My parents wanted my siblings and I to leave home with three things: a love of God, integrity and a strong work ethic. By the time we were in our teens, we were all doing our own laundry, taking turns cooking meals, cleaning the house from top to bottom, and we all held part-time jobs after school.
I wasn’t very pleased about all the work that we were expected to do. There were many times I rather have gone out with my friends instead of working at my job or around the house. But looking back, I’m grateful for the character I developed through all the hard work.
The lessons in perseverance and diligence have been invaluable to me as a mom, wife and business owner today. I believe one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was instilling a strong work ethic from a young age. I want to do the same for my kids and I feel the sooner the better. Here are some ways to instill a strong work ethic in young children.
1. Give them age-appropriate chores.
Age-appropriate chores will keep your kids engaged and keep them from getting frustrated by tasks that are too challenging for them. Chores for kids ages two to three include putting their toys away, placing clothes in the hamper, and wiping up spills. Kids ages four to five can make their bed, help clear the table, empty small trash cans and bring in the mail. Kids ages six to seven can sort laundry, sweep floor and help make their own lunch. Kids eight to nine can help make dinner, vacuum, load the dishwasher and make their own snacks. Kids ten and up can fold laundry, change the bed sheets, fold laundry, load the dishwasher, and put away groceries.
2. Offer extra jobs that they can do for pay.
In our house, we don’t pay our kids for chores. However, we offer them extra jobs for pay to teach them the value of money. We make sure they get their regular chores done and let them choose extra jobs for pay.
3. Model hard work for your kids.
Leading by example is one of the most effective ways to teach our kids. If we expect our kids to make their beds everyday, we should make sure to do the same.
4. Praise them.
We can tend to point out things a child does wrong. Instead, focus mostly on praising what they do right. Encouragement and affirmation go a long way in motivating and inspiring your child to work hard and developing diligence.
5. Talk to them about what they want to be when they grow up.
This will probably change over a thousand times but it can provide discussion on different types of jobs. Also, share stories about how hard work and persistence pays off. Use books and movies that detail the work that people put into their craft. This helps them see good examples and create positive role models for themselves.
6. Help boost their confidence.
Acknowledge when they do what’s expected of them, especially when they go above and beyond. Be specific when you complement them. You can even reward them occasionally by giving them a special treat like taking them out for ice cream.
7. Make work fun.
Young children typically love to help out—especially when you make it fun. Play some music, sing along together, have a race to who can finish putting stuff away first. Sometimes I’ll give a reward, but most of the time the reward of finishing first is enough.
8. Work alongside your kids.
This is especially helpful when kids are younger and can’t do chores on their own yet. Working alongside them teaches them the value of hard work and helps prepare them to work independently. For example, when doing laundry, sort the laundry with your children. When the laundry is dry, fold the laundry side by side showing them how to fold.
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