Why Chores Are Important for Work Ethic
Even the word “chore” sounds like a downer – it rhymes with “bore”, people rarely say it with a smile, and even the definition in the dictionary defines “chore” in part as: a difficult or disagreeable task. So how can we as parents then teach our children to have strong work ethics when we present them with practice through the dreaded chores? The truth is: we can’t do it without chores. Use a different word, but the idea still remains. Tasks, jobs, assignments, and required or needed activities help children learn about work ethic, and work ethic is one of the most important characteristics we can help our children develop.
What is Work Ethic?
Work ethic is not limited to jobs that earn money. It is that something extra that encompasses several traits in order to get the job done:
- Frustration tolerance
The sum total of these attributes help to form your child’s work ethic (or define what your child needs to further develop in order to achieve a strong work ethic). As my kids are getting older I am definitely seeing the impacts of work ethics, among my own children and among their friends and peers. As I watch how some kids are eager and willing to help with and do anything, and others emphatically turn away from anything they don’t feel like doing, it strikes me how different children can have such different work ethics – and I wonder what I as a parent can do to make sure that I am instilling the strongest foundation for the characteristics that help define work ethic.
Why is Work Ethic Important?
I recently read about some very interesting and intriguing studies about work ethic and overindulgence in children. One intensive study conducted by Harvard University, which became known as the Harvard Study of Adult Development, found that the single largest predictor of the mental health of adults was the development of work ethic that begin in childhood.
- Those men who were labeled “competent and industrious” by age 14 years were twice as likely to develop warm relationships with family and friends.
- These men were also five times as likely to have jobs that paid well.
- In this same group, the men were 16 times less likely to experience significant unemployment as adults.
Another study about work ethic and children conducted by sociologist J.S. Clausen found that those in early adolescence who were determined as youth to have self-confidence, be dependable, and use intellect in problem solving are more likely to grow into adults who are
- Employed in satisfying careers
- Less likely to struggle with mid-life crises
- In better relationships and facing fewer divorces
There are some kids who are always right there – offering to help with groceries, household tasks, and whatever project might adults might be pursuing. And then there are other kids who clearly want to do the bare minimum – and see no real need to move beyond that, especially without prodding. My own children are honestly somewhere in the middle, but can definitely rise to the top and are learning to do so more and more as they get older. But I want to make sure they strive for more and don’t settle for less when it comes to work ethic.
How Does Overindulgence Impact Work Ethic?
I have these friends – and their children are the hardest working groups of kids I know. The kids don’t have video game consoles coming out of their ears (they actually don’t even have a single television in their home), and they have a hobby farm that requires diligence and real work every day. Even though the parents both have jobs that pay very well, the children are not indulged in any materialistic way. They work for it (whatever it is that they want), or they don’t get it.
According to research, it is no surprise that these children who are not indulged (much less overindulged), have extremely strong work ethics. Overindulgence isn’t just for the super wealthy, as it comes in ways that don’t have to involve money. We overindulge our children when we
- Allow them to not do the chores or tasks we have already asked them to do.
- Don’t hold them accountable for efforts that are only mediocre.
- Let them determine which, if any, contributions to the home they will make instead of leading the way with guidelines for what needs to happen in order for the home to run smoothly.
- Predictably give in to their pleas for more and better without requiring that they put in effort to see those things happen.
Overindulgence doesn’t teach work ethic – it is one of the enemies of it. It teaches children that they can have a lot without putting forth the effort. And even though it can be more comfortable as a parent to give to our kids than to expect them to work for what they want in life, we do them a disservice when we go about their world like this. Research shows that innate intelligence isn’t even as important in life successes and health as a person’s level of effort – his or her work ethic. When we overindulge we raise kids who
- Have less self-assertion skills and are more dependent
- Have less concern for the well-being of others
- Are less self-reliant
- Are at risk to be more likely to give in to peer pressure when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse
So – overindulgence is bad and work ethic is powerful – but how do we raise children who are self-reliant, self-disciplined, tolerant, and accountable? It is not easy, especially in this world of immediacy, privilege, and instant gratification. But there are ways. Come back for my next piece that talks about raising children with work ethic – with some research based ways to instill these strong values in our kids – and some practical ways to implement these ideas into your home.