Whether we realize it or not, our children take their cues from us, their parents. If we are curious, our children will be interested in the world around them. If we have fun trying new things, so will they. I am witnessing how my approach to life has shaped the way my son, The Boy, makes friends, copes with unfamiliar situations, and handles challenges as they arise.
The Boy is starting high school this fall! He is looking forward to meeting new people, having new experiences, gaining more freedom, and even taking on more responsibilities. Much like his mother, he actively seeks answers to his questions and information to address his concerns. It has always been important to him to feel prepared.
While chauffeuring The Boy and his cohorts, I have heard him ask his high school friends about joining clubs, choosing seats at lunch, and navigating the hallways. I am very proud of him for preparing himself for high school. Even his teachers have weighed in on what is expected of him and his classmates.
Despite gathering advice about high school, I know he is focused on the social life and not on classes or homework or how to balance school and a job. It is so challenging to help a person who knows everything, as teenagers do! So, I have devised a plan to assist The Boy in developing the necessary tools to be more successful in high school and establish a strong work ethic in a world full of distractions, such as social media, videos, peers and the occasional chaos of life.
Leading by example is truly one of the best ways to encourage a strong work ethic in children. The Boy has always understood what I have to do to provide for him. Now I am making him more financially aware by letting him in on the cost of maintaining our household. He is learning how I set goals and the steps needed to achieve them and is more aware of how I prioritize work and fun. He is becoming a more prominent part of my decision-making and is gaining a better understanding of how to make tough choices.
Prioritize personal responsibility
As a parent, my first instinct is to protect The Boy from failure and disappointment, but if I do, he will not develop the skills needed to become resilient. I am now laying down ground rules and expectations. He is responsible for managing his chores, school work and extracurricular activities. If he does not meet the expectations or fails to fulfill responsibilities, he has to deal with the consequences. If his assignments are not submitted, or he leaves chores undone, he loses privileges. In holding The Boy accountable for his actions, I allow him to take the initiative and assume responsibility for maintaining his schedule.
I am modeling the importance of designating time to work, time to play and time to rest, something I learned after years of being overscheduled with multiple jobs, and social and family commitments. I have been sharing my struggles with meeting deadlines, maintaining quality relationships and taking care of personal needs. I hope that our candid conversations will inspire him to avoid my mistakes and not feel burnt out in the future.
Praise the effort
I generously praise and acknowledge The Boy’s efforts when he works hard to achieve his goals. If appropriate, I reward him. In this way, I encourage him to maintain a strong work ethic and establish habits that will benefit him beyond high school.
As parents, we want our children to be productive and responsible members of society. We hope our children develop strong and healthy work and personal habits and are motivated to accomplish their dreams. We have the opportunity to model those behaviors so they achieve their goals and live happy, constructive lives.