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The Real Secret to Developing a Work Ethic in Kids

Hidden Nuggets Series #41 – “Therefore, I urge you to imitate me.” I Corinthians 4:16

developing a positive work ethic

Like father, like son

The messages this week at Luke1428 have all centered around the benefits, both financial and emotional, that children can receive from doing work. My wife and I have been teaching our children that labor leads to profit and that if they don’t work they won’t get paid. Those are big messages and the sooner they learn them the better.

Have you ever wondered how a solid work ethic gets ingrained in a child? Is it something they are born with? Does it come through the hearing of verbal instructions given by adults? Or maybe it results as a reaction to punishment received for laziness or disobedience.

Those ideas have merit. However, I don’t believe any of them in and of themselves will ultimately produce a child with a strong work ethic. What will ultimately do it? The answer is simpler than you think:

You Are the Work Ethic

You, the parent, are going to be their model.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul urged the believers at the church in Corinth to imitate him. He had started a church in that town and the new believers didn’t know how to act in ways that were spiritually appropriate. Paul told them to imitate him. In essence, let me be your spiritual father. Do what I do and you’ll learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Modeling is not simply a spiritual issue. It plays out in all facets of life. We learn by watching how people act, how they deal with issues and how they communicate with others. We judge their actions to be healthy (or not) and then adjust our behaviors accordingly.

Modeling of positive behavior is the #1 tool parents can use to affect change in their children. They will do what you do more than they will do what you say.

So if you want your kids to put down the technology, then read some books and get outside more often.

If you want your kids to speak about and treat people with kindness, then don’t cut others down.

If you want your kids to be wise with money, then don’t spend frivolously.

If you want your kids to stay away from alcohol, then keep it out of the house.

And if you want your kids to be hard workers, then get off the couch and quit griping about your job.

Verbal instruction is important. They need to hear us say, “Keep working hard.” But we all know a picture is worth 1,000 words. They’ll learn more by watching you.

Questions: Do you think speaking or showing is more important? What actions of yours have the kids picked up? How does it make you feel when the kids do something inappropriate and you know they heard or saw it from you? What else are you doing to develop a positive work ethic in your kids?

Image by @wewon31 #365 at Flickr

Next Post: Why I’m Quitting My Job to be a Stay at Home Dad

Prior Post: How Much We Pay Our Kids For Chores

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  1. Creativeme says

    It’s a start, but it’s not the only answer. How many of us knew the child of straight-laced tea-totallers that were involved in alcohol related injuries? Or children of excellent chefs that can’t cook? Honest folks with children ending up breaking the law?
    Lead by example – certainly! But also take the time to teach HOW you are achieving your goals, WHY these steps are important for a full and good life, and what the dangers and consequences of doing things wrong can be.
    My dad could build anything, but his time was shrouded in mystery for us kids. It just happened and it was done right in our eyes. To hold a hammer filled me with nothing but confusion and the fear that I must be doing it wrong. We didn’t see the learning part, the practice, the process.
    Same with money. Just using it right in front of your kids isn’t the whole lesson.

  2. It’s very true, your kids end up to be exactly like you or sometimes the exact opposite because they see something in you they don’t like. My Mum would drink to excess and it really bothered me. Consequently, although I drink, I’ll stop after a few. I hate being out of control or seeing family members that way. Interesting that I also wrote a lot about setting examples for family members in the last week! 😉

    • You raise a good point about children rejecting things in their parents they don’t like. My guess is that in many of those circumstances that value wasn’t communicated or taught well or was so abhorrent it turned the kid off.

  3. Kids are very impressionable, and I remember following my parents’ behavior a lot. I agree that showing > talking, though I did pick up on a few bad words from them early on! It’s confusing when people say one thing and act a different way, so it’s best to be consistent through both your actions and speech.

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