Cultivating Work Ethic

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I had the pleasure of listening to a recent lecture by a researcher in child psychology. One of the most interesting findings involved an experiment of 7th grade students.  All students were asked to perform a set of some moderate difficulty math problems.  After completion of the problems, one-half of the students were complimented on how smart they were for being able to solve the problems.  The other half were complimented on how hard they worked to get to the solutions.  Though the problems that each group worked on were unchanged, those kids who were complimented by the effort they exerted as opposed to some innate intelligence were substantially more likely to choose to do a more complex set of math problems when given a choice of a new assignment.

This finding is fascinating to me.  It demonstrates that work ethic and the willingness to work hard and take on new challenges can be cultivated in children.

Wealth creation is the result of a collection of habits founded on fundamental premises.  Habits such as spending less than you earn, performing due diligence and managing risk can be brought about by education and practice.  But if the fundamental premises behind wealth creation are not observed or not believed, no amount of education and training can help your child down the road to success.  This means that one of the most important tasks for any caring parent must be to instill a strong work ethic and cultivate a belief that usually hard work dedicated to a good purpose over time is a great recipe for success. 

We have the benefit of living in a time in history where our society can afford a great deal.  Not long ago, young boys and girls of age 10 were busy planting and harvesting crops or performing the household laundry.  Families needing to eat had to hunt or fish or grow their own food.  Our lives of convenience are truly blessed, but with our increased time for ourselves, what do we do with this time.   Our children in many cases live lives of comfortable privilege free from the cares of daily life.  As a parent, I wish that my children never know pain or hardship, but we forget that pain is an important part of the learning process.  When my son hits his head on the edge of a table and he cries, he will know next time to be more careful and mind where the table’s edge is.  Similarly, nearly all families and individual at one time or another will suffer some financial hardship.  But hardship is not permanent condition.  I, myself, learned the hardest financial lessons in a time of hardship.  These lessons have only tempered my resolve to pursue success and the hardship itself has forced me to make decisions that have propelled me further down the road. 

Parents, to cultivate a strong work ethic in your children it is important to keep in mind several items

  • Money must be tied to effort – Reject the concept of an allowance.  Demand that your children perform some of the household tasks in exchange for any money you provide them.
  • Encouragement – Periodically, be sure to encourage your children to continue to work hard by recognizing the effort they put in.  Reinforce that success is a pattern of reward that follows achievement.
  • Share how the family works through hardship – Whether you realize it or not, your kids are watching and they know when things are tough for mom and dad.  So let them know, to the extent that they can understand, what is happening and how you are working to resolve the problem.  You may be working longer hours or doing extra jobs or giving up on luxuries that you used to enjoy.  Explain these things with a smile.  Let your children know that work is one of the best companions you have on the road to success, because work can help you solve nearly all financial problems.
  • Work is life – Most importantly, it is important that your children learn early on that it is only through our contributions that we make the world a better place.  Anything of value ever created throughout human history has been brought about by the efforts of individuals working in solitude or in concert with others. 

Children want to change the world; but the world has never changed by itself.  It changed because of the desire and effort of the former 7th grader who once chose the harder set of math problems.

 Cultivating Work Ethic
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