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Helping Kids Develop a Strong Work Ethic

As parents, we’re tasked with preparing our kids to be happy, healthy, contributing members of society.  There’s a great number of things we must instill in our kids to accomplish that goal.  In this article, we will focus on helping our kids develop a strong work ethic.

1.      We must lead by example.  By consistently maintaining our own strong work ethic, our kids will be exposed to the goal behavior from birth.

2.      We must speak with our kids about the importance of a strong work ethic.  For example, “I’m tired, but I have to finish this report before I go in to work tomorrow.  My boss is depending on me to get this done and done well, and I want to live up to the trust she’s placed in me.  So, I guess I’ll persevere.”    Or “If I don’t finish this report tonight, I’ll be in big trouble at work tomorrow.  I’d better persevere.”

3.      We must speak with our kids about the benefits of a strong work ethic, framing their work-ethic-choices in terms of achievement of their goals and identification of who they want to be.  For example, “Janie, I’m thrilled that you got an ‘A’ on your algebra class!  I know that subject didn’t come naturally to you and you really had to work hard for that grade!  I’m so very proud of you, and I know you feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction at accomplishing your goal!  You are a smart girl, a good student, and you are well on your way to graduating in the top 10% of your class, just like you wanted!”  Or, “Johnny, I know you don’t want to do your homework tonight, but what will happen tomorrow if you don’t submit any homework?  Will you let your teacher down?  More importantly, will you let yourself down, since you can’t become the doctor that you said you want to be if you can’t even pass grade school classes?  It takes a lot of work to accomplish your goals.  You have a great goal in your wanting to be a doctor when you’re grown.  Now, can you work toward that goal?”  Or, “Joanie, you promised Carly that you’d do her chores for her while she’s gone.  I know you’re tired, but you promised.  You wouldn’t want Carly to back out on a promise that she made to you, would you?  Why would it be ok for you to back out on a promise, but not ok for Carly to do the same thing?  I know you want to be a responsible person, someone who is honest and trustworthy.  You want to be that person, right?  If so, you have to make choices that support that.”

4.      We must praise our kids when they exhibit a strong work ethic and redirect them when they display a poor work ethic.  Examples of both can be seen in #3 above.

5.      We must give our kids opportunities to build their work ethic.  For example, we can give them age-appropriate household chores, praise them for chores well done, and redirect them for chores poorly done or not done.

6.      When we see our kids growing weary or frustrated from their tasks (i.e., homework, household chores, etc.), we must offer respite.  For example, “I know you’ve had a lot of homework this semester.  You do homework seven days a week!  This Saturday, let’s take a break and do something fun.  Then, you can get back to your homework on Sunday.  Ok?  What would you like to do?”

By following the steps above, we can help our kids develop a strong work ethic.

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