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Written by DML
A strong work ethic. Kids in America.  I should be able to combine those two sentences into one, but not today — not in these times.  The importance of teaching kids a strong work ethic is lost with many parents.  Thus, my short essay herein is about the importance of teaching kids a strong work ethic.  I am inspired to write this by a recent conversation I held on The Dennis Michael Lynch Podcast. The podcast ran on Wednesday, and I received a high number of emails from listeners who asked me to post something about the topic on Facebook.  Apparently, I am not the only person concerned that kids today lack a strong work ethic.

Joining me on The Dennis Michael Lynch Podcast was Alec Lace from New Jersey.  At 41, he is married with four kids and he works four jobs.  He drives Uber part time; he works full time as a mechanic on the railroad; he hosts two podcasts (one of them is available on The DML News App); and he writes books about fatherhood. Alec and I discussed an array of topics Wednesday, but most of them were centered around today’s youth and how a strong work ethic appears lost on them.  It’s a great discussion, and I suggest you take 30-minutes to listen to the podcast.

Alec is a hard worker, and he has a goal of being a millionaire by the time he retires.  Odds are very high that he will achieve such a status.  When he gets there he will have earned every penny.  And it will be his work ethic that gets him there.  But will kids today reach that same milestone when they grow older?  Alec and I fear it won’t happen — most will fall short.

In our discussion, Alec points out how parents have shifted away from the importance of teaching kids the value of hard work.

If you’re older than 40, odds are that when you were a kid your parents made you do chores.  Everything from taking out the trash, to walking the dog, to making your bed and mowing the lawn.  When you became a teenager, your parents probably told you to get a summer job.  Maybe you were told to work year round, during school season you worked on weekends or after dismissal.  The purpose of this was to keep you busy, and to keep you off the streets, and to instill the disciplines of hard work and the importance of earning a buck. But despite this century-old formula that’s proven to help kids grow into being successful adults, many parents today forget what their parents made them do as kids. Today, parents are overly concerned about sheltering their kids from what’s happening outside the home.  Moreover, parents are more focused on being their child’s “friend”.

These days, Alec and I see too many parents focusing on delivering what their children “want”, when  they should be focusing what their children “need”.   Therefore, kids aren’t told to work.  This is a big problem.  Kids won’t get up and do it themselves because they don’t want to work.  And I can’t say I blame them when the alternative is eating a bag of Doritos while playing XBOX.  But kids need to work in order to survive, compete, and get ahead in the United States.  We should all know this to be true.

Parents who do not teach their children to work are setting them up to fail long term.

Work can be mowing the lawn, working at McDonalds, painting, sweeping a warehouse, taking out the trash, shoveling snow, etc. With that in mind, there’s a huge snow storm expected to hit the east coast this weekend.  If you live in that region, how many kids will you see knocking on doors looking for work?  None probably.  How sad it that!

I grew up in New York. When I was a kid, if there was a snow storm my father would make me go out and knock on doors offering to shovel snow for $25 per driveway.  Today, some people would call that abusive. I find that sort of claim to be insane.

I didn’t want to shovel the snow when I was 13, I would have preferred to stay in the house and watch TV or go sleigh riding with my pals.  But having fun in the snow came after I did my work shoveling.  And make no mistake, when I came home with $200 after 5 hours of shoveling I was elated.  I couldn’t wait for the next snow fall.

Teaching a kid to work is not abusive. In fact, I would argue that teaching a kid to sit on his or her butt is far worse.  Work teaches a kid the meaning of money, but more importantly it provides them self-confidence. “Do a good job, and maybe you’ll get a tip,” my dad used to tell me.  And he was 100% correct.  Instead of earning $25, I would often get paid $30 or $50 from a neighbor who felt I shoveled beyond expectations.  This sort of bonus or “tip” provided me with a sense of dignity.  I did a job, it was well done, and I was proud.  The extra money was simply sugar on top. .

The work ethic I was taught as a kid is what powered me to be a successful entrepreneur. And so I thank my parents to heaven and back for teaching me the value of hard work.  Especially when I look at some of my friends who haven’t achieved all that much in their lives. Today, most of the underachievers I know were the kids who sat around.  They were never given chores, they were never forced to get a summer or weekend job.

Lace and I agree that kids should be taught the value of hard work from the time they enter kindergarten.  It starts with chores.  In the same way a parent teaches a child to brush their teeth and comb their hair, they should be taught to make their bed and pick up their toys from the floor.  Work ethic is a discipline, and it is a critical life skill.

