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How Can Parents Help Their Kids Develop a Good Work Ethic?

You know the drill. You ask your child to clean his room. An hour later, you discover him completely absorbed in building a Lego castle instead. His room is still in disarray, and he's forgotten all about cleaning it up.

Most parents struggle with teaching kids how to work -- but hang in there. Your consistent, encouraging nudges will eventually (hopefully) sink in and your child will learn the value of work. A good work ethic is essential for later success in careers and personal relationships.

Develop the Habit

Give your kids regular chores, based on their age and ability. Young children can put away laundry, make a bed and pick up toys. Older kids can vacuum, rake leaves or empty the dishwasher. When kids see work as a normal part of life, they spend less time grumbling. "Make it a habit," says Matthew Smith, director of Longacre Leadership, a summer camp for teens in Newport, Pennsylvania. "Our kids are split into crews, and each crew has a different responsibility every day. The regularity manages their expectations. It makes the work seem normal, routine and doable."

RELATED: House Chores for Young Children

Work Together

Plan regular family work projects. Work in the yard, paint a room or clean the kitchen. Make a meal together or bake cookies. Talk as you're working and make the experience fun and enjoyable. "Do it together," says Smith. "Working alone, especially as a kid, is a drag. Working in a team is much easier. "Many hands make light work" is our mantra." When the work is finished, express appreciation. Say something like this: "Thanks so much for helping me. You were a great worker. Now, we can do something fun together."

Set the Example

"Children are known for picking up habits and attitudes of their parents, so be mindful of how you approach your own career," says Robert Nickell, Los Angeles-based parenting expert and founder of Daddyscrubs.com. "If you come home stressed out from the job and talk poorly of your boss and co-workers, your children will likely approach their work in a similar way. Likewise, if you take many days off for recreation or demonstrate a lazy attitude toward your career, you are teaching your children that a poor work ethic is OK."

RELATED: Cleaning With Your Kids

Use Intrinsic Motivation

You know what really motivates your kids. Use that knowledge to your advantage to teach the value of work. Dr. Deborah Gilboa, Pittsburgh-based family physician and parenting expert, says: "When my 5-year-old wakes up, he is starving! He would burst in each morning with 'When can we have breakfast?' Instead, we've taught him to say 'How can I help with breakfast?' Same message but much nicer to hear. And he's learned that when you want something, you help make it happen. He'll set the table, get rolling on the non-cooking or cutting parts of meal prep when we ask him to."

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