Updated: Oct 11, 2020
A short time ago, my family was involved in doing laborious yard work: weed pulling, hedge trimming, and stone removal, just to name a few of the chores. My three kids were fully engaged, working, and not complaining about how hard the work was or how hot it was outside from the blistering Florida heat. It was a sight to behold. I was so captivated by the experience that I took a picture.
Things haven't always been this picturesque. My kids are no different from yours in wanting to play video games, watch video uploads, or even movies on a summer day. Many times, a struggle would ensue just to get them to contribute to what needed to be clean or organized in our home. Then one day, I made a life-changing discovery that ultimately made a 180-degree transformation with my kids and how they feel about working hard. It was not an overnight transformation, but moment by moment, I saw incremental changes that led to a healthy work ethic. This kid-friendly and parent-approved method will give you amazing results if you put it into action.
Before I share with you the secrets to getting your kids to be hard workers, let me take you back in time 3 or 4 generations in American society to prove a point.
Over the last hundred years, technology has increased leaps and bounds. We have gone from an agricultural society to an industrial nation, and now we are a technological community. While we still have farmers, a lot of their work is performed via computer automation. Even though we always take pride in "Made in American" products made with American hands, many items are now made with robotic assembly lines and only a touch of human interaction. Computers and the now emerging Artificial Intelligence sector are currently performing many of the jobs that we once paid executives extravagant sums of money to perform.
With each of these cultural developments, a new definition of "work ethic" had to be formed. Working hard on the farm doing a multitude of tasks in the heat, with dirt, sweat, and even blood was replaced with working on an assembly line on one or two specific functions. The assembly work may not have been as hard in physicality, but it was taxing due to the routine and mundane nature of the job. As a prime example, line workers that used to assemble cars have more recently been reduced or even eliminated altogether due to automated robotic assembly. America's workforce now utilizes technology to achieve a higher level of productivity and more profitability for the company they work for. As I am writing this article, COVID-19 is still in full swing, and much of the U.S. workforce is working remotely from home on a laptop, while still fully engaged in department meetings over the internet. In the last hundred years, things have changed drastically in terms of jobs and the skills required to work. Since the dawn of the internet, it has accelerated at a more rapid pace giving us levels of productivity never seen before.
My point in the history lesson is simple: our work ethic has changed because our work has evolved.
Manual labor is not as common as it used to be. When you take an individual that has worked in corporate America and stick them on a cattle ranch, they aren't going to be very helpful. Put them in an office setting, in a formal suit with a business plan, and they will be a total rock star. What's funny is that if you stick a cattleman in a corporate setting, chances are they will struggle to a similar degree. Why? The answer has to do with the different work ethic requirements.
Unfortunately, we have confused the term "Work Ethic" with another phrase: Hard Work. The word "Ethic" comes from the Greek word "Ethos," which means Custom or Character. When we say someone has a good work ethic, it is because they have demonstrated that they have learned the customs and methods required to perform a specific set of tasks. Think of it this way "When in Rome, Act as the Romans."
Successful farmers have been trained to work with a specific set of customs on a farm. Plumbers are trained on pipes and how to work to achieve fluid movement. Secretaries have learned a particular set of skills that will allow them to be productive in data entry, calendar organization, and relaying messages to and from their boss. Each job comes with an education involving a specific set of customs and skills, and these are what make up that particular Ethos for that role.
Generations X and Y pick on Millennials for their work ethic or what is perceived as a "lack thereof." However, before the year 2000. Generation X and Y were the subjects of ridicule by Baby Boomers as being selfish, indulgent, and lazy in comparison to the work they had to do. My dad was pre-Boomer and worked as a child to support his family during the Great Depression. The work was challenging and would be considered illegal today because of child labor laws. However, back then, it was all about the survival of the family, and everyone had to pull their weight. I remember many times that he would comment on how Baby Boomers and Generation X employees couldn't hold a candle to him. It is funny to observe how each generation feels they are harder workers than the ones that follow them.
"Work Ethic" should not be defined by the ability to work hard exclusively. Instead, it is the ability to correctly use the right customs to perform a task with the appropriate level of intensity for the job. In other words, you do your work with the "ethos" required to complete the task.
