this was normal a hundred years ago? Families were larger and kids all had to pitch in, even at pre-school age. They did age-appropriate chores like helping to make the bed. It actually helped them mature. “Children are often capable of more than their parents give them credit. Toddlers are eager to please and are ready to show off their big-kid skills,” says Nicholas Long, director of the Center for Effective Parenting at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

How Parents and Teachers Can Teach Healthy Work Ethic…Beyond Chores

1. Choose appropriate tasks for kids that include an incentive to do them.

You’ll get buy in quicker from kids if the tasks they must do benefit them in the end. When my son lost a possession he really liked, I convinced him a clean room would help him find it. He cleaned the room and found it. Let’s be honest. We all do better when we see “what’s in it for me.” This is human.

2. Model a work ethic for them.

We can’t expect a healthy, strong work ethic from our students or kids if we are not demonstrating one ourselves. Too often, our young generation has seen extremes: adults who are “workaholics;” who’ve lost themselves in their careers, or those who are lazy and pitifully dependent on others for their lifestyle. I want all kids to see me perform my work with excellence—yet experience a life outside of the work as well.

3. Offer payment for their work.

Opinions differ on this one, but I believe it’s healthy to divide the list of “to do” items into two groups. One’s a list of tasks we all do because we’re part of the class or the family. The other list contains items they can do for payment or reward. This is key. Students need to know that some work is purely for the purpose of serving others, while other work can be rewarding both internally and externally.

4. Talk about the benefits of work experience.

“As we become more prosperous as a society, we have expected less and less of our children,” says Nicholas Long, director of the Centre for Effective Parenting at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.. “What’s happening is that we’re sending them off to college and they don’t know how to wash their clothes, cook a meal, sometimes even basic things like how to change a light bulb, because we do everything for our children too often.” If you want to motivate them, illustrate how working now prepares them for expectations later.

5. Perform work tasks with them.

Too often, when adults ask young adults to perform a task, kids don’t put their heart into it and do it poorly. This is usually when we say we’ll just do it ourselves. What if we did the task with them? Talk through how you want it done. Show them what excellence looks like, and then watch them as they do it. Affirm their work along the way.

6. Challenge them to do something that benefits others.

While it may be difficult at first to convince kids of serving the entire family or class, having them do something for someone rather than just for their own benefit prevents them from saying, “I don’t care if my room is clean.” It could be anything from vacuuming the family room, to serving at a soup kitchen or cleaning up a local pond.

7. Tie work tasks to a goal they have.

I know adults who, when they discover a student wants to buy an item (i.e. smart phone, new jeans, etc.) actually help them plan to pay for it through a series of jobs, enabling them to see how work brings rewards. My friend actually bought a portable device his son really wanted but kept it on his own “layaway” plan until his son could pay it off. When his son made the last payment, he got the device and a life lesson too.

One last footnote. According to a United Nations report, girls spend 40 percent more time doing chores than boys do. For whatever reason, it’s an interesting reality we should be on the look out for. What do you say we cultivate a service mindset and work ethic in every student?

How to teach your kids to have a work ethic

While work ethic is proven to be one of the key factors for success in life; the struggle with children work ethic is one of the most common concerns voiced by parents, teachers, and professionals.

Below are concerns expressed by a mother of a 6-year-old boy, who came to get parenting advice from me last week:

“My son only wants to do whatever he wants. He avoids any activities that he perceives to be tedious or challenging. He does not show any interest in doing chores, puzzles, reading, drawing, or writing. Even getting dressed and going outside is becoming a challenge. When he starts an activity, he constantly asks for help, gets bored or frustrated, and gives up quickly. The report from his teachers shows that he does not put effort into his work or use problem-solving skills.”

Similar issues are being shared by many parents and are also evident in every classroom.
Work ethic challenges are often associated with neurological conditions. However, I am most concerned with the sharp increase of these issues amongst typically developing children. These are the kids I am referring to in this blog.

Work ethic is similar to a muscle. It can be strengthened with proper training or weakened with misuse. The bad news is that kids’ work ethic is in a crisis and we, parents, have a lot to do with it. The good news is that with proper training you can improve your child’s work ethic.

