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Teaching Your Kids a Good Work Ethic

Many children are not predisposed to working hard and carrying out their responsibilities with enthusiasm. In fact, most kids must be taught these things, often with great hardship and frustration for the parents. Kids want to play and enjoy their idle time—which is perfectly natural and even healthy to some degree—and typically do not take well to being forced to do things that are not fun and do not have immediate rewards. That is why in order to raise children who have a strong work ethic, parents must lay down the law.

Though teaching children a good work ethic comes with hardship—and you may sometimes feel like a mean parent—it benefits them in the long run. Kids who understand the value of work and are able to focus on getting jobs done are more likely to grow into successful adults. In fact, a strong work ethic is one of the keys to lifelong success, and the foundations must be laid in childhood.

If you are a parent struggling with these issues, here are some important tips to help your child start off right.

1. Homework is the foundation: Think of homework as a metaphor for all the boring, even unpleasant tasks your child is going to have to do through his or her life. There are a few keys to enforcing good homework habits—namely, to be organized and to be able to focus and ignore distractions until the work is done. These skills will carry into adulthood in many productive ways.

2. Chores teach value of repetitive work: Some of the most unpleasant tasks we must perform in life are those that are merely maintenance. What they accomplish is only temporary and does not have long-term benefits. This is the nature of most household chores, which when boiled down to their essence merely involve fending off dirt and clutter for a brief time. That is why they must be done again and again. There is some short-term reward in these jobs, however, as anyone who can see the beauty of a tidy room will tell you. Of course, kids do not always appreciate this, but they can learn it with strong parental guidance.

3. No small or automatic rewards: If you reward your child for every task performed, he or she will only be working for the short-term reward. Instill long-term thinking by holding rewards until much has truly been accomplished. When it comes to homework, defer rewards until report-card time. And while allowance is a reliable way to reward your child for chores, do not let it become automatic. Give allowance not just for perfunctory performance of your child’s allotted chores; give it for a job exceptionally well done. You might even vary the amount of allowance given based on your discretion.

4. Be a hard worker: Do not overlook the importance of setting a good example. If you want your child to understand the value of a good work ethic, you have to demonstrate the practices and benefits in your own life. Understand also that your child does not see you when you are at your workplace, so make an effort to always have home projects that give you a chance to show what hard work can accomplish.

5. Teach the value of work for the sake of work: We tend to work for the benefits and awards that it affords us, but do not forget that there are many benefits to work in itself. Good work gives one a sense of personal value and enhances self-esteem, and there is something very satisfying about a job well done. Plus, many types of work can qualify as decent exercise, which too many of today’s children are sorely lacking.

By Lisa Pecos

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