Working on Working – How Can I Teach My Kids Work Ethic?

Here's part of the pile of junk my boys and I had to sort through and put away last week during a major cleaning session that ended in tears an time outs.

Here’s part of the pile of junk my boys and I had to sort through and put away last week during a major cleaning session that ended in tears an time outs.

I can’t teach my kids to work. I don’t know how. There, I admitted it.

I hear all of the time that kids are lazy these days. I hear adults say that kids have no work ethic. I hear them the blame parents.

OK then, how do I teach them to work?

I’ve tried and I have failed.

If I have them help me with a project or chore they gripe and complain the entire time. They drag their feet and mope about.

They put things in the wrong place. They need me to tell them exactly what to do next. And it takes us THREE times as long to get stuff done.

Uggh. What do I do?

A few weeks ago I bribed my two oldest boys. I told them I’d pay them $5 if they helped me clean the garage. An hour into the project my oldest started having a meltdown.

“It’s just not worth it,” he kept crying. “It’s not worth $5.”

It wasn’t worth $5 to me either. It stressed me out. I was yelling at them the entire time as they sluggishly drug items back and forth while we sorted through and got rid of our garbage.

About halfway through I noticed a pile behind the garbage can of items they were supposed to be throwing away – a couple of broken sprinklers, a light tube, some broken wires, etc. They were saving them to use them to build a time machine.

Uggh. Counter productivity is our specialty.

Three fourths of the way through they were supposed to get rid of the bubble bottles that weren’t completely full. I turned around to find a soapy mess in the corner of the garage. Both of my youngest kids had suds all over their hands.

The best part? It was a cool day so my neighbors had their windows open. They could hear me rant and rage as I lost my temper. I was supposed to be teaching them how to work and I was failing big time.

The next day we had to tackle the mountain of junk that had piled up in the bottom of their closet and side of their bedroom. Because, as I mentioned before, they don’t ever truly put stuff away. They just toss it in a hidden spot.

We spent a couple hours sifting through their stuff. Well, I sifted, they mostly cried and whined about how long it was taking us.

By the time we finished one of them ended up in time out for the rest of his life – OK only for the night but to him it seemed like forever.

So here’s my dilemma.

Do I save us all a little heartache and clean everything myself? Do I wait until school starts and throw out half of their garbage while they aren’t even home? Then they can’t argue with what to save and what to toss, it will take me half as long and I won’t have to hear them complain.

It would be a heck of a lot easier.

But then they don’t ever have to work. Their mom takes care of everything.

I really don’t think that’s the answer. So how can I keep my cool while teaching them work ethic?

I want them to be self-sufficient. I want them to be hard workers. I want them to take care of their regular chores – make their beds, take out the trash, help change their sheets, put away their laundry, etc. – as well as help with major family chores like cleaning out the garage and planting the garden.

So I guess I’ll keep refereeing while they fight during family weeding sessions. I’ll take deep breaths while they gripe about the garbage cans being too heavy. I’ll try to ignore them when they argue about what set of sheets goes on their bed. And I’ll keep reminding them to do simple things like put their toothbrushes away when they are less than a foot from their holders.

Hopefully some of this stuff will stick. And one day, magically they will do it on their own.

And I’ll definitely make sure that next time we tackle organizing the garage, the neighbors’ windows are closed. Either that or I take a chill pill first.

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