Illusion: Many factors in modern parenting contribute to the crisis in kids’ work ethics. As parents, we bubble-wrap our kids and keep them in their comfort zone. In their minds, we have created an illusion that life is a picnic filled with immediate gratification and endless fun. We have made our kids believe that life is all about ‘me’ and about doing what “I want and whenever I want it”. Likewise, we have taught them that life is free of responsibilities and challenges as everything falls on their golden plate without lifting a finger. We have made them think that in life “everyone wins a trophy” regardless of his effort and “nothing is your fault.”

Reality: Why are we misleading our children? We are telling our kids a fairy tale. We are raising them for an artificial reality, not for the real world. Life is not a picnic. There is no magic wand, no golden plate, no endless fun. We all know that life is tough. Life is filled with tedious work, delayed gratification, challenges, and responsibilities. It is mostly about doing what is needed to get what is wanted. “Magic” mostly happens when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, work hard through challenges and boredom.

Outcomes: When bubble wrapping our kids, we have the best intentions in mind to make them happy. Unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment, but miserable in the long term. Bubble wrapping hinders the development of responsibility, independence, problem-solving, perseveration, and resilience. By doing so, we deprive them of developing the work ethic which is an essential building block for life’s success. With the best of intentions in mind, we are leaving our kids unprepared for real life.

Solutions. Below is a list of recommendations that have helped hundreds of my clients improve their work ethic skills:

1. Children benefit from before and after school visual schedule incorporating both activities that kids need to do and want to do

2. Incorporate into your child’s daily life the ‘first’ and ‘then’ concept to train delayed gratification and hard work. ‘First’ do what is needed and ‘then’ what is wanted:

  • ‘First’ homework, ‘then’ play; ‘first’ tidy up toys, ‘then’ go outside; ‘first’ carry your skates, then ‘skating’; ‘first’ peel a banana, ‘then’ eat it; ‘first’ earn, ‘then’ spend

3. Avoid using technology as a free babysitting service and provide opportunities for boredom:

  • Screen time is not recommended for children under 2 years old. For children 2 to 5 years old, screen time should be limited to 1 hour a day (see guidelines)
  • Avoid using gadgets to alleviate boredom during car rides, meals, and while waiting for something
  • Have an unstructured time in your child’s schedule and teach him/her to occupy the time by making a technology free activity list for “I am bored” time.

4. Involve kids from early on in self-care skills and daily chores to teach responsibility and doing what’s needed:

  • Life skills such as self-feeding, self-dressing, brushing teeth
  • Chores such as making a bed, setting a dinner table, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, watering plants, loading /unloading dishwasher, feeding a pet, sorting/folding laundry, and even washing cars.

5. Teach kids traditional activities that require putting a continuous effort to achieve results:

  • Ex. woodworking, gardening, fishing, sewing, working with clay, ceramic painting, making a mosaic, coloring by number/color, building blanket forts, making handmade greeting cards, and scrapbooking.

6. Don’t remove obstacles in their daily life. Use the obstacles to promote problem- solving:

  • Encourage kids to choose their clothes in the morning, push them to make decisions in the restaurants, when shopping for clothes and groceries
  • If a ball rolled under a couch, milk got spilled or zipper got stuck, don’t rush to help, encourage your child to find a solution

7. Let them fail and use their failure as an opportunity for learning:

  • Ex. don’t bring forgotten lunch or agenda to school, don’t re-buy a lost toy

8. Increase physical endurance as it is closely related to mental stamina:

  • Minimize the use of strollers, incorporate hiking, swimming, biking.

9. Have family discussions related to work ethic:

  • Explain that boredom is a normal human state, our life consists of activities that we want to do, as well as those that we need to do; Life offers challenges, and our goal is learning to overcome these challenges rather than running away from them.

10. Make the teaching process a positive and connected one:

  • You can’t expect a child to do what you haven’t taught him yet
  • Start at your child’s level of abilities and gradually increase your expectations
  • Positivity is the key. If the teaching process is positive, children will be motivated to continue practicing the skills and will perceive parents as partners in the learning process.

The best way for teaching children is being their role model. Parenting is the toughest job ever created and it requires a high level of work ethic from ourselves. By consciously investing our time and energy into our parenting job, by not looking for “shortcuts” in parenting, we are modeling to our children the true meaning of work ethic. Our work ethic of today is their work ethic of tomorrow. Investing in our kids’ work ethic is the safest investment with the highest long-term returns. Let’s unwrap the bubble wrap and set them for success!

