What’s the one thing that is common in all people who achieve greatness in the arts, business, pro sports, music, religion, philanthropy, leadership, acting or whichever life pursuit you can name under the sun and moon?
An insane work ethic, that’s what.
The willingness to put in the effort required to become an elite performer that does not only lead, but dominates a field is one of the few traits that all world class people have in common.
From the great Bill Gates, through to Lady Oprah, all the way up to the Dalai Lama and every world class person in between, you will be hard pressed to find one who does not have a sickening work ethic.
As a smart parent, I’m sure you want your children to not only be driven to become the best they can be. You also want them to have a solid work ethic that goes along with that drive.
The Billion Dollar Questions
But how does one develop a strong work ethic?
Is it a gift-able trait that the gods found fit to bless some people with while to some they decided to be very stingy with the said gift?
Or is it inherited like genes from a parent to a child?
Can it learned? If it can be learned, who is best qualified to teach it and when should the teaching that enables an adult to have a solid ethic begin?
The fact of the matter is that…
If a solid ethic was a gift from the gods, surely the majority of us mortal humans would be destined to live lives of lack and want, for without a solid ethic or industriousness, nothing worthwhile can be achieved.
And if it was inherited from one’s parents then the vast majority of kids whose parents are not blessed with an insane ethic -as seen by the crazy level of celebrated mediocrity/middle class-ness – would forever be destined to the same.
Fortunately for a smart parent’s children, work ethic is not a God given gift. Neither is it an trait inherited from one’s parents.
It is a trait that can be developed through training and the sooner this training starts, the better ingrained will it be in the child as he or she grows into an adult.
As an example, such mundane tasks as home chores begin to take a different meaning when a parent views them as opportunities to teach and instill a solid work ethic in their child.
Instilling industriousness in a child in such a way that the child carries it into adulthood It takes years. Fortunately for a smart parent’s kids, the kids really have no choice.
This is the fact of the matter.
If we want our children to grow up as responsible and hardworking human beings who understand the relationship between working hard and getting what they want, then we, as parents have a job to do.
We have to work hard at molding them to be that way.
As the saying goes, “If you aren’t willing to work for it, don’t complain about not having it!”
So when it comes time for your child to transition into adulthood and you suddenly realize that you’ve raised a lazy human who has no clue that great things only come to those who work for them, remember this…
It is your fault as the parent.
Not the child’s.
So how do we as parents prepare our kids to enter into the real world armed with a work ethic that rivals that of Will Smith, Bill Gates, Andy Frisella, or Beyonce?
#1 – Give them chores and expect a high standard for their execution
Kids should learn that in life one has to carry his or her own weight. There is no better way to get this started than with house chores.
Patience however is needed when teaching kids new house chores.
As a smart parent, you should not expect a child to master a chore right away but after explaining what needs to be done, you should make it clear that you expect a good job.
In an article from WebMD, University of Maryland psychology professor, Roger W. McIntire, author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times, says parents should not expect a child to do it right or perfect the first time.
Do not be stressed if the child doesn’t get it right away.
It is also important to let him or her know that it is okay to make mistakes. Do not undermine them when they make mistakes.
Applaud them so that they develop the willingness to make mistakes knowing that it is through mistakes that they actually learn and make progress.
Parenting books author Elizabeth Pantley says it is important to assign age-appropriate tasks to your child. At two to three years of age, you can teach him/her to put away toys, pile books, etc.
You know your child well so you are in a better position to know his/her strength and what he/she is capable of.
Parenting expert Jim Fay of website Love and Logic also said, giving kids chores is a way to make them feel significant or needed because they are able to contribute to the family.
Consistency in doing the chores is also important because if you do not let them do it regularly, you might as well forget it.
#2 – Provide a list of tasks which will make them earn
Like I said above, kids to understand early the importance of them carrying their own weight in the home.
But over and above the ability to teach their responsibility, houses chores and other home tasks provide an opportunity to teach kids the relationship between earning and rewards.
Place dollar amounts opposite certain tasks so your kids start to understand how money is made.
If you’re generous, you may even provide a bonus for a great work! Trust me, money is most often a great motivator. (Let’s talk more of this in another article)
#3 – Lead by example
Leading by example – yes we always say this when we criticize other parents (we’re good at this actually; many of us are “know it all” parents, admit it).
People would often say, “The child badly behaved because he/she sees his/her parents do the same,” etcetera, etcetera.
Nope! Not totally true (at least, for me). I have proof! You want to know why I say this is incorrect?
Last week I was talking to my second son and told him I got tired doing chores so I will spend the afternoon being lazy. He told his younger brother: “Mom is lazy! Help with housework.” My youngest son replied with disbelief, “Mom is lazy?! Really?!”
I wanted to kick both of them in the butt right there! I told myself, look at these two – they are totally aware of how hardworking I am but they are not doing the same thing despite seeing me work hard. See, leading by example gone to waste on these two characters.
But kidding aside, being a role model to your kids is very important. They look up to you so make sure your actions are worthy of emulation.
