1. Be a model for them by demonstrating your own work ethic
The best way for kids to learn and to persuade better behavior, is to lead by example. If the kids see you working hard and keeping busy, they will think that is what’s normal. Remember the old saying, “actions speak louder than words.” Even if you don’t work outside the home, you can still model good work habits. Don’t ask anything of your kids that you wouldn’t do yourself.Everything you do is teaching, even when you’re not intending to. It’s important that you do your best to always model your own work ethic and principled behavior. Do the right thing when no one’s looking. Kids, as they say, are “little pitchers with ears.” They absorb everything you say and do. If you think they’re not paying attention, think again.
2. Talk about what your children want to be when they grow up
Of course, this may change a lot, depending on what is interesting to the child at any given time. Some kids decide they are going to be a firefighter at age three, and they never waiver. Others will change their career aspirations weekly. It doesn’t matter. Just start the the conversation, even if it’s something you don’t think the child might be capable of. Encouragement is what matters; urge your children to work hard to reach their dreams. Consult a kid-friendly guide like this one to help start some brainstorming.
3. Give your children age-appropriate chores to do
The earlier you start this habit the better, because work habits are firmly rooted by the third grade. No one is saying a toddler should be mowing the lawn, but there are plenty of things even small children can do: feed a pet, put dishes in the dishwasher, help fold towels, or help with grocery shopping, for example. The task should be attainable for their age and consistently enforced.
4. Offer “extra credit” jobs for a special reward
You can, of course, decide whether your children get a regular allowance in exchange for their normal chores or not. But if there’s a task that needs to be done that’s outside the normal regimen, or if there’s a special reward the child wants, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer up extra credit. Create a chore chart to keep track of regular and special chores. There’s even an app for that.
5. Encourage your children to start their own “business”
We all remember kids who had a lemonade stand, walked dogs or mowed lawns for extra cash. These are still a good idea, assuming that safety is not a concern and the child is old enough to understand the cause and effect of work.
6. Involve your child in volunteer work
Working for the sake of others, for the betterment of the community, instead of compensation, is a valuable tool for establishing a work ethic and understanding the importance of others. Many volunteer programs offer family programs where kids over a certain age can participate. Nursing homes, animal shelters, schools and faith organizations often have separate family volunteer options. But outside of an organized charity, donating old toys or books, or a task like picking up trash along a creek, establish the same value.
7. Make work fun
Kids love to help, and feel like they’re part of what’s going on. So often, adults occupy a world that is of great mystery to children, especially young children. Any opportunity to participate in that world is usually a thrill for them. Turn on the music, make it into a dance, create stories and characters to explain what you’re doing, establish a race to see who finishes first. Get them their own kid-sized gear, let them make their own choices and make a game of it. Most of all, have fun!
8. Praise constantly and boost their confidence
Make it a goal to make praise a 10:1 ration with encouraging improvement, and be specific in your praise. Kids won’t grasp the task as easily as you do, especially the first few times. Patience is key, and the world won’t end if they don’t do it just the way you would want. Avoid pointing out too many things wrong, or the child may get discouraged and want to quit. Younger kids, especially, will thrive with meaningful praise and small rewards. Just as you like to be noticed and appreciated by your boss or customers, so do your children.
9. Build character traits
Work ethic is built on strong character. Demonstrate for your children self-motivation, integrity, determination, consistency, confidence, persistence and judgment. Direct them positively when you see them working toward these, and explain what can be attained with character and hard work.
10. Teach failure
This is probably unexpected, but sometimes all the encouragement and work ethic in the world doesn’t pan out. Maybe your child studied hard every day for the school spelling bee, but still came in third. Or practiced how to insert a drill bit, but just couldn’t get it right. That’s okay. No one who has succeeded at anything will tell you that there wasn’t a measure of failure somewhere along the way. Let your kids know that it’s okay not to be perfect.
Want to Learn More?
Even if you’re past childhood, there are still plenty of ways you can develop soft skills as an adult. Check out the rest of our blog for more helpful tips, and our solutions page to learn more about our ‘Bring Your ‘A’ Game’ curriculum.