How to Teach Your Kids to Have a Work Ethic

Three Methods:Teaching Through ChoresUsing Other Methods to Teach Work EthicAvoiding Common Mistakes

Raising children to have a strong work ethic will benefit them for the rest of their lives. If you do not teach your children, they may be in for a rude awakening once they become adults. The younger you start teaching these lessons the easier it will be for your child to develop their work ethic. Developing work ethic can be rewarding for both you and your child.

Method 1
Teaching Through Chores

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    Give chores to every family member. Assigning chores is one of the best ways to teach work ethic and responsible behavior. Chores should be age-appropriate and based on their interests and talents. If your child likes being outdoors, assign them to work in the garden or rake leaves. If your child is interested in cooking, let them help you prepare dinner and wash the dishes.
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    Start early. The earlier you start the better. It will be more difficult to get children on board if they are older. Most children can begin having chores around the age of two or three. Young children respond best to positive encouragement and are focused on doing the task well. Older children are able to grasp the concept of working hard and the satisfaction that comes from hard work.[1]
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    Choose age-appropriate chores. Age-appropriate chores will keep your children engaged and keep them from getting frustrated by tasks that are too challenging. Chores for children ages two to three include putting toys away, putting their clothes in a hamper, and wiping up spills. Children ages four to five can make their bed, empty small trashcans, bring in the mail, and help clear the table. Children ages six to seven can sort laundry, sweep floors, and help make their own lunch. Children eight to nine can load the dishwasher, put away groceries, help make dinner, vacuum, and make their own snacks.[2]
    • Children ten and up can load and unload the dishwasher, wash the car, change their bed sheets, fold laundry, and cook with your supervision.
    • Teenagers can have a summer job to contribute to their personal expenses.
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    Provide specific instructions. Your expectations should be clear so your child knows exactly what to do. Instead of telling your child to "clean their room," let them know all of the tasks that are involved. Should they make their bed? Put away their toys? Hang their clothes in the closet?[3]
    • Your instructions should also include expected deadlines as well. Should the bed be made before school? What days of the week are they expected to wash dishes?
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    Track chores with visual aids. Time management is another aspect of having good work ethic. Your child likely has homework, extracurricular activities, and leisure time. They must learn how to balance all of their priorities. Sit with them and create a calendar and/or daily schedule to keep them on track. If your child needs to make their bed every morning before school, teach them to set aside five or ten minutes every morning to complete the task.[4]
    • Use a large calendar, chore wheels, dry-erase board, or magnets to keep track of to-do lists and schedules.
    • Make the creation of the visual aid a family activity.
    • Have your kids mark off chores as they complete them. Younger children might enjoy putting stickers next to a chore once it has been completed.
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    Make children accountable for their chores. Your children should feel accomplished when they complete their chores and face consequences for not completing their chores. The consequences of not completing the chores should be specific to that chore.[5] If your child repeatedly forgets to take the trash out on Thursday nights, wake your child up extra early one Friday morning to take the trash out before school. This consequence is better choice than taking away TV time for not taking the trash out.
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    Work with your kids. This is especially helpful if your kids are younger and can't do chores on their own yet. Working alongside your children teaches them the value of hard work and prepares them to work independently.[6]For example, when laundry need to be done, sort the clothes with your children, then together fill the washing machine, together put them in the dryer. Then when its time to fold, fold the clothes side by side showing how to fold and doing it together.

