How to teach your kids to embrace work

By Janis Meredith | Posted 5/13/2015

Teaching children to work is one of the many challenges of parenting. That’s the beauty of youth sports: It’s a perfect place to learn about hard work and its rewards. 

Here are 10 suggestions to help your kids learn the value of work.

Teaching kids to work starts at home

  • Give them chores with consequences. Be sure your child learns to be responsible for cleaning his own uniform or emptying out his equipment bag. If he doesn’t do it, it won’t get done.
  • Introduce work as a privilege, not as a punishment. Instead of threatening them that if they don’t get their work done, such and such will happen, say, “You’ve done a great job. Since you’re such a hard worker, I’m going to let you help me cook dinner.”
  • Give your kids clear instruction on what you expect. Posting a list or making a chart helps kids see the beginning and the end of their work, which is something we all like seeing.
  • Explain the difference between “required” and “hired” jobs. Required jobs are what each child should have as a member of the family, such as cleaning their rooms or picking up their toys. Hired jobs, on the other hand, are extra work around the house and yard that a child can do for pay.
  • Be flexible. Keep in mind your child’s plans and commitments as you assign tasks. Does it really matter if Saturday chores are done on Thursday, Friday or Saturday? This is especially true for kids playing Saturday sports.

Teaching children to work is about more than tasks

  • Teach them how to save money. Give them a special bank or box to save a small percentage of their chore income. When they get older, help them open their first savings account, maybe even contributing to the new fund.
  • Don’t give them everything they want. If you give your children money to buy everything they want, you’re robbing them of the opportunity to learn the true value of things. They have to want things – and then wait for them – for meaning to return. Let them earn money to help pay for their new uniform or equipment, duffle bag or even new shoes for the season. It’s amazing that things they buy with their own money are much more valuable to them than anything that they buy with yours.
  • Let them learn from failure. Kids seldom do their tasks to meet your standards. But that’s OK. It’s more important that they are putting forth the effort. Stop yourself from stepping in and doing it yourself. They will never learn to work if you keep doing that. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t teach them how to do excellent work. That will come as they get older. There is a time when you can teach them that if a job isn’t done right, they must do it again.
  • Model a good work ethic. Kids will follow your example in just about every area of life, and working hard is no exception.
  • Show them how to find and get a job. Finding a first job outside of the home can be a daunting task. Show your children how to read the classified ads and websites such as and Help them put together a resume, role play with them so they know what to say when they approach a business about a job. Make a list of places that they can visit to inquire about hiring.

Teaching kids to work will bear fruit

Although teaching kids to work is not the most fun part of parenting, it is definitely worth it when you see your children start to understand that they are lucky to have jobs and do their best to excel in their job situations.

That’s one of the reasons I was so glad that my kids were in youth sports. Not only did they have fun, they knew what it meant to work hard for a goal. 

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.