All Pro Dad

According to the magazine World, skipping work just got a lot easier. “Millions of Americans work dead-end jobs, and sometimes they just need a day off,” said John Liddell, who helped found Vision Matters, which sells notes as part of its Excused Absence Network. “People are going to lie anyway,” said Liddell, who’ll sell a fake jury summons, forged doctor notes, or a funeral program with your name listed among the pallbearers to dishonest employees.

We would count John’s ethical fallacies if we had time. How do we instruct our children to swim upstream against a slacker culture? Here are the 10 ways to teach your children a great work ethic.

1. Understand the fact that you always teach, regardless of intention.

The question isn’t “if” you are teaching but “what” you are teaching. It’s important to understand that home is a natural and continuous learning environment. Everything we do instructs our children. What are your children learning about work by observing you?

2. Example, example, example.

If parents own a positive work ethic, then we’re already halfway there. This is a great opportunity for “do as I do” to support “do as I say.”

3. Balance is job one.

A work ethic that sacrifices family turns out to be all work and no ethic. Every family has its own take on how much work is too much. But it’s essential that we teach our children balance in terms of work. In his book Quiet Strength, Coach Tony Dungy shares how he deliberately taught his coaching staff and players that family time was their priority. A work ethic that sacrifices family turns out to be all work and no ethic.

4. Keep family priorities in order.

The simple phrase “fun after the work is done” associates relaxation with completion rather than relaxation as escape. People experience more satisfaction in their leisure when it is preceded by a satisfactory job performance.

5. Work with your children whenever possible.

How is a guide different from a boss? A boss typically barks out orders and waits for results, whereas a guide is willing to walk alongside. As dads who have to teach our kids a work ethic, our role is that of guide.

6. Take your children with you when you volunteer.

Pick up garbage together on the side of the street. Join a team that fixes things at the park. Hook up with volunteer efforts at church or other community organizations. Work associated with service is a key building block to the value of work across the board.

7. Expose them to stories about heroes who learned the value of work.

There are hundreds of great stories to reinforce this point. Movies, books, articles. Read them together and then live them, day by day.

8. Make chores at home a shared responsibility.

Every member of the family should have assigned chores on a routine basis. Change them around; help each other out; take turns with the ones no one really enjoys. Don’t wimp out on the chores, and don’t let your kids wimp out, either.

9. Don’t pay kids for routine chores.

Compliment. Encourage. Throw in the occasional treat, “because you kids have been so responsible this week!” Admire their good work, but don’t pay them for fulfilling their responsibilities. However, do consider paying your children for jobs that go above and beyond their normal chores. It’s a wonderful way for them to learn the value of a buck.

10. Have a “chore chart” on the refrigerator.

And feel free to use this one.

Sound off: How do you teach your kids to have a good work ethic?

Huddle Up Question

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard of a worker do you think you are? Why?”

#1: Let Them Explore Their Passions

Many students have a misconceived perception that they do not like learning. In reality, they are simply unengaged in the subject matter, not the learning itself. Children must have the opportunity to explore their interests to instigate a love for learning. Letting children discover and learn more about their passions proves to even the most disengaged students that learning can be a delight when they are passionate about the subject. While they still might not be thrilled about the topics in school, having this mindset shift about learning can make a big difference. There may even be a way to incorporate their passions into their schoolwork which can drive further engagement.

#2: Encourage Extracurricular Involvement

Extracurriculars are extremely beneficial when it comes to developing grit. Whether it’s a sport, musical instrument, or art, extracurriculars take hard work! They require commitment and consistent practice to succeed. Involvement in extracurriculars is a great way to teach your children the value of a good work ethic and see first-hand the fruits of their labor. The perseverance they build in extracurriculars transfers over to their academics as well.

#3: Learn How to Study

Knowing how to study is not an intuitive skill! Students will often get overwhelmed or discouraged when studying because they don’t know which method is most effective. Countless different study strategies work well for various learning styles. Flashcards, virtual tools, songwriting, teaching a friend, or completing practice problems are all examples of study methods to try with your kids. Learning how to effectively study can make a huge difference in your child’s work ethic and academic journey. Helping your child discover what method works best for them can help you break through to your child, even those most opposed to studying.

#4: Set Goals

Are your kids pushing themselves? If you have a child who lacks work ethic or is unengaged with their schoolwork, it may be because they have not set any goals for themselves. Without goals, they have nothing to aim for and therefore no reason to work hard. Setting goals that are achievable yet challenging is the sweet spot for the greatest amount of effectiveness. While they might be resistant at first, try to focus on the benefit of achieving the goal so they understand the purpose.

