What are you teaching your children about hard work?
January 16, 2015
By Sarah Maraniss Vander Schaaff
A few days ago, thanks to Twitter, I stumbled upon an article on the Little League official website that shared an interview with Charles Jeter, the father of the former Yankee shortstop. I don’t often spend my time reading about Derek Jeter. Really, I don’t.
Not even in the checkout lines.
I also confess that I am much more likely to be sitting in a theater than on the bleachers at a little league game.
But the first tip the post shared from Charles Jeter, based on an interview he’d done for Growing Leaders president Tim Elmore, was this:
“Never let anyone outwork you.
Derek said he watched his dad work relentlessly as a substance abuse counselor. He never claimed to have the biggest talent, but he taught his kids to “work hard and never let anyone outwork you.” That way, it’s not about giftedness but work ethic.”
I have thought about this quote a great deal since reading it. You can call it work ethic or perseverance, or grit, or maybe even, obsession. What about this trait do we hope to teach our children and how do we best teach it?
Most of our kids won’t make it to the majors. And many of us have a simpler hope: that they find a life of fulfillment. But the way we teach that, as with most of parenting, is through our actions, not only our words.
Emily Revas, in an article in Today’s Parent summarizes a recent study done by the University of Michigan that speaks to this concept of modeling:
“… a person’s work ethic is influenced by their parents. The study found that workers fall under three categories: the job-oriented who focus on activities outside of work, career-oriented workaholics, and the calling-oriented who just want to change the world. These work orientations, University of Michigan business professor Wayne Baker says, are “a modern link between the meaning of work for parents and children.” Basically, the way you see the work you do will determine the way your children perceive their work in the future.”
Now comes the part when we are asked to be introspective. In the job-oriented scenario, one does “work” to allow for what can happen after quitting time. In the “workaholic” scenario, there is no quitting time. And in the “calling” option, there may be a holistic connection between life and work, but some other things such as stability and income might be sacrificed.
If you had to generalize, which description describes you?
Is this what you hope for your own kids?
I cannot examine these questions without thinking about all the moving parts that families face today, and the shifting landscape of 21st century skills and careers that our children will face when they seek jobs.
The best I can do is to talk through particulars with my daughters, especially the oldest. I explain the sacrifices we make and the trade-offs. And I talk a lot about the women in our lives who have jobs, (or careers or callings) and how they’ve done it with or without kids.
In this, I want them to examine the options. Work hard–yes. But know what you’re working for.
It may mean making it to the majors. But it also might mean being able to spend a Saturday afternoon just watching the game together….
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Read Sarah’s two blogs in The Washington Post On Parenting Blog.