#4 – Ask them what they want to be in the future
Parents love to ask their kids – “What would you like to be when you grow up?” The child would reply, “I want to be a pilot (or a doctor, etc.) and the parents would grin from ear to ear and imagine their kids in that kind of job.
What kids say they want to be in future will most likely change a million times as they grow up. However, asking this question enables the child to start developing a vision of themselves in the future.
It is important to follow up this question with a creative one, such as:
“So to be a pilot, what kind of effort do you think you should put in your math homework?
These kinds of questions start the work of linking results to effort, something that is crucial in building a solid ethic in a child.
#5 – Compliment them on work done
This works well on most kids so you should practice doing it. Also, be specific about what you are complimenting and always make sure to compliment the effort and work done.
An example is praising him/her for putting his/her toys to their proper place even if you didn’t say so.
Say something like: “Vicky great WORK putting away Divine’s toys”
#6 – Work on character building
If success is measured by high test scores or college degrees, how would we explain the success of Mark Zuckerberg? No, we’re not saying children don’t need college education, in fact, they do.
However, in the book “How Children Succeed” authored by Paul Tough and based on researches from psychology, neuroscience, and economics, he explained that IQ is not everything, and that strength of character, curiosity, and optimism should be given more emphasis.
Tough gave child development a whole new perspective.
Experts also agree that a good character is key to a good work ethic. And that determination, motivation and self-confidence push an individual to do good work.
#7 – Motivate them
Sure, you’re tired from the daily grind but do not forget your duties at home. Give your child some precious time, and acknowledge his/her achievements whether small or big. Compliment him/her, it greatly helps.
Remember how you felt when your boss told you he appreciates your organization skills? Small thing maybe, but admit it or not, that lit you up, didn’t it? And it kept you on your toes, and made you feel you wanted to do more than that. You wanted to be recognized for things you do best.
Praising also means complimenting the child’s work even if it is less than what you are expecting.
A Columbia University study also indicates that praises should address the child’s effort. If a child excels in school, don’t ask about his/her grades, instead, say, “You’re doing really well!”
Instead of saying the child is smart, say, “Your improvements are due to your hard work,” and so on.
#8 – Make them responsible at a young age
You can’t expect a child to work hard if you are not doing the same. As I’ve said earlier, you have to “Lead by example.”
Start them young because children are capable of doing simple chores even at a young age. To make them do what you want, make the task fun.
Let’s say you want your boy to put all his plastic balls to their box – treat the box as a basketball ring and toss all the balls in there. He wouldn’t think of it as a chore but an enjoyable activity.
The next time you want him to keep his toys, he might actually voluntarily pick them up and toss them to their boxes.
#9 – Teach them to value time and practice punctuality
How much do you value punctuality? Don’t you just hate it when people are late for appointments or meetings?
My time is gold, and I want people to realize that so they don’t waste my time.
People who do not respect other people’s time means they do not value time and are probably just going through the flow of everyday life without really accomplishing anything. I say this because people with goals or who want to achieve something values time because every minute counts.
This reminds me of one of my college professors who always start class on time. One time, a student came in about 15 minutes late. The professor was quick to point out his tardiness and said, “The late Mr. Jones.” Everyone in the room was laughing.
To emphasize the importance of promptness, a blog article entitled, “A Man Is Punctual: The Importance of Being on Time” talks about George Washington’s punctuality.
Washington is said to take his dinner every four o’clock in the afternoon so people he invites for dinner who arrive late would often find him halfway through his meal or almost done.
#10 – Make them cultivate self-discipline
I place great value on self-discipline. It’s one of the reasons why I earned a degree. Why? Because it is so difficult to say no to friends when they invite you to go out for a free drink. It is very tempting, admit it. I’m sure you gave in at one time or another. I know because I also did.
However, self-discipline would get you through more invites when you know you cannot be out having fun because you need to do something important the next day and you cannot afford to miss it, like an exam.
Self-discipline at a young age means your child doing the right thing even when you’re not looking, like not eating another chocolate bar because he/she had eaten his/her allowed serving for the day.
Teaching a child self-discipline means imposing rules, and being consistent at it. Let your children know the rationale behind the rule through examples or words they could easily comprehend.
Let them know what you expect them to do and why. Let them know that not following the rules will have negative consequences, the same thing as following rules would have positive consequences.
#11 – Ensure a work-life balance
So you think only adults need a work-life balance? Why do you think the saying, “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy” came to be?
Kids also need to have a balanced life – they cannot be studying all the time. Allow them to be kids – let them play, explore, draw, etc. These activities help a child’s mental and physical development. It helps promote imagination, decision-making, and more.
#12 – Teach them perseverance
When a child works until a task is done, that in itself, is perseverance. Recognize that and let your child know that his/her simple act is a good example of perseverance, of not giving up.
Parenting Expert, Dr. Michele Borba, says one of the best ways to make a child grasp the concept of perseverance is to make him/her think of words that encourage one to keep going like “Don’t give up,” “Don’t quit,” “Keep going” and more.
Ask your child to write these words or create posters for them, and hang them in areas the child frequents. Make him/her recite at least one of those phrases everyday so he/she will remember them as he/she grows up.
