While a solid work ethic is proven to be one of the key factors for success in life, the struggle with instilling it in children today is a common concern voiced by parents, teachers, and professionals alike.

First, the bad news:our kids’ work ethic is in a crisis,and we as parents have a lot to do with it.

We can tend to bubble-wrap our kids and keep them in their comfort zone. In their minds, we have created an illusion that life is a picnic filled with immediate gratification and endless fun. While we have the best intentions in mind to make them happy, unfortunately, this only makes them happy at the moment, but not so much in the long term. This approach also hinders the development of responsibility, independence, problem-solving, perseveration, and resilience. By doing so, we deprive them of developing the work ethic that is an essential building block for success. But now for the good news: with proper training, we can improve our children’s work ethic–starting now. How exactly do we stop the bubble-wrapping and get real with our kids, while also giving them the freedom to appreciate the joys of childhood? The point is not to force your child into the responsibilities of adulthood prematurely, but to adequately prepare them with the life skills that can develop as they grow. Consider your child’s work ethic a muscle, and your role as coach to train that muscle properly so that a strong work ethic can evolve. Here are five tips to consider as you do this:

  1. Make Work Fun. If we can tell or show kids how work contributes to the family’s well-being, children will be more positive about something like chores. Some parents make a to-do list of daily or weekly household jobs and post it on the refrigerator, offering kids tasks to choose from (putting tasks in a job jar and letting kids pull from the jar also works). Do what gels with your family, but don’t let the kids opt out. Adding incentives can sometimes make work actually fun. Contests—say, for the “Fastest Room-Cleaner”or “Best Vacuumer”—get kids more involved, as do rewards. Going out to a favorite park or restaurant, or inviting friends for sleepovers are just a few ways that parents can reward efforts. Work ethic is similar to a muscle; it can be strengthened with proper training or weakened with misuse.
  2. Teach Delayed Gratification. Try establishing a pattern: we work, and then we play. You might say to your child, “I know you want to play outside, but let’s pick up all these blocks and fold the clothes and then we can go together.” Or, “Let’s get the house cleaned up and then we’ll make some popcorn and watch a movie.”
  3. Talk About the “Why” of Work. As children get older, it’s important for parents to discuss the meaning and purpose of work. This is the time to make it clear that jobs are not done for drudgery’s sake but to create value, make products, or serve people. A young person needs to learn that there is a purpose to all of this—that doing a job well makes you a better person and enhances character and self-esteem. One way parents can start this discussion with their kids is by sharing their own work experiences—good and bad—and talking about the lessons they learned and how they were shaped by those experiences.
  4. Define Perseverance. Help your children tune into the language of persevering individuals so that they can learn to use the terms in their own lives. Ask, “What are the kinds of things you hear people who ‘don’t give up’ say?” Write a list of phrases, such as “I can do it,” “I’ll try again,” “Don’t give up,” “I won’t quit,” and “Hang in there!”You get the idea. The more those types of phrases are repeated, the more likely your children will be to adopt them for their ownself-talk.
  5. Talk the Talk….and Walk the Walk. Kids learn good work habits when their parents walk the walk. That means showing kids that work is important and that it’s part of a balanced life. You can lecture or get frustrated until you’re blue in the face, but if you serve as a role model, your kids are more likely to follow in your footsteps when it comes to hard work and not giving up.

So, the time is now to lead the way when it comes to allowing our children to flex their work ethic muscles. Following these tips is a start, and you may find in the process that your own work ethic has benefited from a boost. And amazing things can happen when everyone is doing their part –in your family, at school, and even at your workplace