Have you ever been struck with the mentality that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself? I know I have – and it’s usually when I’m with my kids. I love them, but house cleaners and garden-weeders they are not. Most of the time, I’d rather occupy them with a movie while I do the chores myself, lest I spend hours on cleaning the bathroom with my “helpers” at hand.
However, while doing all that stuff yourself might save time and yield a better result, it doesn’t exactly teach your kids the value of hard work.
Teaching the Value of Responsibility & Hard Work
Of course, sometimes – such as when your mother-in-law is coming to visit your home – you might want to do a more thorough job cleaning the house. But during day-to-day life, you have many opportunities to teach your kids the value of hard work so they grow up with a strong work ethic. It might require you to bite your tongue occasionally, but if you can overlook the unswept corners or the wrinkly folded towels, it will probably pay off for your children later in life.
Here are some of the best ways to get your kids to pitch in and actually learn something from it:
1. Treat School Like a Job
If your kids are in school and bring home homework, teach them to treat it like a job. The teacher is the boss and your children have the responsibility to keep up with schoolwork and do their best. No, they won’t be fired if they miss an assignment, but they will have to endure the consequences. After all, school is probably one of the first experiences your child will have with developing a work ethic. By creating clear rules and consequences around schoolwork completion and effort, you help start your child on the right path to understanding the value – and reward – of hard work.
2. Put Work on the Schedule
Work becomes less of a chore and more of a daily occurrence when it’s part of your regular routine. Rather than making a special Saturday where you have to goad your kids into pitching in, simply make helping out part of their regular schedule. For instance, if your kids know that they have to make their beds and tidy their rooms every day before coming to breakfast, it becomes much less of a fight to get them to do it. Instead of being a casual happening, work becomes an expectation, rather than a chore.
3. Work Together
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve sent my kids to clean their room, only to find them both playing with their toys when I come in to check on their progress. Then, all of a sudden, I decide to help and they suddenly seem interested in organizing stuffed animals. The lesson is that kids understand the value of teamwork, even as they’re just starting to grasp the value of hard work. Without an adult to help keep them on track and make work more fun, they’re liable to fizzle and find something else to do. Be ready to pitch in and help alongside to teach that work doesn’t have to be boring or isolated.
4. Don’t Use Bribes
Sometimes, when I become so exasperated by my kids’ snail-paced movements when asked to do chores, I finally blurt out something along the lines of, “If you get it done in 30 minutes, I’ll take you to get ice cream.” While this might work for the moment, it has backfired on me more than once. Rather than learning the value of hard work, kids simply shoot for the end result – essentially, they become less motivated by their work ethic, and more motivated by the promise of ice cream.
Instead of bribing with food and other rewards, talk about why you’re doing the work: “We need to fold the laundry so we have clean clothes to wear.” This helps kids understand the real-life reasons for work and use that as inspiration.
5. Allow Consequences
It’s hard to watch your kids suffer the unpleasant consequences of a lack of work ethic – so much so that you might be tempted to step in and take the blame. But robbing your kids of those negative consequences teaches them that a lack of work ethic doesn’t affect much.
If your child whines that he or she can’t find a specific article of clothing, explain that if his or her room was more organized, it wouldn’t be so difficult to locate. Don’t just step in and scour the room yourself. If a teacher tells you that your child is falling behind in class, talk to your child about extra work to make up the difference, rather than making excuses. A couple of times facing negative consequences and your kids will quickly learn what happens when they don’t do their work.
6. Model the Behavior
Finally, if you really want your kids to develop a solid work ethic, model the behavior yourself. Show that you appreciate hard work through offering praise when your kids pitch in, and show that you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty around the house. After all, it’s pretty hard to ask your kids to help out when you’re ordering from the comfort of your couch. Instead, check your attitude and take a more positive outlook on work – you’ll probably find that your kids follow suit.
Some kids are naturally more hardworking than others, but that doesn’t mean a strong work ethic can’t be taught. By valuing teamwork, cooperation, and finishing tasks at home, your kids will eventually grow to be hardworking teens. Hey, one day, they might actually move out.
How do you teach your kids about hard work?