How To Make Your Lazy (Or Motivated) Kids Work Hard
Work ethic: to me, it’s everything. I always say that teaching my kids to have a strong work ethic is my second priority, right after teaching them to be good people.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, a psychologist and family counselor, wrote an article for Psych Central about this very topic. She wrote that, “To teach a work ethic, parents need first to believe that doing the work required to maintain ourselves is a necessary, and even agreeable, way to spend part of every day.”
In other words, to raise hard-working kids who do their chores and are active participants in the family, we as parents have to be in the trenches right there with them, showing them how it’s done.
Dr. Hartwell-Walker explained in her article that kids resent it when parents sit on the couch after a long day at work, pointing out different chores their kids need to do. The lessons about work ethic are far more likely to stick if we, as parents, demonstrate those lessons ourselves on a daily basis. Essentially, we have to set an amazing example.
Work Ethic is Taught Generation to Generation
My husband and I both have a strong work ethic. We attribute this to having hard-working parents. Neither set of our parents excessively praised us growing up.
In fact, we’re surprised even today when our parents tell us “Good job” because it seems so out of place. Rather, hard work and excellence was simply expected. In many ways, they were encouraged by example.
My husband grew up on a family farm. He was moving hay and feeding chickens and cows at as young as five years old. He grew up working many different jobs. Eventually, he put himself through college, paying for everything himself – including living expenses. I’m confident that, while he is smart, it’s his work ethic that enabled him to eventually become the physician he is today.
Similarly, I watched my parents work constantly. They had the type of jobs that they couldn’t turn off at 5 p.m. There were many times I watched them work on weekends or leave to take care of work late at night. This is likely why, as an entrepreneur, I don’t mind putting in the extra hours to get to the end goal.
It’s also why I don’t mind mixing family and work so much during the day. I grew up in a family that didn’t have distinct delineations between work and family time. Some people strive for work-life separation. But it was actually the absence of it in my house growing up that I believe enables me to run a business and raise my kids at the same time today.
I write this background to share that my husband and I work hard in hopes that our children will emulate us.
After all, kids will copy what we do. My two-year-old daughter shakes her finger at my dog and tells her to, “Go away!” This is something that I regrettably realized she picked up from me. The point is, our kids are watching and copying us whether we like it or not. So it’s up to us to lead a life that is worth emulating.
The Connection Between Work Ethic and Personal Finance
Along with work ethic, I hope to teach my children the connection between work and money. Many parents teach their kids to work hard to get a good job. But they rarely teach their kids about basic personal finance principles.
The hope for most parents is that their children will work hard and create amazing careers, eventually enabling them to make a good income, become independent, and take care of their own families.
However, personal finance is the missing ingredient that will allow the fruits of our kids’ work ethics – i.e. their income – to really blossom and grow into long-term, meaningful wealth.
I’m new to parenting. I still can’t figure out why one of my kids will try any type of food while the other one only wants to eat bread and fruit. Still, what I have learned in my two short years as a parent is that my moods and my actions impact my young children.
I know that they are watching me. I know that it’s up to me to teach them about the world and how to succeed in it. Ultimately, my hope is that our kids learn to work hard through our example. I hope that they learn enough personal finance knowledge along the way to turn this work ethic into financial and personal success.