Know the fastest way to get a child to whine? Make them get up and do a boring chore while they are doing something they love to do! Let’s face it, work can be boring. If it’s physical work, you can become sore and tired. Mental work can cause mental exhaustion and even headaches. The problem is, God calls us to work and work hard. Not to receive forgiveness for our sins, but because we want to do what God calls us to do.
Employers, teachers and other leaders will tell you the children, teens and young adults they work with are beginning to show severe deficits in their work ethic. Interestingly, if you do a little research on what skill sets are considered part of a strong work ethic, many of them are also Christian values. Could that be one of the reasons God calls us to have a strong work ethic? Can the way we work in our jobs point others to God? I think besides work keeping us occupied in productive rather than destructive behaviors, the way we work can indeed not only glorify God but also point others to him.
So what are some of the components of a strong work ethic? What are the characteristics we need to help our children develop? I am sure every employer’s or teacher’s list would be slightly different, but most would probably include these characteristics.
1. Honesty is probably the number one work ethic mentioned by everyone. If you have done much work in corporate America, it is often the value even those in upper management lack. Honesty is much more than teaching our children not to lie or steal. It is teaching them not to mangle the truth with “little white lies”, deliberate omission of facts or exaggeration of facts in an attempt to deceive. It’s refusing to “permanently borrow” office supplies for personal use. It is not stealing, by working the hours you are scheduled to work, showing up on time and doing personal business on personal time (unless company policy gives you some leeway in these areas). It’s presenting a totally honest resume and not inflating numbers to “look better”. It is being the honest Christian God called us to be. Scripture tells us God hates lies. Ever wonder why, it is stated so passionately in the Bible? Perhaps, because Satan’s main weapon is the lie!
2. A new complaint beginning to show up in business articles is the lack of personal responsibility. Everything is always someone else’s fault. Your bad behavior was forced upon you by someone or something else. People commit to things and then don’t feel any need to follow through with their promises or to communicate they will be unable to fulfill their commitment. Personal responsibility is taking ownership for your actions good or bad. As I often tell children in my classes, no one can “make” you do anything bad unless they are holding a gun to your head. And even then, you still have a choice. What if all of those Christians in Rome had recanted because the Romans “made them”? Christianity might have died out before it had a chance to spread. If your child does not learn to accept responsibility for his actions, his chances of living a Christian life are greatly reduced. Why? If you are not responsible for your actions, why do you need repentance, forgiveness or God? If your children aren’t responsible and reliable about their commitments, it becomes a form of lying when they make a promise. They don’t really intend to keep their word, only if it is easy and convenient. (And that part is never shared as part of the promise in my experience!)
3. Self-discipline is crucial to a strong work ethic. Let’s face it, work is hard. You may sweat and even if it’s mental labor, your brain may feel like it is sweating! Work is often boring and rarely does anyone cheer or compliment you when you are done.Sometimes it takes all of the self-discipline you possess to complete the required task. The temptation is overwhelming to do a sloppy job to finish quickly or run away from the task at hand entirely. If your child learns self-discipline, it will also help his work relationships. Any worker will tell you, the temptation to act poorly towards co-workers, bosses and clients can be overwhelming some days. Self-discipline will also help your child develop and practice all of the other characteristics which are a part of having a strong work ethic and a Christian life.
4. Perseverance is another area where many workers struggle. Any job requires the worker to stick with the task until it is completed. Many complex jobs involve complicated problem solving skills. Perseverance is needed to keep working until the problems are solved so the job can be completed. Employers waste lots of time and money because of employees who were unable to persevere and either left because the job was too “boring” or too “hard”. Others have to fire employees who consistently leave tasks either unfinished or poorly completed. All require management to waste a lot of time and money finding and training replacements. Being a Christian can be very hard at times, too. Your child will need perseverance to stick with the Christian life when life in the world looks so much easier.
I am sure there are many more specific qualities teachers and employers could add to our list. As I think about teaching children honesty, personal responsibility, self-discipline and perseverance, it is a huge task. We will probably work with our children in those four areas the entire time they live in our homes. Don’t despair! There are some fun things you can do with your children as you work with them on developing a strong work ethic. I’ll give you some ideas soon.
In the meantime, have you ever managed workers, students or volunteers? Is there a characteristic or two you think I missed? Which ones do you or your children struggle with the most? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.