And remember to show samples of perseverance from time to time, and make sure your child is aware of it. Ensure they overhear you when you set to do a task – “I will finish washing all dirty clothes today,” and make sure you finish them as you’ve said.
#13 – Instill a “Growth Mindset”
The saying, “Practice makes perfect” is very true when it comes to cultivating a growth mindset in young kids. Don’t listen if they complain that what they’re doing is becoming boring or becoming a routine. That’s exactly the idea – to keep them going until what they’re doing becomes second nature, better yet, a reflex action.
Find out what your child’s passion is, and who he/she looks up to in the field he/she wants to be in.
Use your child’s role model as an example. Find out how that person made it to the top, and tell your child about it. This way, he/she can better understand the concept and relate to the person he/she looks up to, and hopefully emulate that person.
How long did you think Vanessa Williams had to practice singing before reaching the pinnacle of success? It took her years.
Studies indicate that the best people in the performing industry and sports endured about 10,000 hours of practice to reach the top.
Success doesn’t come in a silver platter, it is not hereditary; you have to make your child work hard for it and things will eventually become easier. Start now! Stop procrastinating.
#14 – Teach them to value work
If you want your kids to pick up good values of hard work, let them pick it up from you. You deal with them everyday so what they see also becomes their habit, so why not make it a good habit?
A very simple example of this is your attitude towards household chores.
If you see chores as a burden and something you shouldn’t be doing, they will feel the same way towards it. So show them how doing a simple chore matters because it is necessary to one’s daily existence.
How would they survive everyday if they don’t deal with the necessities of life?
This reminds me of a meme about dishwashing. The meme illustrates the best and fastest way to deal with unwashed plates, glasses, etc. First you gather all of them from the table, put them in a disposable bag, and throw it in the trash. Easy, right?
#15 – Set standards of hard work
Don’t settle for okay. Go for great! Who wouldn’t want an exemplary child? It’s every parent’s dream.
Train them to strive early in life by putting them in difficult situations but doable. But please, make sure the task is age-appropriate. Don’t expect your 5-year-old kid to wash his/her clothes.
When the child accomplishes the task, do not refuse to compliment him/her. Boost his/her confidence by pinpointing what he/she did great or right. Let them know that doing things the wrong way only leads to failure so they should strive to do it right every time.
Telling them stories of successful people and how they reached the top is also a great way to motivate them.
#16 – Make them hate laziness
Have you ever thought that your kids are lazy because you easily give in to what they want?
Change that habit. Make your kids work for something they want. Make them understand that they need to work in order to get something.
If they want the latest shoes, let them contribute to raising the money like cleaning their room so you wouldn’t need to call a housecleaner to do it.
You also need to set a standard so that you tell them you expect them to clean their rooms every Saturday so you get to save and buy what they want.
Eventually, this habit would become a part of them without need of telling them to do it.
#17 – Teach them the value of winning and losing
Life is a competition, and if you’re not competitive, you get left behind and eat dust.
Children love to win, and would often cry if they don’t.
Indeed, it is but right for parents to raise winners, not whiners. Winning boosts a child’s confidence and would likely mold him/her to have an “I can do it” attitude. This eventually makes them excel and achieve bigger goals.
In reality though, you cannot win all the time, so you should be prepared to lose.
Take Steven Spielberg, for example. He didn’t get accepted at the film school of his choice but became one of the greatest filmmakers. Who would forget his hit movie Jurassic Park?
Losing teaches a child to move on by dealing with negative experiences. Learning to cope is important, otherwise, one can become very anxious when faced with the possibility of losing.
Losing teaches a child to learn from the mistake and make him/her think of ways to improve himself/herself and become better, if not the best.
#18 – Teach them to be workers and achievers
Get a whip ready and make your children work like slaves.
Kidding aside, if you don’t push your child to work hard, chances are, you are training him/her to settle for less and unable to face life’s challenges.
In this day and age of instant gratification, children who do not know the value of hard work become whiners, and blame the system or someone for their inefficiency.
#19 – Practice smart parenting
You’ve raised your kids well and all of them are now accomplished individuals. Does that make you an expert at parenting? Not necessarily because your strategies may not apply with other people’s kids.
Acknowledge the fact that there are other people who know more or know better than you. You cannot possibly know all parenting tips and tricks. However, it does pay to learn in order to become a smart parent.
Start by learning about child development. Kids come into this world with no manuals so you need to learn how to raise them.
A parent educator, Betsy Mann, says you would need to be around children and observe them so you will know what to expect.
US author Barbara Coloroso also said parents need to set reasonable boundaries for a child’s behavior. She also emphasized the importance of listening to what a child needs to say on certain issues.
Lastly, know your strengths in order to build your confidence. Learn to trust your parental instinct and kill self-doubt because it will make you believe what others say instead of imposing what you think is right for your child.
#20 – Encourage volunteerism
Volunteerism is now a trend. Schools and various companies have made volunteerism a part of their social responsibility. If you are a part of such causes, bring your children along the next time. Let them know that they need to care for other people, and not only think of themselves.
Volunteerism would allow them to face new challenges, and learn to deal with them. They would also grow confident knowing they are able to help other people.