By Dana Patterson
I hate making my bed — or any bed for that matter. Not just putting on clean sheets (which I hate, too), but I hate pulling up the sheets, arranging the pillows and straightening the blanket. So, I just don’t do it, and I don’t make my kids do it either. I’ve been thinking about work ethic lately, and I’m wondering if I need to start. If we practice making the bed, well, maybe the aspiration to finish a job might spill over into other aspects of their lives.
My children currently don’t have designated chores — although we tried it a few times with weak follow through — but they do help with setting and clearing the table. Based on the blogs and articles I’ve read recently, I need to step up my game.
Although my husband and I are apparently following some of the recommendations from these blogger-mom-article-writers, if we don’t want our kids to live with us through adulthood, there are a few ways we can encourage a strong work ethic in them. Here are a few I find worthy of sharing:
1. Model the behavior you want to see. Children don’t often see their parents working at their day jobs. We talk about going to work and earning money to pay our bills, but they need to see us start and complete tasks at home (i.e. making the bed). We can involve them in housework, yard work and hobbies, but our kids need to see us in action as we take responsibility for our home, our belongings and those in our care.
2. Praise them for their effort, not the product. Be specific in your praise. “Good job” is vague and not helpful. “I like the way you hustled down the field,” “You really took your time and were careful when you organized your toys,” or “That was very responsible of you to set the table without being asked” are ways to encourage kids to do their best. I read somewhere that saying, “I really enjoyed watching you,” is better for a child to hear than, “Way to go” or “Nice job.”
I have started giving specific praises to my kids, and their smiles are worth more than every registration fee, uniform fee and gas to the games and practices. Knowing parents are proud of their effort will encourage kids to always do
3. Teach them to take responsibility for their actions. There are many opinions out there about allowances, but if our goal is to teach our kids to be responsible adults, then we need to keep in mind that most responsible adults go to work in order to receive a paycheck.
An allowance to some families is payment for chores. In other families, it is a set amount given to the child just because. Each home is different. Some tasks at our house, such as making the bed, have to be done without a reward — we all are working on
My husband and I let our kids earn money for doing specific jobs; just like we earn money from our jobs. Harder jobs earn more money. If we’re doing yard work, they’re paid a nickel for every weed they pull. If they do a good job, they get paid, and we have a great math lesson! If they don’t do a good job or don’t do the job at all, they don’t get paid.
Because our kids are only 4 and 6 years old, they can’t wait for gratification (or pay day) until the end of the week, so we try to give them payment on the spot. For example, my son, ahem, needed to learn how to clean the toilet, so he got one lesson on cleaning his potty and earned 50 cents for each additional well-cleaned toilet. Let’s just say his toilet hasn’t been so
4. Tell stories of working toward a goal and saving. Our kids love to hear stories about us when we were kids. We try to tell them (mostly true) stories about how we saved our money when we wanted to buy things. I told them about how I started babysitting when I was 12 years old and saved my money for things I wanted. My parents even opened a savings accounts for me.
I felt so grown up going to the bank and depositing money. It made me want to work harder and earn more, so I could go to the bank again. When I started college, I had a decent amount of MY money in MY bank account, which made me proud and even more
5. Let your kids fail. Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” I am the mom who watches my kids do dangerous things on the playground. It’s not because I want them to get hurt; I want them to try. Yes, they fall, but they had the courage to try and then came up with a different, better, safer way to do it.
Although failure is hard for most children, they must experience it to learn to keep going. If we allow everything to be super easy for them, then they won’t ever try to do more.
Our daughter was not very good at putting together her first Lego set, but she did it by herself. It didn’t look exactly like the picture, so she pulled it apart and tried again.
We are trying to teach our son to ride his bike without training wheels, but he has been very reluctant. When asked why, he said he was afraid of falling. I told him of course he will fall; no one learns on the first try. So, I taught him how to fall on the grass, and then how to get up. We did this over and over, and now he is now more confident and willing to try.
When I think about what I want for my kids, the usual ideas come to mind: to be happy, to have a relationship with Jesus, to be kind and to work hard. So far, I think my husband and I are on the right track with the first three; it’s the working hard part that has me concerned.
I believe it is something that comes from within, and as parents, we shape and nurture it. As a teacher, I have seen so many kids with the intrinsic motivation to work hard and persevere. But I have seen just as many kids who are lazy and unmotivated. As we navigate this parenting journey, I hope my husband and I can follow these tips to raise kids who not only make their beds but show a good effort doing it.
Check out iAllowance:
I tried iAllowance, which allows parents to manage chores, completion, money earned and track if the money goes to saving, spending or donating.
I think it will work for my kids as they get a little older.