#5: Focus on the Process

One key reason your child may be disengaged from their schoolwork or struggle with work ethic is because they feel discouraged. It’s no secret that school is more difficult for some students than others. Your child may be putting in the same amount of work as another student, yet receive a C whereas the other student receives an A. Over time, this will lead them to believe they are not as smart as their peers. This is extremely detrimental not only to students’ work ethic but their mental health. Students must feel like they are academically adequate, even when school is a greater struggle for them. As a parent, you can foster this by focusing on and celebrating the learning process rather than the result. Students must learn that trying their best is most important.

#6: Teach Them Their Actions Have Consequences

While no one likes to be the bearer of bad news, children have to understand there are consequences to their actions. Refusing to put forth effort in school develops poor habits for the future. While it may not be “fun” in the moment to study, there are negative repercussions to this lack of work ethic. This impacts their ability to succeed in higher grade levels, college, and life. However, the reverse is also true. Students must learn that working hard in school sets them up for greater success and opens far more opportunities as they grow up. Your child must develop healthy study habits at a young age to propel them into their future.

To schedule your parenting or interpersonal communication phone consultation, please visit www.karenalonge.com

How do I instill a strong work ethic in my teenage son?

Q: My 13 year old son was given the opportunity to make some extra cash this summer by doing yardwork and other small projects for friends and neighbors, but because he often decides not to put out much effort, he’s earned much less income than he could have. Of course I hope he grows up to become responsible and make a worthwhile contribution to the world. How do I teach him a strong work ethic?

A: My guess is that you are already doing the very most important and effective method for teaching a strong work ethic: Modeling it.

Developmentally, your son sounds right on track for age 13. He’s still got a lot of growing up to do, and his brain will continue doing some serious and major development for about another ten years. I like this article as a description of what’s going on in the teenage brain:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/teenage-brain1.htm

In the meantime, while his brain is still busy developing and figuring out how to deal with the mass quantities of hormones that his body is dumping into it, he’s watching you, soaking up and internalizing your values and your good example every minute of every day.

If you work hard and take pride in your accomplishments, chances are very good that your son will, too, when he’s an adult. It’s what he’s seen all his life. It’s what he knows. It’s what the most significant man in his world does. And when he’s finished with this necessarily self-oriented phase of development, he will do it, too.

Here’s what the research tells us about motivation: the kind that can be imposed or installed by consequences or prodding may appear to obtain short term results but does not stick over time, and is particularly likely to go by the wayside when nobody is watching.

The kind that sticks is intrinsic motivation — it comes from within. So when I work with probation officers, who have a pretty strong investment in helping their clients make significant lifestyle changes, I teach them how to develop and enhance intrinsic motivation so that when offenders are no longer under supervision, their good behavior is likely to continue because it is getting them where they want to be.

So instead of telling offenders why it’s important that they stay sober, or get their GED, or get a job, we ask them questions like, “How do you see your life being different if you decide to get a job vs if you decide not to?” or “Where would you like to be in six months?” followed by, “What do you think is the best way to make sure you achieve those goals?”

Their responses may be exactly the same as what we would have told them (ie: I need to stop drinking), but with one huge difference: It was THEIR idea, not ours.

And that is the difference that makes all the difference when it comes to whether they take action or not.

So one way to help your son develop the kind of consequential thinking that may lead him to conclude when he’s an adult that he likes his life better when he’s productive might be to ask questions to find out what is important to him, rather than attempt to convince him what should be important to him, and then ask him (in a light and casual way) what he thinks would be the best way to achieve those things. All the while realizing, of course, that what is important to him will change DRAMATICALLY as he matures.

So basically, it comes down to these things:

Continue living a full and productive life in front of him.

Invite him to join in while you accomplish things, but don’t pressure him to do so.

Make sure to do fun, unproductive stuff together just for the heck of it – playful stuff with no purpose other than joyful connection (paintball, squirt gun fights, etc.) You want your relationship with him to be an anchor during the storms of his life, and you want him to feel free to come to you in good times and bad, so associate yourself with having fun, not just work or expectations. Do some risky/scary/edgy stuff together, like rock climbing or whatever adventures are available where you live, so you can share a little adrenaline rush.

Let him observe you learning something new so he knows how to perservere to achieve something he wants even when it’s frustrating or hard.

