Teaching Kids the Value of Hard Work


I was close to my son’s age when I learned my first big lesson about hard work. We lived on a small farm with horses, goats and a big yard. A memory that will forever stick in my head happened one spring. My dad had just pruned all the fruit trees, and it was my siblings and my job to pick up the fallen branches. I’m sure there were only a few trees but it felt as if there were 100 trees with 5 times as many sticks to pick up. In an attempt to get out of the work, I pitched a fit about how unfair I felt the job was. As any good parent would do, I was disciplined for my rotten attitude, and sent to my room to think about it. I cried and felt sorry for myself and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up I was hoping that all the work was done, and I could get back to doing what I wanted. Instead I was surprised to find that my dad saved me an entire pile of sticks to pick up by myself while everyone else was free to do as they pleased. 

This experience built something very important in me; the foundation of hard work, and wasn’t the only such lesson that I learned in my childhood. Several others shaped me as well, like raking leaves and picking up walnuts in the fall, or cleaning out the goat pens and weeding flower beds in the summer. Each of these jobs taught me something. It wasn’t always fun, the work was hard and took fortitude, and some chores we got paid for while others we didn’t.

Not much different than real life.

In my twenties I would’ve said that it was unfair and I would never be so cruel to my future kids, but now that my husband and I are trying to raise a competent functioning adult, I see the importance for him to learn the same lessons. 

Teaching Kids the Value of Hard Work

I have witnessed with my own eyes and in my own child that kids are instinctively selfish and lazy, and don’t want their play time interrupted to help out around the house. Hard work is something that needs to be taught, and as parents we have to be intentional about teaching it. For example, our 6-year-old doesn’t have to work to survive, and if we don’t create jobs for him to do now, then one day we will have a teenager who has never worked a day in his life. As a child I never had an allowance or a chore chart (not that there is anything wrong with either of those), my parents just gave us everyday opportunities to be obedient, and that taught us to work. 

We aren’t experts on this, but here are a few ways we intentionally incorporate lessons of hard work into life:

  1. Ask him to do things that we could easily do ourselves.

    If there is a toy or a piece of his clothing laying on the floor, rather than bending over and picking it up, we will ask him to pick it up. This is difficult for me because sometimes it is quicker to just do it myself, but it plants little seeds of responsibility in him.

  2. If he wants to earn money for something we pick two (extra) things that continually need to be done.

    We use picking up a bucket of fir cones or dog poop in the yard, but you could easily choose something more applicable for your family. We have a set dollar amount for those jobs, and it teaches him lessons in saving money, and budgeting if he wants to spend it on something big or a small toy.

  3. When we are doing a family project or yard work, we ask him to pitch in.

    He doesn’t necessarily get paid, this is just part of family responsibilities. 

  4. Be okay with the job not getting done perfectly.

    For instance, he may not put his folded clothes away as neat as I would, but that’s really okay. 

Teaching our son early in life about responsibility is a balance between motivating him to work for money, asking him to help out “just because” or rewarding him when we see a good attitude. There is still some opposition, and we have to be consistent with him to instill hard work. My parents taught me the value of work, and we aspire to teach our son the same thing in hopes that one day we will have a hard working young man. 

Hard Work

What methods do you use to teach your kids the value of hard work?