A child's work ethic ALWAYS comes from his or her parents. A work ethic develops from a child's perception of the good that his parents are achieving through work. A parent's attitude toward work should help build a child's ethic that's cheerful, responsible, and achievement driven.
As we all know, work can have a love/hate relationship with most people, and children know that pain by watching it sting mom and dad on a daily basis, but work is more than the love /hate relationship, and children should see that work provides an identity that stays with a person most of his or her life.
The achievement of work makes a person happy, and children should constantly see that achievement no matter the drudgery, the load, the hatefulness of the work - because drudgery has no meaning for very young children. They see only a dispirited parent. Happiness and achievement can be seen too, on the face...it's just the opposite of dispirited. Children should see their parents continuing to do the work with cheer and positivism even in the rough times.
Personality comes into play with the whole notion of work. Some people love to work. Some enjoy it to a point. Some people try to escape work at any cost. Some people refuse to work at all and mostly they learn these things at home. Some of it's humorous and some is tragic, but we've all known those we love to work with and those we want to run from.
Some people love work as a social entity. When you really look at what they accomplish, it's not very much. They go to work to be around other people, to have companionship. The work is not important nor consistent nor even gratifying. This is the "social worker."
Then there is the person who takes on all kinds of projects with great gusto and ends up foisting the responsibility of those projects on others or worse drops the ball half way through and ignores the repercussions. We'll call this one "The enthusiast."
Then there is the person who only takes on the work that is absolutely demanded of him or her, and does the absolute minimalist amount because when all is said and told, this person is always in the bathroom when work is assigned; always on the phone during the job, always busy with anything and everything he or she can think of so others have to always chip in to get the job done around her and in spite of her. We could dub this one "The minimalist."
There is the enormous mess maker with all the great intentions in the world who only manages to waste time, materials and everyone's patience. We could call this one the "Kettle" after Ma and Pa Kettle.
There is the silent independent worker who silently does his or her work without thought to anyone or anything besides getting at least part of the job done, and those who do part of the work leaving most of it because "they didn't know..." and can't communicate to find out.
And we have all known someone who fits these worthy titles. The question is, how did they get to be "titled?" It all begins with watching parents and discerning a work ethic that they come to understand that seems to be acceptable.
The "Social Worker" probably had parents who refused to allow the child to actually do anything. This child grew up "hands off" because mom or dad could do it better, wanted complete control and all the power. In other words, the child wasn't needed , and so, the child grows into adulthood with the idea that they are never really needed, and therefore, their presence is most social. Involving children in work fosters the idea that a person's presence is not only wanted, but needed. "I need you" is not something that should be avoided by adults especially toward children.
The enthusiast came from a work ethic that dabbled, was distracted, and never really finished anything. Parents who dabble in multiple activities and then lose interest often find that their children follow suit - the laundry half done, dishes always in the sink, the floor half swept, beds partially made, toys somewhat picked up, projects everywhere and a garden always in the making. This half done example entitles children who are developing an emerging work ethic to think that half done is enough...now apply that to an education, a job, a home or anything that needs completion. A work ethic that sees jobs through to completion demonstrates to children that the whole job is important - even the small ones. Completion demonstrates responsibility.
The minimalist grew up with stingy parents who probably had little and gave less. A minimalist has a small heart. I remember a line in a film I watched years ago when a poor man looked at another and said, "Your a little man. It's not because you are short in stature, but because you have such a tiny heart." A work ethic based on how little I have to offer the job, my associates and myself is a poor employee because they can't be trusted by the other staff. You can't teach someone generosity no matter how hard you try. The minimalist will always take and never give back. Children in a minimalist's family will be as stingy as their parents.
The Kettles come from a work ethic that balances between the minimalist and the enthusiast. It's just chaos at everyone's expense. Children who grow up in chaos have a long way to go to re-order their lives. Chaos begets chaos, and that's the tragedy of it.
And families who don't communicate, don't because it's just a lot easier when you don't. If I don't say anything, neither will you, and that will be an end to it...work, project, job, you...
On the positive side, there are those who love to work, love to achieve, accomplish and attain great things through work. The personality who loves the challenge of a job will engage in every human attribute they can in order to make the task at hand "work!"
At once the stage is set for work. There is solid positive communication so that others understand the work at hand. There is order maintained at every level, every step so that the work continues at a good pace while it serves the job and the other workers. Chaos is nipped in the bud, and the social workers are asked to take their lack of intentions elsewhere. There is generosity throughout the job, there is help, give and take, so that each worker can excel at what he or she is doing without losing momentum or feeling out of the loop.
If this very positive stage was viewed by children, children would see how work should be aimed at achievement and how the joy that comes from jobs well done can be owned.
It's not exactly "luck" that allows a person to do the work they like; mostly, it's a matter of hard work as a young student, then an older student and then as a fully engaged young adult. Working successfully toward a goal from youth allows someone the privilege of doing the work they want to do. It's called "earned," and this concept of "earned" is a must for dinner time discussion and those quiet times when children are really listening.
So if you want to know what your child is seeing, look in the mirror and ask yourself some of those scary questions...then do what needs to be done to give your child the best vantage point you can about work because when he grows up, he's going to be just like you!