Method 2
Using Other Methods to Teach Work Ethic

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    Use school as a training ground. Teach your child that there are consequences for completing or not completing their homework and putting forth effort. If your child does not put in adequate effort, let them suffer the consequences. For example, if your child turns in their homework late and gets a bad grade, have your child ask their teacher about completing extra credit to bring their grade up.[7]
    • If your child does poorly on a test because he or she did not study well enough, talk to your child about studying more. Help your child problem solve ways to do better. Should they spend extra time on that subject? Do they need to go to tutoring after school?
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    Let children see your work ethic. Your children may not hear everything you tell them, but they are always watching you. If you have the opportunity, take your child to work with you. Show your child the work you do around the house such as folding laundry, washing the dishes, or paying the bills.[8] Explain to them what you do at work and why you do chores.
    • Display a positive attitude about the work that you do. If you complain about your boss or having to wake to go to work, your child may mirror your bad attitude.
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    Teach positive affirmations. Your child should learn to work through difficult challenges. Teach your child to engage in positive self-talk. Phrases such as "I can do it," "I won't quit," and "I'll try again," can be used as encouragement when things get rough. Have your child say one of these each day.[9]
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    Provide an allowance. An allowance can be used as a reward for chores or to teach financial responsibility. You can give your children money and/or privileges for completing their chores. Privileges such having friends over or choosing a movie to watch can also be rewards.[10]
    • Explain the connection between completing chores and not having money to spend. If your child does not complete their chores, they will not have money to buy something candy from the store.
    • If you want your child to see chores as their contribution to the family, an allowance may not be a good option.
    • Providing an allowance is a personal choice. It is not necessary to teach your children work ethic.
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    Praise children for effort. Place more importance on effort than on intelligence.[11] Your child will not be successful at everything they try, but they can put forth effort every single time. For example, if your child brings home an "A" on her report card, tell her "I'm so proud of how much you studied", or "I'm pleased you put so much effort into that class".
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    Encourage improvement. Constantly challenging your child will result in growth. especially in areas where your child is skilled. For example, if your child excels in reading, say "You're doing such a great job on your reading, so I think you're up to an even better challenge", and present harder tasks. If your child has mastered a chore such as making the bed, allow your child to change the sheets on the bed as well.
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    Share stories about how hard work and persistence pays off. These can be fictional stories, stories from your life, or accounts of famous people.[12] Identify your child's interests (e.g. music, art, sports, etc.) and then find examples of people who worked hard to achieve their goals. Find books or movies that detail the work that these people put into their craft so your child understands that success does not happen overnight.
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    Teach children to solve problems themselves by teaching them trouble-shooting techniques, and encouraging them to take the lead. For example, if your child is dealing with a mean classmate, ask questions to prompt your child to think out an appropriate response. Praise your child for coming up with good solutions, and for handling problems independently.
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    Teach kids to complete a project. Staying organized and on task can help your kids get their work done more efficiently. Each task should be divided into three steps: getting organized, staying focused, and getting it done. Before your child begins a task, go through each of these steps with them. Continue to do this each time until your child is able to do this independently.[13]
    • If the task is completing a homework assignment, getting organized would include getting pens, paper, handouts, and any textbooks that are necessary to complete the work.
    • Staying focused can be difficult. If your child wants to go watch TV or play outside before homework is done, tell your child to ask "Is that what I should be doing right now?" If your child becomes restless, let them know that it is OK to stand up or stretch and then get back to the task.
    • Getting it done includes any final touches that are needed to make sure homework is complete. Final touches include proofreading by your kid and/or you, writing the name and date on the homework, putting the homework in a folder and in his or her backpack.
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    Help your child start a business. Your kid may want to start a business. Babysitting, volunteering, mowing lawns, baking, dog walking, and running a lemonade stand are all reasonable businesses for children to run. If your child is interested in doing something like this, help them make a business plan, get supplies and equipment, and market the business. Have a planning meeting where you will discuss responsibilities and what is needed to make the business a reality.[14]
    • Let your child know that he or she is responsible for the business and how much time you will commit to helping them.
    • You should not do all of the work for your child. For example, if your child is scheduled to babysit the same night of a friend's birthday party, let your child know that their business comes first. Do not offer to babysit so your child can go to the party.
    • The summertime is an ideal time to try out a business idea. Your child will be out of school and have more free time to devote to their business.

Method 3
Avoiding Common Mistakes

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    Do not compare children. Never fell a child that he or she does not work as hard as another child. This can cause problems between siblings. This can also be discouraging to the child who was criticized. Focus on each child individually and look for improvements in his or her effort.[15]
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    Do not be overly critical. It will take time for your child to get the hang of doing chores the right way and on time. If you see that your child is trying their best, encourage them to get better instead of punishing them. For example, if your child leaves food on some of the dishes they washed, tell them that you appreciate their effort and show them how to wash dishes again. Being overly critical can cause your child to resent chores and have a bad attitude towards them.[16]
    • Kids learn at their own rate and it will take time for them to master new chores.
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    Explain the reasons for doing chores. Your child may not be able to make the connection between work ethic and their chores on their own. Once you assign a chore, explain the reason why the chore needs to be done and how that chore contributes to the family.[17] For example, if your child is responsible for taking the trash out, explain that the trash goes out to keep the home clean and to keep the house from smelling bad.
    • Also explain the consequences of not doing assigned chores.

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Categories: Nurturing Talent