Give him plenty of unstructured, private time and space to complete the developmental tasks of a teenager, which mostly involve figuring out who they are independent of their parents. (And by unstructured I don’t mean running loose in the world at all hours of the night, I mean safe,
supervised down time when he appears to be doing nothing of great significance at home.)

Continue to make clear what the basic expectations are for his contributions to the family (dishes, chores, etc) and then allow him plenty of flexibility over how he expends his additional time and energy. Teenagers really do need some time to sleep in and veg out and be ‘unproductive’. The amount of growing they are doing at this stage is phenomenal and can be exhausting at times.

Continue providing for his basic needs, but let him pay for luxuries or upgrades. So if he needs a computer for school, you spring for one that’s perfectly adequate, and if he wants extra bells and whistles, he pays for those with the money he’s earned. And if he wants an upgrade and doesn’t have any money, he has the option of working and saving up for it.

In a way, it’s a really good sign that he’s clear about what is important enough to him to invest energy his in. It takes courage to not follow the beaten path, and it shows that he’s thinking for himself, running a basic cost-benefit analysis to determine which returns are worth investing his time and effort into. Those analytical skills will serve him very well as an adult.

Plenty of people don’t achieve that clarity until their mid-life crisis, when they suddenly realize that they’ve created a very culturally appropriate life, and are doing all the right things, but there’s no juice in it for them – no joy, purpose, or passion.

We all want our kids to grow up to live a happy, productive life. And while the developmentally appropriate task of teenagers is to figure out what matters to them, what feeds them, what makes life worth living for them, at the same time, the task of the parent of the teenager is to provide within safe and reasonable limits the freedom and opportunity to try things out and try things on (including things we REALLY hope they decide not to stick with, like green hair!)

The best part of spring break for me is spending time with my kids during the break. Usually I find a vast array of home projects that need to be done and this year is no different.

I’ve been wanting to repaint our living room for some time now. I had Jimmy pick up some paint on the last snow day and I managed to get one wall done, but I’ve been staring at the unfinished project ever since.

If you ask Jimmy he would say I could be the queen of unfinished projects. That might have some truth to it, I admit.

Rhonda Sexton

I get great ideas and know what will be great, so I get started with enthusiasm and vigor. I can see the finished project in my mind so when I run into a snag, I know that eventually it will look great.

It’s those snags that throw me off.

Many times I either don’t have the supplies or right tool to finish the job so I’ll put it off for another day or weekend, but by then I’ve got other obligations or plans and days turn into weeks.

Usually, I forget to pick up the tool or product I need so when I find an extra minute I can’t work on it.

It’s not like I have a lot of company that comes over so usually I don’t have a hard deadline to get things done, either, giving me more room to put it off.

Soon, I’ll start to get frustrated at myself for being so lazy and finding too many excuses and finally make myself get busy and once it’s done, I feel so much better and can enjoy it.

I think a lot of us are like that in one way or another from time to time. By making my kids help out over spring break I hope that, even though they don’t want to be helping paint, they are learning lessons for life.

They are doing something productive because their mom needs help and not for pay. They will be able to look at their work with pride for years to come and we are making memories with each other that will be important to us forever.

Life is made of many small moments like these, sharing our time and company doing some things we want to do and some things we’d rather not but need to.

A serious, productive work ethic seems to be one of those things that is becoming less prevalent in our society. I remember grumbling and complaining as a youngster about doing my chores and helping around the house, too, but I didn’t get a choice, just like I’m not giving my kids a choice.

It brings to mind a quote I learned during my days in sales from some motivational conference: “Do the things today that others won’t, so you will be able to do tomorrow the things that others can’t.”

A strong work ethic is important because it can set you apart from others in the workplace and in life. People want to know you will follow through on your word.

People like doing business with others that get things done. No one likes to put trust in someone that talks a good game but doesn’t deliver.

It is frustrating and in the end costs time and money.

I want my kids to realize and master these truths at an early age so they don’t have to struggle as young adults.

I see it all too often, when young adults don’t have a strong work ethic and they can’t understand why they can’t keep jobs or relationships. It does carry over past the workplace into everyday life.

Relationships are hard work, requiring effort on both sides. When one person feels like there is more effort on their side they begin to resent the other person for not being there for what they needed.

How are these lessons learned if we don’t require our children to be aware of another’s needs and teach them to take action to help, even if they don’t want to?

Helping out neighbors and grandparents is a great way to teach your kids compassion, and the value of helping others for the joy of it and not for money.

