Manual Work Ethic-How and Why

manual labor

We have written in the past about the value of training kids using a manual work ethic. It pays off in so many areas. But how and why you do it are vitally important components to the formula. My first introduction to how and why, and the hard lessons learned, are detailed here.

The “how” is important, and this training can start with young children and continue on through adolescence. Chores around the house are a great teaching opportunity. And “how” they are done are almost as important as whether they are done at all. For example, “good enough” cannot be in our vocabulary as parents when surveying our kids’ work. Instead, communicating the expectation with our kids that a job should be done that meets or exceeds our expectations the first time is a tremendously valuable teaching tool. For instance, when first learning to rake the leaves in our yard, the boys learned that “every leaf” meant every leaf in the yard. The experience took me five trips to the yard when they thought they were done. Now they get it.

The “why” is easy because it translates into a work ethic in all areas of life. School grades, for example, are inevitably positively impacted. In discussions with parents about their academically underachieving student, a component of my advice always includes a summer job where they are accountable to a boss (anyone other than the parent). They learn so many lessons about the real world like punctuality, meeting deadlines, and meeting others’ expectations. And in the end, they receive the pride of a job well done and a paycheck. This translates into pride in their work in many areas.

The pressure is always on us as parents to let our kids off the hook and value whatever effort they put forth. However, parenting is much about intentionality, and my experience is that kids rarely volunteer their best effort initially. This can be intentionally trained into a habit that makes our kids stand out in a crowd their entire lives.

Until next time,


About Jeffrey D. Potts, Ed.D.

Raised on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country, Jeff Potts, Ed.D., grew up learning the importance of hard work and family values. A graduate of Baylor University, he has master’s degrees from two universities and earned his Ed.D. in teaching and learning from a fourth institution. Potts launched his pedagogical career in the 1990s, working full-time with students and parents. READ MORE→