Developing a Work Ethic
Teaching our children to work is easily overlooked in our modern culture where we want an easy life and encourage our children to have a fun childhood.
How does one get a good “Work Ethic”?
We want our children to work hard, to appreciate the effort that is required to have a good work ethic and to understand that one’s reputation in the community can be affected by how you put your hand to the task.
We have been very conscious that we don’t want our children to be turned off work, or more significantly, turned off being with Dad, by making them endure long, hot, boring days out with Dad on the job. In the early days, relationship with Dad was our main focus and they didn’t go out with him unless he could spend time with them as well as get the job done.
Our thinking was - on the one hand it was important to gain experience at hard work, and yet on the other hand we didn’t want to put them in situations where they would develop negative memories.
We thought that training to work hard was a physical, life skill issue. Just recently, I have had to adjust my thinking. Joshua, 14yo, had the opportunity to be with his Dad in the cattle yards while we were camping as a family. He worked beside his Dad for 3 hours in the middle of the day. It was hot, dusty and hard work. He really enjoyed himself and made the comment that it would be a good thing to do when he was older – earn some money, learn some skills.
A week later, Pete took him out to another set of Cattle yards – they rose before first light and they didn’t get back home till well after dark.
Josh was so very tired. But his father commended him highly – he had worked a man’s job, all day, on his feet, once again in hot, dusty conditions, keeping his attitude right and cheerful. I realised our boy had a work ethic – he could put his shoulder to the task, he could last the distance and most importantly he kept his attitude right. How did this happen? Though Pete has the boys working around the house block when he can, and Josh had taken on various responsibilities such as spraying for weeds, a whole day was a big thing. When did he grab hold of this value?
It dawned on me that a work ethic isn’t as much a practical area of life as it is a Moral area of life. Though we hadn’t taught him how to work in Cattle yards, we hadn’t exposed him to big mobs of cattle and he certainly didn’t have any inbred Cattle sense, yet he had worked a man’s day. It was the value of responsibility, perseverance, enthusiasm that kept him going that day…. Character training… Work ethic is a Moral issue.
We cannot know the physical life skills that our children will require in their life but we can prepare their character, to help them take hold of any situation they face, and do the right thing.
Character does not become a part of a person’s life until it is tested. It is in the making wise choices where a character trait is cemented in a person’s life. Therefore to say that work is dependent on the traits of responsibility, perseverance and enthusiasm (to name a few) is only part of the training.
Yes, I was surprised to see my young teen step up and do a man’s work, and yes, there was definitely a moral component to enable him to do so but there is a practical and physical side of the equation.
Though the children have rarely been out “on the job” with their Dad, they have plenty of chores here at home. From when they were very little they were responsible for picking up their own toys. This happened several times through the day. As they grew older they took on sharing the morning household chores – the bathroom sink, the breakfast dishes, emptying the scraps, making beds and so forth.
There are many household chores that the children can do, and yet they need training, step by step. I try and have one such chore where somebody is being trained. If I have too many chores needing a training phase, or too many kids doing chores in the training phase it is all too hard. Once one child has learnt a chore, and learnt to do it well, it becomes their responsibility for a while to cement the skill. Meanwhile I take on another chore and another child. Eventually we rotate chores so that they are learning a full spectrum of household tasks.
It is as they work through these household chores they come in conflict with their inner heart issues (aka moral conflicts).
Will I choose the way of diligence? Or will I be slack?Will I choose the way of enthusiasm? Or will I be cranky?Will I choose the way of perseverance? Or will I give up because it is hard?
Each day, as our children pick up responsibilities they are being given the physical opportunity to make character wise choices. As they make these choices in the little tasks everyday they will be ready to make the choices in the big tasks.