Work ethic doesn’t mean we will never have lazy days or put things off, but just like my unfinished household projects, it does mean that eventually we will look at our obligation and finish it because we know we should and we will feel better when it’s done.

How to teach your kids to have a work ethic

My father was not a Christian. Occasionally, he expressed doubt about the existence of God. I never heard him pray, and he never taught the Bible to me.

But I loved him and he loved me. He did teach me some important values, not the least of which was the worth of honest, diligent labor. In other words, the dignity of hard work.

When I was nine or ten, I was a helper on a paper route, delivering newspapers before daylight and in the afternoons — six days a week.

On the day before my twelfth birthday, we moved into a rural area of Tennessee north of Nashville. I secured a job with the local blacksmith, who lived down the hill and across the road from our old home place. I went into the woods each evening, sought out his milk cow (locating her by the bell around her neck), and drove her to his barn. My salary was twenty-five cents a week.

Eventually I advanced, taking a job at a nearby grocery store after school in the afternoons and on Saturdays. I stacked bottles and dusted shelves. My wage was ten cents an hour. What to do with all that wealth!

Soon I was able to buy two piglets, which I raised on slop that I regularly collected from neighbors just after dawn on those beautiful southern mornings. As I grew older, I was able to secure a cow, and finally some calves.

In high school, I fattened a beautiful Hereford steer for showing at the fall fair. The animal cost me $100. But the “stock market” fell that year and my prize-winning, nine-hundred-pound steer sold for $125. I learned that there are bitter disappointments in the business world!

But I worked on. I plowed a field, planted and harvested corn to feed my animals. One year I set out an acre of strawberries. That was the summer we had a severe drought and I harvested not one berry from that non-crop. What to do? Get up and go again!

I shall always be grateful to my parents for teaching me something about the ethics and rewards of honest work. I would like to pass along some of the work principles that I think would serve well the youth of this day.

Learn to Work

Do not allow your children to simply sit around, wasting an inordinate amount of time watching TV, playing video games, and immersing themselves in every conceivable sport, etc.

A parent may boast, “My son ‘lettered’ in four sports.” I can tell you this. He did not “letter” in learning how to work and help pay his own way at the same time.

There is more to life than playing — though one would scarcely know it by watching some adults! Recreation is intended to “re-create after vigorous labor. It should be engaged in moderation, not in obsession.

Learn to Earn

Do not give your children everything on a silver platter as if they were royalty within your home. They should learn responsibility. It will not hurt them to do chores, or (if old enough) get a part-time job to help pay for their clothes, their own recreational activities, etc.

Is it any wonder that many young adults continue to run to daddy and mommy for every conceivable need — even after they’ve left home — if indeed they ever do leave (see Gen. 2:24)?

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Teach your youngsters the value of honest work. Employers recognize and diligently seek men and women of integrity. Train your children in the principle of quality labor for fair pay.

And a part of honesty is doing your best. A good person will do good work. He or she will not turn out a shoddy product in the interest of “getting on” with some personal pursuit.

Moreover, they will put in a full day’s work for a day’s pay. These concepts will result in rich dividends in your child’s adult life. Employers today are searching for workers who are drug-free, honest, and diligent.

Learn to Be Happy in Labor

Encourage your offspring to look toward a vocation in which they can be happy. What a dismal life it must be to arise each morning and head off to a job that is despised — no matter how much it pays. Such can make human existence miserable.

At the same time, children must be taught that no job will be without its discouraging times. One has to learn that you take the rough with the smooth, and learn and grow thereby. One sees so many young adults who bounce from one job to another, ever seeking to “find” themselves. Seemingly, some never do.

Work Is for Family

Teach your children that a vocation that allows him or her to have quality family time is more important than a high-wage position where one is out of town most of the time. Some wives complain because their husbands are on the road so much, yet they revel in the things those super-incomes can obtain.

The lack of precious time with your children can never be retrieved when they are gone from your home.

Working unto the Lord

The most important thing that a parent can train his child to recognize is the fact that his occupation needs to be consistent with a Christian life.

Guide your youngsters away from vocations that are questionable in ethics, or that tend to create tempting situations. Train them to plan toward an occupation in which they can devote quality time to the church, attending at least most of the services, and being able to assume responsibilities that work for the welfare of the congregation as a whole.

Quips like, “I just don’t have the time to serve as a deacon,” or “My schedule simply will not allow me to teach a class,” are common in the body of Christ.

