Helping kids develop a good work ethic

Tips for Teaching Kids a Good Work Ethic

Everywhere I turn, I hear complaints about the lack of a good work ethic in today’s employees.  In a study of 1000 employers across the country, Josh Davies, the CEO of the Center for Work Ethic Development  in Colorado asked the top six work traits that employers look for in an interview.  Here they are:

  • Attitude
  • Education
  • Specific skills
  • Job experience
  • Work ethic
  • Work history

Guess which one was the least important?  Education.

Which one was the most important?  Work ethic followed by attitude.

Those of us in education could benefit from taking this message to heart.  While we are focusing on teaching students facts that will translate into passing standardized tests, students are missing out on developing soft skills like work ethic and attitude that will truly make a difference in their ability to find work once they are out of school. No doubt the affects of the pandemic, social isolation and our increasing reliance on technology vs. human contact will exacerbate this problem.

How do you teach work ethic and attitude?  Here are a few tips:

Focus on effort not results:  Help kids realize that failure is often the pathway to success. Every time they fail, they have an opportunity to learn something new from the experience.  Rather than merely praising students who make the highest grade or score the most points on a team, instead bring attention to and encourage those students who work hard, delay gratification, and strive for excellence. Recognize that improving behavior also means making mistakes but learning from them.

Teach for the future, not just the present: Help kids understand the reason or the why behind facts and strategies that they are learning. Practicing how to be a good friend won’t just affect your friendships today but also it will ensure that you make friends in the future in a new school, a new neighborhood or a new environment.

Teach kids to problem solve:  Critical thinking skills are more important than ever.  Anyone can access goggle and look up the facts.  The future employee who can think creatively and put facts together to solve problems will be in highest demand.  Don’t be quick to solve problems for children.  Instead challenge them to try different strategies themselves so they learn the value of trial and error.  Teach them how to evaluate their experiences and determine future steps.

Encourage kids to be brave risk takers:  Our current fear based environment will no doubt take its toll on many students. Anxiety and depression are at an all time high. However, there have always been risks involved in our world. Help kid learn to assess the risks involved and then try new experiences where they not only develop their strengths but also challenge their weaknesses.  Understanding when and when not to take a risk will serve them well as adults.

Teach core values:  Every child should be able to identify the values that are important to their family as well as their community.  Model integrity, honesty and compassion for others.  Teach your students those values and help them become their best selves by embodying those values as well. Finally, don’t just teach them the words.  Instead, help them understand what the values look like in action.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Teamwork

Camping with his Boy Scout Troop is exciting and fun… until Max takes a serious fall while hiking.  When Wyatt and the rest of the Scouts use their emergency training to get Max safely out of the woods, they learn the value of teamwork and the power of community to achieve big goals.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Teamwork is another great example of helping kids improve their social skills. It teaches kids the power of working together and how much better we are when we work as a community.

~Melissa Toren Hrin, Professional School Counselor, Beverly Cleary School, Portland, OR

Wyatt Learns about Teamwork

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