Before the industrial age, kids would be mentored by their parents in the family business. Family mentoring was such a common practice that many last names indicate the type of skill you had as a family: Smith, Baker, Glover, and Porter, to name a few. If a kid wanted to do something different than the family business, they would seek out apprenticeships in the field they wanted to establish as their career. Regardless, they both involved one-on-one learning from someone that helped them learn how to work correctly. Instead of that kind of training, kids now attend high school work programs and colleges to learn what they used to get for free from their family or local tradespeople. That paradigm shift has taken offspring away from seeing their mom and dad or mentor work hard in their vocation. Today, when the parents and kids get home at the end of the day, everyone wants to relax and chill. Mentoring on work customs fails to occur, and instead, the kids learn to mimic their parent's relaxation techniques.
Let us labor to enter into rest, unless any man falls after the same example of unbelief.
Unfortunately, many children have only learned to imitate their parents relaxing after a hard day working, instead of their parent's ability to work hard. I've heard kids coming home from Kindergarten say they just want to relax and chill. They had a hard day coloring and eating paste, and the stress from the day has them in need of quiet time. Like the expression says, "What the parents do in moderation, the children will do in excess." Our kids have learned how to relax without having worked hard
When all that our kids see is their parents in decompression and relax mode after work, they will never learn the practical skill needed to be the hard workers they should be.
How you can give your kids the right work ethic for home, school, and their future career
One of the best things that we, as parents, can do to help foster a good sense of work is simple: Modeling Good Work Ethics.
When my kids were little, I bought them toddler style lawnmowers that would blow bubbles out of the side as they pushed it across the yard. They would use these "bubble mowers" when I was out mowing the yard. They were modeling me, working hard. My kids have toolsets they can use to fix things. After I taught them how to use a hammer, screwdriver, and even a garden rake, I showed them tasks for which they could utilize those tools. As a result, I have been amazed at what they have been able to accomplish. Sadly, we don't get to mentor our kids as they did 100 years ago, so we now have to be deliberate and involve them proactively in as much as we can. Jesus modeled this in His relationship with His stepdad and, more importantly, God the Father.
Is this not the carpenter's son? Matthew 13:55
…I tell you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but only what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19
Second, we have to layout the work expectations and what the final product will entail along with how it benefits them or someone important to them. Talk with your kids about the project or task. Tell them what the plan is and how, with their help, success can be achieved. Show them the tools involved in the chore and then how to safely and properly utilize those tools. Remember, you have to model it for them a few times before they will get the hang of it. As the job is in full swing, set up checkpoints that will help demonstrate what they have accomplished. If they are mowing a yard, stop them halfway, give them some water and a quick snack, and thank them for the work they have completed so far. Then remind them of what the desired outcome is and how great it will be for the family.
This is the will of my Father who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:39
Next, reward your kids for working hard. We, as working parents, get a paycheck for our labor and possibly accolades from our company for a job well done. In the same spirit, we need to reward our kids for working hard. It does not have to be an allowance, but it should be something that makes them feel special. If they help clean the house, maybe you can get them a kid's meal from their favorite burger joint. If they do some work in the yard, take them out and buy them a toy or something special. While doing that, give them verbal compliments and hugs to let them know you appreciate how hard they worked. You don't always have to buy them things, but you should always use verbal praise to let them hear "job well done."
My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to the work they have done. Revelation 22:12
Lastly, manage your expectations and don't point out all the negatives. This one is hard for me because I tend to be a perfectionist. It is okay to point one or two issues with their work, but only after you have given 2 or 3 compliments. Jesus used this technique when he talked with each of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. Kids love affirmation, and they will go out of their way to please you when they know you are proud of them. There is a Biblical principle behind this that has been an enormous help to me over the years.
Dads, don't stir up anger in your children but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Training and instruction, not dictating and condescending remarks. Remember, the Fruit of Spirit when talking with your kids about work.
Raising kids to understand the importance of work is not only extremely important, but it is Godly. By giving your kids the right perspective and empowering them to work hard, it will not only provide them with the confidence they need to be productive employees and business owners, but it will also help them contribute to the growth of the Kingdom of God.
Train up a child in the way they should go: and when they are adults, they will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6