Parenting Kids to have a Strong Work Ethic

You’ve heard the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” 

When I ordered a new washing machine and dryer in late March, I got some seriously sour lemons in customer service from a well known national home improvement store.  The harrowing experience lasted for 2 ½ weeks and included:

  • 23 hours in which I was confined to my home waiting for 8 separate delivery crews or appliance service technicians.
  • Over 10 hours (yes hours) of phone calls to the store to get customer service I’m paying for.
  • Over 3 hours of phone calls to the appliance company to trouble shoot machines that ended up not working because of human error.
  • A string of human errors and incompetence including delivery men not knowing how to switch door swing on the dryer, not turning on the gas line to the dryer, not balancing the washing machine properly which caused the pieces inside to literally shred (the machine had to be replaced), not turning on the cold water to the washing machine, and dragging trolley grease up the staircase carpeting.
  • Robotic customer service who said “I’m sorry” with the most un-empathetic, unconvincing communication and no gesture to prove improved efficiency or courtesy.

But alas, there is lemonade to be made. 

I don’t doubt that I’m the only one who has had an experience like this.  You probably have too!  Was it the cable, satellite, phone, or internet company?  Could a poor work ethic have caused workers not to maintain a Southwest airplane properly causing the recent mid-flight “hole” to appear?  Perhaps the more important question is what can we do about these incidences? 

To me the answer lies in Gandhi’s words.  He said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.   Not only can we function with a strong work ethic and empathetic attitude but we can teach these values to our children. 

Now we have reached the part where we can make lemonade. 

Parents are the CEO’s of their families.   Their leadership in the home is responsible for sculpting future citizens and employees.  Take a moment to dream about how productive and kind our world could be if every parent took this leadership with gravity.

Here are some ideas to ponder.  Take what works and toss what doesn’t.

1.   Starting at a young age, teach kids to focus.  Start with simple tasks like homework.  Eliminate distracters like cell phone text messaging, Facebook , music , or TV so kids can concentrate on completing one task comprehensively and with accuracy.  Kids wouldn’t allow themselves to get distracted when they need to score points in a video game.  If they can focus there, they can focus anywhere!  Focus is the basis of a “job well done” that eventually sprouts pride.  Effective multitasking can only grow from effective single-tasking!

2.  Be the “best.”  When I was a younger, my dad told me to be whatever I wanted, but to be the “best” at it.  Ask your children what it takes for them to be their “personal best.”  Incorporate their ideas to help them create a plan of action about any given task from homework to sports or even video games.  Kids love to have their ideas taken seriously and revel in creatively carving their own successes.

3.  Limits, consequences, and consistency are supposed to be a parenting mantra but they are not easy to enforce.  If the police gave you a traffic ticket for a rolling stop instead of a complete stop at a stop sign, chances are you would refrain from that recurring.  Parents, you are your child’s police officer.  You hold the power to enforce a strong work ethic instead of letting a weak one slide.

4.  Elvis said it best.  “Walk a mile in my shoes.”  Teaching our kids to have empathy can make a world of difference in how they treat others.  We don’t like being in situations like the one I described at the beginning of this post.  We can avoid putting others in that situation by knowing what it feels like and doing our “best” to prevent it from happening.  Sincerity and integrity matter.

Over to you.  What do you think?  Can we effectively follow Gandhi’s words by being the change we want to see in the world?  Can our strong work ethic and that of our kids make a community wide difference?  Please leave your comments as well as your suggestions on building work ethic in kids.