Service to Christ should be the most driving force in one’s life (Mt. 6:33).

Designed for Work

Finally, reflect upon this. The work ethic was given to man in the garden — even before the original Fall.

“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it”(Gen. 2:15).

From that early time, responsible spiritual people have acknowledged that whatever one’s secular vocation may be, ultimately, God is the Supervisor for whom they labor (Eph. 6:5-6), and he is to be glorified thereby.

Remember also that the Son of God was a carpenter before he became a preacher. How satisfying it must have been to have owned a piece of furniture made with those diligent hands!

By Elaine Bowers

Published on: January 01, 2010

The news must have come as a shock. This summer, 23 students looking forward to their freshman year at the University of Washington received a letter which shattered all their plans. The letter informed the teens that their admission to the U.W. had been revoked because their performance had dropped off during their senior year in high school. It was the first time the university had taken such an action.

Some of the teens had let their grades slide from A’s and B’s down to C’s, D’s and F’s. Some had failed a required course. And others dropped or failed to complete challenging senior courses they had listed on their applications.

The message is clear: Students who want to get into the college of their choice must demonstrate a good work ethic, right up to high school graduation.

Building a work ethic

Measuring work ethic can be tricky. There are the obvious ingredients, such as good grades and high scores on standardized tests. But work ethic can include so much more.

“I think standardized tests alone don’t show their heart, their character, how teens generate new ideas, how they give back to others. It doesn’t speak to their breadth of character,” said Kelly Herrington, director of college and career services at University Prep, where 100 percent of the students go on to college.

Herrington says work ethic can be demonstrated in the myriad of ways a teen spends his time outside the school curriculum, in athletics, artistic endeavors, volunteerism — even in how summers are spent. When parents ask him how their teen can best prepare for the future, Herrington says: “work ethic.”

Working at McDonald’s or bagging groceries exposes teens to a variety of people, and can remind them of why they want a college education.

Of course, a great work ethic doesn’t necessarily lead to college. Bob Dannenhold, a college advisor for 35 years, tells the story of two siblings: the sister, who did everything right in high school and went off to a prestigious university, and her younger brother, who struggled in school. Finally, the boy was drawn to a journeyman electrician program, and that’s when he began to shine.

“He showed up to work on time every day, loved his work and couldn’t wait to learn something new. He’s making a lot of money, now,” Dannenhold said. And his sister, the college graduate, is a barista at Starbucks.

Re-inspiring adolescents

Experts agree that parents shouldn’t be surprised when their once-motivated students seem to lose all interest once they hit adolescence. Don’t panic, they advise.

“The single biggest way to help teens and their work ethic is to find something they’re passionate about,” says Jake Guadnola, upper school admissions director and college advisor at Annie Wright School in Tacoma. Student athletes often struggle with grades but work long hours on the football field. Others hate to come to class but stay past closing at their after-school jobs.

“You can have the most sullen or angst-ridden teenager. If you find something the teen cares deeply about. they’ll start taking pride in it when they become successful. Success really does breed success.” Dannehold agrees. “To me, the work ethic in younger people is a shaky bridge to walk on,” he says. “Sometimes kids just get stuck. It’s like they have a slide show in their heads and one slide gets stuck. They just need to turn it into a movie in which they’re seeing themselves with more potential.”

Wendy Krakauer, head counselor at Roosevelt High School, says parents also need to put responsibility for doing the work squarely on the shoulders of the student. Avoid the urge to write an excuse to the teacher for missed homework or to offer to type a paper at the last minute. “You can’t rescue them,” she says. “You want the teen to understand that, at this age, they’re in charge of their own lives. It’s their responsibility to negotiate with the teacher, find out what they need to do and to do the work themselves.”

Giving teens responsibility for work ethic and planning their own futures after high school is a cornerstone of Navigation 101, an innovative program originated in the Franklin-Pierce School District. In the program, small groups of students work with a teacher who mentors the teens throughout their middle- and high-school years. Students work with a portfolio planner to set goals for their lives after high school. “We encourage students to go to the highest skill level possible,” says Dan Barrett, state Navigation 101 coordinator. “We don’t tell them what they should do. We allow them to decide what their goals are.” Karin Engstrom, career specialist at Garfield High School, agrees. “When a teen takes responsibility for their learning and they understand that responsibility, then they have a good work ethic.”

Elaine Bowers, a freelance writer, lives in Seattle with her husband and teenage twin daughters.