Today, most kids wouldn’t know how to start a lawn mower let alone use it.  No kidding, today’s high school graduates appear to be proficient only in playing video games and using social media apps.  Even worse, they believe society owes them something for simply breathing.  They all want to be the next viral sensation on YouTube or TikTok, they have bought into the idea that they can earn millions of dollars by playing video games on a livestream.  This is the equivalent of believing you’ll one day win lotto and therefore there is no need to get a job.   I blame this entirely on the parents!

I can go on and on and on with listing the values and benefits of teaching children a strong work ethic, but instead of reading about it I encourage you to listen to the podcast.  Please share this article, especially if you know parents who are sheltering their kids from the harsh realities of life.  If you don’t work, you won’t win.  Nothing is for free, and opportunity doesn’t knock on an XBOX or phone app.  A great life is out there for our kids, the American dream is getting harder to reach but it still exists — look at Alec. Give your kids the chance to find it.  Give them the tools they need.  Tool number one is a strong work ethic.  And if you want to take it to the next level… go out and shovel the snow with them.  Bonding and teaching is magical for a kid, and it will be a memorable exercise for you.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Agree, Dennis. I started babysitting when I was 10, for $.50/hr. At 16 I got a job working the counter at a dry cleaning shop for $1.35/hr. Kids need to learn early to work and enjoy getting paid for their efforts, including doing a good job for tips.

  2. As an above middle class income parent of 5, we give the kids what they need. They only get gifts at Xmas and their birthdays. They are expected to help around the house and are not paid. Each kid has been excited to turn 14 because in our state they can get a job and they literally go out that day or week and turn in applications. I take them to open a bank account and we discuss what percent to save/spend. Many of their friends have parents who hand out $20’s like it’s water. My kids comment how these kids don’t value anything they have. There is no appreciation for hard work, everything comes free to them. My kids get compliments on how mature and responsible they are. Parents are harming not helping their kids by not teaching them the value of hard work.

  3. I raised a blended family with 6 kids. Well you can imagine with 6 kids you can’t buy them those $200 sneakers or $50 popular jeans, they got what we could afford. The first time my kids bitched about what I was able to buy for them they were told if they wanted that stuff “get a job and buy it yourself!” They did, the only thing that I would do for them was take and pick them up because we lived in the country and there were no busses BUT they were required to give me gas money (small amount). The other thing that happened to them was when I said “I’m doing laundry get your clothes to the laundry room” I would get TOLD that they needed something washed for school the next day 2 days after I did laundry, that kid was shown how to use the washer and dryer and from that day on they did their own laundry, one kid was 8 when she TOLD me she learned real quick I WAS IN CHARGE! We raised 3 grandkids and we had one that believed WE should give her a car that was only a couple years old, but her expensive clothes, give her money when she wanted it! NOT happening she got told the same thing her mother was and at 17 she was able to get a job. She told us all the stuff she was going to buy when she got her paycheck!! She went to the mall with friends, came home with 2 pair of leggings “Grandma EVERYTHING is so expensive!” 😂😂 from that on she had not only a work ethic but she was very conservative with her money by the time she was 18 she had saved almost $6000 between money gifted to her and part of her paycheck! She blew my mind the first time she told me she was broke, I was worried she had wiped out her savings and checking accounts so I checked she had just shy of $10 in her checking and she had NOT touched her savings! I was so proud of her because she made sure her bills were paid, including a small monthly payment to a family friend for the little truck she bought, gas money for 2 weeks, a small amount for pleasure and the rest in her savings! I didn’t know of any kid she was friends with that had a job they just held out their hands and money was handed over and at 16/17 they were given a car, one 16 year old girl was given a BRAND NEW BMW! She totaled it 4 months later and was given another brand new car! My granddaughter is now 23, graduated from college with a degree in civil engineering and had a job the summer before graduating! The friends she had in HS are either working jobs that are going to take them years to work their way up to anything and others that either got degrees they can’t get jobs with or dropped out of college because partying was more important than classes. What my kids and granddaughter accomplished compared to their friends is outstanding! Of 6 5 are successful, out of 3 grandkids 2 are holding good jobs, one a mechanic (no college) and #3 is disabled and will live with us for the rest of her life. In today’s world I don’t think I know more than 3 kids that even come close to the work and money ethics my kiddos have! It’s so sad to see!

  4. My kids learned to work at an early age. Those lessons have been paying them big rewards. My youngest who is 25 this year has 40 people working under her at a large home improvement store. Most are older then her. We get compliments on how she is the hardest working person in the store. One of her biggest issues is finding people, especially young people that want to work and are dependable.

  5. Most of these little punks today have never or will not do anything that involves physical labor. The only physical thing they do is exercise their fingers

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