When you think of the most successful person that you know, one of the first things that usually comes to mind is their strong work ethic.

Unfortunately, when it comes to today’s teens, that is one of the last things that usually comes to mind.

“Teens are lazy.” “Teens are entitled.” “Teens don’t know how to work for things anymore.”

Sound familiar?

But as parents, we don’t want these stereotypes to be true of our teens.

We want our kids to be productive members of society. We want them be strong employees that contribute to the bottom line. We want them to develop healthy habits and motivation so they can accomplish great things. We want them to be happy.

So, what do we do?

We must give our children the tools they need to become successful individuals, but it can be hard to help teens develop a strong work ethic in this challenging world full of distractions, such as social media, videos, peers, and world chaos.

Trying to help teens develop a strong work ethic isn’t an easy thing to teach.

Here are a few ways that you can help encourage a strong work ethic in your teens, and set them up for a bright future.

Model a Strong Work Ethic

Leading by example may sound a little simplistic, but it truly is one of the best ways to encourage a strong work ethic in teens. Make sure that they understand that everything you have and everything that you provide for them is a product of the work that you do.

Talk with them about how you set goals and the steps needed to achieve them. Explain your process of prioritizing work and fun, and how sometimes you have to make tough choices.  As they see your behaviors, such as hard work, self-discipline, and dedication, they’ll be more likely to emulate those traits.

Make Personal Responsibility a Priority

As parents, our initial instinct is to protect our children from failure and disappointment, but this means our teens are not developing grit and resilience either. Teenagers often struggle with taking initiative, and procrastination can easily become second nature to an adolescent. Keeping them motivated to take personal responsibility for their chores, school work, and activities can be a struggle. Lay down the ground rules that these things are their own to manage and you will not make it your business to ensure these things are done.

There is a great quote that says, “When you make a choice, you also choose the consequence.” It’s important you allow your tweens and teens to experience the consequences of missed assignments, being sidelined for forgetting sports equipment, or not receiving their allowance for incomplete chores. We never want to see our kids fail, but there may be times that we cannot swoop in and save them, so the best gift we can give is teach them how to stand on their own two feet.

As their sense of personal responsibility to take care of things that matter to them grows, so will their work ethic.

Teach Them How to Balance Commitments

Many teens balk at the idea of dedicating themselves to a task for fear it will prevent them from having fun in their life. Help them to coordinate their schedules and teach them how to prioritize so that there is room for the things they must accomplish along with things that they enjoy.

Many college students struggle with time management during their freshman year as they never had to manage their schedules. Some find it challenging to meet deadlines, produce quality work, and take care of their personal needs. Many professors and employers often cite that this young generation of employees has a poor work ethic, is laden with excuses, and lacks self-motivation. While some of this is the result of the pandemic, as parents, we must shoulder some of the blame.

Parents can help their children develop a good work ethic by demonstrating work-life balance whenever possible. Share your experiences of great teamwork in your workplace or any situation when possible, and discuss what happens when coworkers let you down so your teens can understand that actions have consequences for all involved.

Try to show your teen that there is a time for work and a time for play. The always-on culture of the last decade has not been a good example to our teens and tweens, and many have watched the adults in their life burnout during these challenging times.

On the flip side, we have also seen many quit their jobs without even giving proper notice. Granted, sometimes it is because the employer did not value the employees, but encourage your teen to do what’s right within certain boundaries. This also includes talking to your teenagers about what makes a good workplace culture, including how they handle the schedule, vacations, employee morale, promotions, etc. Talk to them about what makes a good boss and leader so they can aspire to be one someday.

Work ethic also includes integrity, so we need to show our kids how to find balance and professionalism. Job satisfaction often comes when you find a position that allows you to grow in your job without sacrificing your personal life.

Teach Them Good Workplace Etiquette: It doesn’t matter what the job is, there are certain aspects of a strong work ethic that translate into any job whether it’s working as a ditch digger or in the top floor of a law firm. Here are some skills to work on with your teenagers that demonstrate a strong work ethic and make a good employee:

Practice punctuality: It’s great to be on time, particularly for shift work, but if you can’t make it happen, always make sure you call ahead and let your manager know. Chronic tardiness is often a reason why young people get fired.

Complete tasks before you leave: At my daughter’s first retail job, her manager taught her the value of ensuring the “floor” is ready to go for the next day’s shift even if they need to stay a few minutes extra. Finishing the job–and a willingness to go the extra mile–is an important part of your work ethic.

Be respectful to all team members: Employers like people who can get along and don’t add negativity to their workplace. Teach your kids to keep their personal and work life separate.

Have pride in their work: It doesn’t matter what the task, if an employee is doing sloppy work, it looks bad for the employer. Talk to your teen about having a high standard for their work, and that managers often notice it.

Be amenable to constructive feedback: sometimes teens are known to be overly sensitive. Talk to your teens about keeping a positive mindset and being receptive to others’ ways of doing things.

Honesty: You may think this goes without saying, but talk to your teens about the value of honesty in the workplace. Many retailers have to search bags before their employees leave because theft has gone up, and what may not seem like a big deal to your teen could be a firable offense.

Allow Them to Experience the Results of Hard Work

Be generous with praise and acknowledge effort in everything your teen does, whether it is in school, at a job, or in an extracurricular activity. When appropriate, offer rewards for a job well done or bonuses when they go above and beyond.

Developing strong work habits at the onset of your teen’s employment career can make the difference as they move into adulthood. Help them to recognize the feelings of achievement that go along with completing a tough project or reaching a goal that they have set for themselves. Though hard work isn’t always acknowledged in the “real world”, learning to appreciate the internal results of their accomplishments will be incredibly beneficial in the long run.

Weil College Advising

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