Teaching A Good Work Ethic

I want my kids to be good, hard workers.  I want them to know that difficult jobs can be done and done well with the right attitude, hard work, and determination.

I think the ability to work hard and the satisfaction one gets from knowing a job has been well done are valuable life skills that will take them far.  

I don't think those sort of skills just crop up overnight though.  They need to be modeled, nurtured, and worked at in order for kids to understand the value of a good work ethic.

Here are some of the ways we try to make sure our boys learn the value of hard work:

Model the behavior-- I can't expect my kids to work hard if they never see me working hard.  They know I am spending hours working on my blog, reading about blogging, and that (while fun!) I do consider it part of my work.  They see me cleaning, cooking, organizing, painting, fixing, and doing other jobs around the house.  We often work alongside each other on the weekends completing jobs (like yard work) together as a family.

Set up guidelines-- Each time I introduce a new job or school subject assignment to the kids I review with them the steps they need to take to get the job done. I explain what it will mean to do a good job and what will happen if don't put in the effort (usually they'll just have to redo it until it's right).  The first time I assigned a writing assignment I reminded them they needed to use proper capitalization and punctuation, neat handwriting, and gave them a general guideline for how long I thought the story should be.  We talked about the importance of a good beginning, middle, and end.  They told me their story ideas and then set to work.

Allow them to struggle-- My kids often take on jobs that are difficult.  I'm glad to see that they are not daunted by hard work and find those times that they are self- motivated to tackle a difficult job are the perfect times to allow them to struggle through.  They are usually willing to work harder when it's a job they wanted to tackle then when it's a job I assigned and allowing them to struggle through on their own shows them that even if tasks are difficult they can be completed.  We had paddle boat wash up on shore last year during a huge storm and after it had been sitting on our beach for most of the season without anyone coming to claim it my boys decided they wanted to try and empty all of the water, leaves, and sticks out of it.  They had to try quite a few different techniques to get all of the water out.  It took them lots of hard work, team work, and time but they managed to get it cleaned out and even tried taking it for a little ride around our area.

Review end results with them-- When they have completed their job I double check their work and see if there are areas where they need improvement.  If there are things that they have missed or made a mistake on we review them together.  The first time my kids cleaned the bathrooms I had to remind each and everyone of them that the base of the toiled needed to be cleaned too; so I brought them into the bathroom and showed them the spots they had missed.

Encourage them-- I don't mean cheer them on and over do it with praise, but children often need encouragement with difficult tasks.  I don't know about your kids but mine often seem to sell themselves short with they think they can do.  I hear "I can't do it" so often but I just remind them that they can. When they have completed a difficult task I congratulate them on a job well done.  My husband's aunt has a huge yard and the first year we started raking leaves for her all the kids wanted to quit after an hour.  They were allowed breaks for water and for playing now and then but they ended up working really hard for the whole weekend to complete the job with us.  By the second or third time we set out to rake her yard they knew what to expect, that they had done this job this before, and that they could in fact do it-- they no longer needed my encouragement.

Start small and gradually increase the work each time-- Depending on the job, we often have the kids start with smaller jobs and work their way up to working independently.  The first time Ian made waffles he mostly assisted me.  I had him pull the ingredients out of the cabinet and read the recipe aloud to me step by step as I modeled how to measure each ingredient, occasionally having him add an ingredient to the bowl.  The next time we made waffles I stood off to the side reading the recipe aloud to him as he worked making sure to watch what he was doing and try to catch any mistakes.  By the third time he made waffles I sat in the same room as him so he could ask me questions if he had any but I made sure NOT to watch him or do any part of the job for him.  He now can make waffles when I'm off in a completely different area of the house.

How do you encourage your kids to work hard?


  1. This is an excellent article. Work habits have such a profound effect on life. I think that this is an area that is really worth devoting conscientious effort. You've given valuable suggestions and a clear map to progress. Thank you for this great post. -Sarah from tenbooksamonth.com

    1. Wow! Thank you. I'm so glad you found this helpful.

  2. This is super helpful! Especially the reminder to let the struggle. I sometimes have the tendency to want to swoop in and just do it myself.

    1. I know! It is so hard to let them struggle a bit without jumping in to help out. But I have come to realize that helping isn't always so helpful. I find I particularly struggle when I know I could do the job so much faster myself.

  3. I completely agree!! My husband & I have said from the moment we knew that we were pregnant with my oldest that we wanted our children to have strong work ethics. Love your ideas & tips!

  4. This! Love that you pointed out that hard work starts with us. Isn't a lot of effective parenting about our own self-discipline? Great tips. -Elle C. Mayberry, Tuned In Parents

    1. It is very true that so much of parenting is about modeling the behavior we want; something I make sure to point out to my boys is always a work in progress for us all. No one is ever perfect.

  5. I fully agree with you..besides being a good role model, kids need to learn how to get and fight for what they need and want. Thanks for sharing all these great tips again..


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Favorite TV Shows Growing Up in the 80's and early 90's

10 on the 10th: 10 Things I May do in May

Some of My Favorite Shows and Movies I've Been Watching