Hard work is a learned behavior, teach it to your children


Labor day became an official holiday in the Untied States in 1884. It honors the American labor movement which built this country with blood, sweat and tears, and made America great. With labor day just two days ago I want to remind everyone that the best gift anyone can pass on to the younger generation is the gift of hard work.

According to financial guru Dan Ramsey we should teach our children to work hard “because it gives them both dignity in a job well done today and the tools and character to win in the future as adults.”

Growing up in a family that has a business has its advantages. There is always work to be done. 

I started in the newspaper business at the bottom, as the janitor. Earning 75 cents an hour I emptied the trash, cleaned the bathrooms (including the toilets) and swept the floors. 

As a young boy I rode in the truck with my dad in the summer on Wednesday while he delivered the newspapers to the local stores. 

One summer in high school I held three jobs, janitor at the newspaper, lifeguard at the pool and lasting sandals at Brown Shoe Factory. That was my first experience at piece work. In piece work the laborer is paid by how many “pieces,” or in my case sandals, that are done correctly. That was an excellent lesson. Now with any manual job I do, I give it my best and work to get the job done fast.

When our society was mostly agrarian, children, starting at young age, rose before the sunrise to do chores before school. The invention of the internal combustion engine and other machines moved American society from the farms to the cities and made life easier for everyone.

The problem is that in some ways life has become too easy.

Some families still live on the farm and I believe their children have an advantage. There’s always work to do on a farm. Those children learn how to work hard.

Booker T. Washington said, “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” 

Our three children were taught the value of hard work. Jacob was a natural. Also, it’s easy with the first born, they want to please their parents. Jacob started out, the same way I did, as a janitor at the newspaper.

As he entered high school I lost my janitor when he started working at Walmart. He enjoyed work so much (along with its benefits, the paycheck) that some nights he would work at Walmart from 4 p.m. to midnight, come home and then do his homework. This allowed him to purchase his a car as a junior with his own money — the benefits of hard work.

It took more convincing with our second child, Ethan, but he has come around. Years ago, when both Jacob and Ethan were of middle school age, a friend of mine, Ray Oldfather had access to what turned out to be 15 pickup loads of wood. As we were cutting and loading the wood for delivery to our home Ray gave Ethan the nickname “governor,” because he tended to watch more than work.

Another way children can learn the value of hard work is through sports. This is one of the best reasons for organized sports. Winning takes hard work. In life there are winners and losers. Sports teaches that.

That is how our youngest learned the value of hard work. Although Abby was the last of our children to have the title of custodian at the newspaper she first learned to work hard in the gym. From middle school through high school she was in the gym four to six hours a night, five days a week 10 months out of the year. 

Her sport was competitive acrobatics. Abigail had two advantages over her competition, she hated to lose and could out work anyone. As a freshmen in high school she and her two partners received a gold medal at the national USA Acrobatic Gymnastic competition in San Jose, Calif. — the benefits of hard work.

Lou Holtz said, “Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they’re making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that’s the difference.”

The most important lesson in teaching children the value of hard work is to set the example yourself. Do as I say, not as I do won’t cut it. I assume that I am preaching to the choir, you are a hard worker. Just remember to pass this value to your children and grandchildren. One day they will thank you.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment