How to build a strong work ethic in children

Teaching children the value of hard work is no easy task. But sometimes all it takes is a matter of creativity. Help children realize that work can also be enjoyable just like play.

The following are some suggestions:- Set the example. Children learn by observing those around them. Do your work to the finish.

Take the opportunity to work with them. Seeing adults work the same task gives children a feeling of importance.

Give encouragement. Don't stand as a critic.

Recognize accomplishment. Give praise when deserved. This gives children a good feeling. It motivates them to work more and always give their best.

Emphasize time frame. Having a deadline motivates the child to work continuously.

Work with a smile. Nothing beats a cheerful worker when giving the idea that work can also be enjoyable.

Developing work ethics is no overnight task. It is true in adults as well as in children. Be patient. - Jennifer M. Severino, Bacolo City, Philippines

What we did:

Worked with parents

We are a blended family - my husband and I, my three children and his four children. Money is often tight, and Christmas is always hard to budget for. This last fall I heard a radio announcement seeking people to deliver phone books for extra cash. I went to the orientation, and left an hour later with my car loaded down with phone books. I learned that for only a few hours of hard work, I could make good money.

I recruited my 11-year-old son to help speed up delivery. He loved the time with me and enjoyed the exercise. Soon, my 18-year-old daughter joined the fun. My husband couldn't resist, and the 19-year-old daughter didn't want to be left out of our family outings. Snow was starting to fall, and hot chocolate at a local drive-through was the perfect incentive that topped off the evening activities. On Saturdays, we had the other four daughters join in, as we made record time in phone book delivery circles. We delivered a total of around 3,000 phone books. We were able to enjoy a Christmas season debt-free. I think all of us found we enjoyed working together for a cause. We've thought about delivering the spring edition and using the money to take a fun vacation this summer. - Jan Ferrell, Aurora, Colo.

Made a commitment

As newlyweds, we made a commitment that we would focus on two goals - to teach our children how to develop a testimony and to teach them how to work. If these two could be accomplished, we felt that all other goals (mission, temple marriage, education, career) would follow in due course. Starting at an early age, we gave each of our seven children an assignment to work in the yard each week and referred to this as "Fun in the Sun. (FITS)." Each child was provided with a three-part bank for their tithing, spending money and savings. This was used for their modest allowance and more particularly for all money that they earned.

All seven children carried the same paper route over a span of 13 years. This taught the value of productive work and also encouraged the teaching of "early to rise." With this background, they were later able to go out into the community and find jobs. With such employment, they were able to save enough to pay half of their mission expenses and 25 percent of college expenses. - George and Yvonne Hilton, LaFayette, Calif.

Taught value of work

We are parents of five children. We found that helping them understand the value of money helped them understand the value of work. As they each reached 3 years old, we provided tasks around the house that they could do to earn money. We taught them the principle of tithing, and we taught them to save part of all they earned - 10 percent tithing and 40 percent in the bank, not to be touched, and the other 50 percent they could use as they wanted.

As our children got older, we taught them that as parents we would give them all the basic necessities. If, however, they wanted things or items of clothing that were more extravagant, they could work, accumulate their own money and buy it themselves, which taught them the value of hard work. As they attended middle school and high school, each found work outside the home that enabled them to achieve their desires, maintaining the 10-40-50 formula. They could not use their bank savings for their extravagant purchases. Bank savings were to finance missions and/or college. - Richard and Jean Toyn, Farmington, Pa.

Bought with time

A strong work ethic in children is bought with time. My father worked nights on the railroad for 35 years so he could be with his five sons on the farm during the day. He turned down promotions with the railroad that would have required selling the farm and moving his family or his working days. The expense that was incurred teaching boys about animal husbandry, and to operate equipment and raise crops was greater than the profits of a small farm. But my father never forget his objective of training sons to work and accept responsibility. He sacrificed time and additional earning potential to build a strong work ethic in his children. - Ron Galloway, Afton, Wyo.

Not punishment

Above all, we learned not to use work as a punishment or disciplinary tool. It took six long days of labor to create our magnificent world, and God Himself found his labor "good" and satisfying. - Carole O. Cole, Bountiful, Utah

Learned how to work

The best thing my father ever taught me was how to work. Every summer and many Saturdays were spent at his job sites building homes and cleaning up. I really enjoyed the work, and I learned how important it was to work for my own money. I never had an allowance. If I wanted something I had to work for it. I know my parents love me, and they felt it was important for me to learn how to work. - Cameron L. Sessions, Tirana, Albania

Learned gardening

While I was working at my employment, my mother scheduled yard maintenance work for my sons in our neighborhood. The boys kept the appointments and did excellent work for several neighbors, which helped them learn the value of hard work. My father also taught the boys the "how-to's" of gardening. This instilled a great love for all varieties of flowers and plants. Plus, the gardening process helped them to always enjoy finely manicured lawns and flower beds.

My sons are grown men now. They still enjoy gardening and do the work well. - Marie Stealey, Tigard, Ore.

How to checklist:

1 Make the commitment to teach children how to work.

2 Have your children work alongside you, when possible; set the example.

3 Don't use work as a punishment or disciplinary tool.

4 Give encouragement, recognize accomplishments, give praise when deserved.

Write to us:

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April 18 "How to help an overly dependent friend."

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May 2 "How to help a loved one addicted to prescription drugs."

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Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to supplement your regular income," "How to rear children in light and truth," "How to avoid greed," "How to be more resilient in day-to-day life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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