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5 Ways to Raise Kids With a Good Work Ethic

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Do you and your spouse share the same parenting principles? What about lifestyle choices or backgrounds?

Different lifestyles and backgrounds are what make people unique.

Even so, once you blend those lifestyles into one family, how do you compromise? Where do you draw the line on work ethic and play? And what do you teach your kids?

My husband firmly believes that his hard-working childhood on a farm is what contributed to the work ethic that he has today. While I wholeheartedly agree that his upbringing played a large role in it, it brings me back to the age-old question: nature versus nurture.

Is a good work ethic attributed to learned behavior or are kids born with their work ethic?

According to an article in Psychology Today, the jury is still out on the nature versus nurture debate regarding work ethic, but it seems to be a mixture of both. Some kids are natural “go-getters” while others may need some inspiration to complete their chores.

The good news is that you can use the following tips to raise kids with a good work ethic and inspire your children. Try different combinations of them. Let me know what works for your kids.

5 Ways to Raise Kids With a Good Work Ethic

1. Lead by example

Raise kids with a good work ethic by lending a hand and working alongside them.

There’s a fine line between being a workaholic and being lazy in your kids’ eyes. There should be a time for play but also a time for work.

As parents, we need to be able to model that for our children. We need to show them that hard work pays off (like having time to play a game of catch in the backyard after the dinner dishes are cleared).

We also need to show them that we can’t always drop everything and play. As much as we’d love to play all day, yard work still needs to get done.

I’ve read that even spending as little as ten minutes of undivided attention can benefit kids. Reading books together or snuggling in bed before turning out the lights can provide this opportunity. If you’re doing yard work, involve your kids. By spending quality time with our kids or fostering a team atmosphere, we’re showing them that they’re important, even though things like dishes and yard work still need to be done.

2. Bribery never hurt anyone

Mornings in our house are not fun. I’ve tried everything, including taking the Make Over Your Mornings course to get my mornings on track.

Even after streamlining my mornings, I still struggled to get my son ready. Bottom line: my son is a lollygagger.

I tried laying out a week’s worth of clothes so that he could choose what he wants to wear in the morning. This eliminated so many arguments, but our mornings were still difficult and I found myself giving him frequent reminders to get him to focus.

Nothing seemed to work and my reminding was turning into nagging.

So what made him speed up?


Every morning, my son gets up at 6:40 and needs to leave to catch the bus at 7:20. Telling him that he could watch cartoons once he was completely ready inspired him to get ready faster. Some days he gets to watch 15 minutes while other days he only gets to watch two minutes.

Regardless, the nagging stopped and our mornings have been much smoother.

3. Track their progress

Get this adorable kids' chore chart set. Customize and print your worksheet to help your kids focus and stay accountable without nagging as they help around the house.

Chore charts and reward systems are amazing tools.

I get tired of reminding my son to make his bed every morning and to do his nightly chores. He loves collecting the garbage on Monday nights, but he forgets that Monday is garbage night.

Having a chore chart has minimized the amount of “reminders” I’ve had to give.

Get your printable chore chart here!

4. Lend a hand

Sometimes kids need some help.

For the most part, my kids are pretty good about picking up their toys at the end of the day, but it helps if they see me working alongside them. Younger kids especially need to “see how it’s done,” but even older kids like to feel like they’re working as part of a team.

It can be easier for parents, especially perfectionists like me, to just do it ourselves, but that doesn’t help our kids. Instead, teach your kids what needs to be done and then be willing to occasionally (it doesn’t have to be every time) roll up your sleeves and help.

5. Try something new

What interests your child?

My farmer-husband loved helping his dad on the farm. Planting pumpkins, building a stand, and selling them in the fall was a great way for him to learn about hard work and the value of money as a child.

As a child, I loved to write, so I started a newspaper. I bartered with a local grocery store (I placed an ad for the store in my paper in exchange for use of the copy machine at the store), and sold copies to my neighbors and family members.

Every child has different interests. The trick is to hone in on those interests and encourage your child to pursue his or her dreams (once the dishes are done, of course).

Regardless of whether your kids seem to have a natural work ethic or need a little “coaching,” these tips can help inspire your kids.

As you work to raise kids with a good work ethic, you also boost a feeling of community and togetherness as a family. In the end, that’s what matters most.

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Sunday 6th of March 2016

Hey Alison, These are some awesome tips that I think can really come in handy when used consistently. I would also add that it's important to start early. I've been encouraging my 11-month-old to help me pick up his toys at the end of the day. He doesn't really understand, but just loves when mommy smiles and praises's kind of a bribe haha. Thanks so much for sharing <3

Alison Lange

Sunday 6th of March 2016

I love it!

Tori Cole

Sunday 14th of February 2016

Great Post! We are working with our kids on this. I think it is something we never get to stop working on. Thanks for the ideas!

Alison Lange

Sunday 14th of February 2016

I agree, Tori. It's a work in progress!


Thursday 14th of January 2016

I definitely think that lending a hand is important--especially when the kids are little. My kids get overwhelmed if they are told to go clean their room. If I go with them, however, and model my thought process when I clean up (let's pick up all the books now, let's do the blocks next, etc.) it helps them see that the chore can be broken down into smaller tasks.

Alison Lange

Thursday 14th of January 2016

It's really hard to prevent little ones from being overwhelmed. We're still working on this with our five-year-old. In the mornings, I'll lay out his medication and then brush his teeth - I start and then he finishes. Every morning, I remind him to take his asthma medication and then get dressed. He's forgotten to take it and then had an asthma attack at school. We're really working on stressing routines in our house and following directions from start to finish, but it's hard to let them have independence. I love the idea of breaking things down into bite-sized pieces (for little kids as well as adults). Do you find this to be a problem with your middle school students? How many instructions do you give them at a time?