When I was younger, about age 9 or 10, my father took me to work with him on Saturdays when he worked extra hours on a project. He was a computer systems analyst consultant (fancy word for data programmer) and worked in an office in downtown Phoenix with rows of complex machines and computers. I would sit down with him at the desk next to him and would marvel as he worked. Occasionally, he would have me help him by handing him materials or retrieving things from the fax machine or copier. I really thought I was doing something back then, and at the end of the work shift, he always treated me to a good meal and gave me $5 for my hard work.
I grew up knowing how hard my father worked to provide for my family. Taking those work visits made me see firsthand that my father’s job wasn’t at all glamourous. As an only child, I was spoiled, but I also knew that hard work and determination took you places. My father’s talent took us from the mean streets of St. Louis’s north city neighborhood to a decent life in the suburb of Glendale in Phoenix, AZ. I learned early that if you wanted to make something happen, you had to have a mix of good work ethic, luck and chance, prayer, and talent.
As a parent of a six year old and sixteen year old, I have tried my best to pass this along to my children. As a single mother, my son saw me struggle to make ends meet. He understood at an early age that a day missed of work for me was a day of missed wages. My daughter’s life has been relatively easy, but we have had our own share of struggles during the last few months as my hours were cut at my employment. I oftentimes hear others speak of the lack of work ethic that our generation has, but there is a reason for that— good work ethic is learned behavior. Yes, some folk are just born with the “grind factor” embedded in them, while others had to cultivate this by seeing it firsthand. How can we blame the generation for poor work ethic when we are the ones raising them and teaching the behavior?
Instilling good work ethic in your children has to happen as they are children. Once they are well into their teens, it may be too late to start to try teaching them these values. Taking your children to work with you, or speaking about your work day, or even showing your children through your actions that you work hard may set them up also to work towards their goals and not be lazy.
The entitlement factor is alive in our youth (I know my son at times suffers from it and I only have myself to blame) and we have to set up boundaries. The money for items that they want comes from somewhere—usually our hard work and dedication to our craft.
Instilling good work ethic in children starts at the home. Lead by examples.
I asked this question to my Twitter stream: “how did you develop your work ethic? Was it a learned behavior?”
Here are a few of the responses I received:
@Tojosan-mostly from being raised that way. Also realizing what works and doesn’t.
@enlightnmegroup- mine was learned, watching my parents work hard to give me and siblings what we needed.
@livelovelibra- I’d say it was a learned behavior…learned it in high school thru marching band
@2muchtv- at 1st, my parents. As I realized how it sucks to work with someone without a work ethic, I didn’t wanna be that person
@msrasberryinc- my ‘work ethic’ is in direct correlation to my ‘need money ethic’ which was learned by needing to pay bills & buy things
@MultipleHeart-learned from my parents. Both have a great work ethic
@jax1125- my work ethic comes from my family of immigrants. I was taught to do what I have to do so I can do what I want to do.
@sowhatiff- I learned by listening to the lessons, observing the actions, seeing the results, and applying all of the above.
@misssld2u- my work ethic is based off of never having parents physically & emotionally there for me. I’ve ALWAYS had to take care of me.
Let’s continue the discussion! How do you instill good work ethic in your children? How did you learn?