Developing Work Ethic in Your Kids

  • by Bryan Wetzel - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:07


Maybe the title of this article should be “Developing Work Ethic in Your Kids Starts at Home.”  Some would say there has been a rise in the number of helicopter parents and spoiled children in the past decade.  I’m going on record that “I agree.”  It’s hard for our kids not to be more spoiled than previous generations.  They live in a time when they have more than any generation of youth before them, and yet it often seems they are not satisfied.  I’ll save any further discussion about helicopter parents for a later article. 

As I meet many parents and speak to many parents through my everyday life of having kids of my own, and their involvement in sports or dance, plus the occasional conversations with people I meet through our work in schools, I’m often dumbfounded by the attitudes about their kids working.  Many parents have rationalized that their children will not or should not have a job while in school. I’ve listened to their reasoning, in silence, with crinkled brow, and the reasons seem to fall into the following categories:

     1.  My kids shouldn’t have to work.  If they work, that would be a reflection on my ability as a parent to take care of them. 

     2.  I just want them to enjoy their years as a kid without any stress. 

     3.  I had to work when I was a teenager, but that was because my parents couldn’t afford to help me buy a car. 

     4.  (my favorite) I want my kids to get jobs but they just won’t. 

I’m not going to spend time on number 4, except to say that you may need to review who’s in charge at home.  I can address 1 thru 3 together because in each case the parent is missing the larger point. 

When I was a teenager in high school and college, my parents couldn’t help much financially, and I worked to make sure that I could do and have the things I needed outside of clothes and food, which my parents did provide.  Working for my own money gave me a work ethic.  It also made me realize the value of money, and it gave me responsibility.  At my home today, my teenagers work.  Not because we can’t afford to take care of them or their basic needs but because I want them to learn how to handle their money.  I also want them to learn how to balance school, work, and their recreational time.  Why should they have to take a college course on time management when they can demonstrate it at home.  We helped them with cars, and now they pay us a flat fee for their insurance each month.  We do this to prepare them for the real world, not because we are evil, uncaring parents, who want to take our kids money for ourselves. 

Work ethic starts at home, with chores and watching your parents work around the house and the lesson ends with them applying it to a part time job of their own.  It astounds me that there are parents who think it's a good idea for their kids to have their first job after they graduate from college and they are starting their career.  I will tell you as someone who’s run his own business for more than 25 years, the employees who have a work ethic and the employees who have none, stand out very quickly.  I’ve fired many employees because they lacked the initiative, attitude, drive, or respect that it takes to move on and be successful at a job.  Wouldn’t you rather them learn these attributes before they start a career?  Or experience the harsh reality of an employer letting them go before it's a career problem? 

When I was 19, a friend of my dad’s, who had his own construction business, hired me for the summer.  It wasn’t my first job, I had worked fast food before and I was a hard worker, but I also liked going out with friends late and would often struggle to get to work on time.  I was warned by the boss one day that if I was even 5 minutes late again that I would be terminated.  A week later I was fifteen minutes late, and I was told to go to the office.  When I arrived, I was handed my final paycheck before I could say a word in my defense.  The experience was embarrassing and a true life lesson.  I’m now early to almost every appointment, and I was on time for all my employers after that incident.  Imagine if that had been the job to start my career. 

Our teenagers began working part-time jobs when they turned 16.  That used to be the norm but now some parents will read that, and their mouth will drop open.  From my perspective its very simple.  My wife and I want to ease them into life’s responsibilities rather than tossing them into it the day they graduate college.  By easing them into it, you can help them understand what jobs and money mean.  So when your teenager wants to call out of work because something more exciting is going on, you can have the conversation about responsibility.  Plus, when they don’t have jobs as teenagers you miss the funny conversations about how “my job sucks, all I do is wait on or clean up after people.”  To which, you respond “you’ll be doing that for the rest of your life if you don’t get your grades up.”

Having your kids pay for things gives them an understanding of the value and how it applies to their money.  An understanding that will serve them well when they leave the nest.  Unless you plan on supporting them into their thirty’s.  After all, isn’t the goal of a good parent to get them ready to leave home and be successful?