How to Give Your Child a Good Work Ethic

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I don’t think there is a parent around who would not agree with the following statement:

It is important to instill in your child a good work ethic. 

Yet, when we see chore lists for children, they usually consist of small, easy tasks designed to make work as easy as possible. I am here to present to you that perhaps this isn’t the best way to instill a good work ethic in children.

As parents, we should not feel guilty about asking our children to roll up their sleeves and put in some hard work. While it is good to have kids make their bed and clean their room, they are capable of so much more.

I have heard parents say, “Kids deserve to be kids. They have the rest of their lives to work.” Well, chances are, if they don’t learn how to work when they are kids, they will still be living in your basement having fun when they are twenty-five. Avoiding work in childhood will create an entitled adult. Work is the only thing that entitles us to earthly rewards.

Let them do hard physical labor

Hard physical labor builds character. It builds self-discipline and perseverance. Once a child has learned to do hard work, they realize that other things are easy. Instead of avoiding these situations for our children, we should seek them out.

My eleven year old and thirteen year old take turns taking the trash to the road. Sounds simple right? My driveway is the Mount Everest of driveways. Our trash is always overflowing, and the handle is broken. If it is raining, the garbage can has been known to flip and dump out all the trash. Did they complain the first couple of times? Yes. But now they run it down the night before without so much as a grumble.

My back yard is an absolute beast to mow. I have tried and been unable to make it all the way down the slope without sliding. My husband can do it, but slides and falls. I asked my thirteen year old to push mow it, and he knocked it out in an hour. Not only can he push mow a slope that brought us to tears, he can do it faster and better.

My kids have chopped wood, pulled weeds from the landscaping (no easy task in Tennessee heat), washed and detailed our van, and even helped me set up our above ground pool.  Never miss an opportunity to prove to your child that he can do big things.

Let them be in charge of pet care

Did you beg for that puppy? No, your child did. So don’t say, “I’m going to be the one taking care of it.” If it is THEIR pet, it is their responsibility. A child of any age can feed, water, exercise, and clean up after a dog. Trust me, they can do it. You might need to remind them, but don’t do the work for them.

Give them challenging jobs

My two year old has to gather all the laundry. The hamper is taller than her, and with six family members, it gets pretty heavy. She gets better at it every time she has to do it, and is always so proud of herself when she finishes. My six year old has to pull a kitchen chair up to the french doors to get the glass clean all the way to the top, but he gets the job just as well as I would.

Show them how to do the job right

I know it is easier to just do it yourself, but please hear me out. Please don’t let your children be entertained by the TV or their tablets while you do the hard jobs. It is so very worth it to take the time to show your child how to do each specific chore well. You might have to walk through the steps the first few times you teach them a new job, but eventually, they will get the hang of it. It may be more work, but the payoff is worth it.

Expect their best

Don’t expect the same quality of work an adult would do, but encourage them to do their best. Praise them for a job well done. But what if they aren’t doing their best? Ever read this poem?

Never reward a job poorly done by not letting them do it again. I have found the fastest way to train my children to do their best is to have them repeat the job until it is done correctly. I do not expect perfection, but I do expect their best effort.

Work along side them

Set a good example for your children by working along side them. You might not be doing the same job, but be available if they need help or have questions about how to do a particular task. Show them that work can be fun. Crank up your favorite music and work together.

Take your show on the road

When you are at an event or someone else’s home, teach your kids to ask the hostess, “What can I do to help you?” Teach them to quickly and cheerfully help when asked. Better yet, teach them to see what needs done without being asked. There is a child in my co-op class who is great at this!

Tiffany always offers to help me clean up after class, which is a messy job since I have been known to bring cow hearts to class. She never complains, always has a smile on her face, and gives you the sense that she truly enjoys helping out. Her mama is definitely doing something right!

Work for those who can’t

While your child may get annoyed at having to mow his own lawn, he will feel great joy over doing the same chore for an elderly neighbor. If you see a need, offer to fill it. Then take your children with you to get the job done. I teach my children 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

When someone says to me, “You have your hands full!”, I make sure to tell them that my children are huge helpers. I want them to know that I don’t see them as a burden, but they can and do contribute so much to our family and others.

No complaints allowed

Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” Do not allow complaining while working. Teach your children “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men” Complaining is not helpful, and it drags down the attitude of everyone in the home. Remember, we are encouraging a strong work ethic, which means doing hard work, to the best of your ability, and  with a good attitude. Attitude is everything.

How do you teach your children to have a strong work ethic? Comment below with your ideas. I would love to hear from you!


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