work ethic

How to Teach Work Ethic

Work Ethic:  The Ultimate Lesson

We had an awesome guest this past week on the Good Dad Project Podcast featuring Joe De Sena, founder of the Spartan Races and New York Times Bestselling author of “Spartan Up!”

Shawn and I have been trying to find the perfect guest to come on the show and talk about work ethic.  Joe not only talked about work ethic but also how to teach work ethic to our kids.


Work Ethic and Purposeful Suffering

Joe shared several ways he teaches work ethic to his own kids.  Some parents listening to this week’s show might cringe at some of the things he said as it relates to “purposeful suffering.”  However, I think his theme on this point was solid!  Parents today can be so incredibly over protective that we shelter our kids from any type of growing pains.  No parent likes to see their kids experience failure, loss, or even really hard work.  However, what we don’t realize is that we are robbing them of critical life lessons that teach work ethic and grit.  If we don’t allow our kids to go through any type of pain and suffering and we throw them a life line at every twist and turn, what are we teaching them?  I think it’s safe to say when we shield them too much from a lesson of grit and failure, we are doing them a disservice.


Teaching Work Ethic Through Example

It’s been said time and time again that kids learn the best lessons from the example we teach.  If we want to help our kids understand the value of hard work, we have to show it to them and teach them how to work hard.  Desire and work ethic is one of the most difficult lessons we can instill.  However, we have several opportunities to teach it.


For example, the next time our kid wants something (a new bike, a new video game, an expensive toy, a car, etc.) we have the opportunity to show them how to work for it vs. give it to them.


For example, my eight-year old loves football cards, baseball cards, and gum.  Instead of just buying him whatever he wants, he has learned to work for things so he can buy them himself.  He will sell candy, rice krispy treats, wash cars, or even help with yard work to make a few bucks so he can buy what he wants.  It may sound tough to make him do certain things for simple things like games, baseball cards, and gum, but it’s an excellent way to teach him these lessons now.  Plus, I have noticed that when he buys something with his own money, he takes much better care of it.


Talking Work Ethic on the MFCEO Project Podcast

I was recently on the MFCEO Project Podcast with Andy Frisella and Vaughn Kohler (aka “The Pastor of Disaster).  On that episode Andy and I talked about ways we can leverage our kids failures to teach work ethic and grit.  For example, I can’t stand that kids today get trophies and medals for participation.  Awards are meant to be earned and not given.  Don’t get me wrong, we should always point out the effort our kids put out through communication and encouraging words.  However, we should never give out trophies for just showing up.


Awards, trophies, and medals keep kids hungry to keep striving and keep pushing themselves.  If awards like this are just given for showing up, what’s the point in trying your best?


Asking Empowering Questions Teach Work Ethic and Grit

When our kids fail, we have a great opportunity to ASK QUESTIONS and not lecture.  For example, if your kid participates in a karate tournament and finishes last, it’s a perfect opportunity to ask them questions to get them thinking about solutions to be better.   You can ask your kid:

  1. What did you think of the tournament?
  2. If you had it to do over again, what would do different?
  3. If you could be better at something specifically with karate, what would be? Your kicks?  Punches?  Speed?
  4. What place would you like to finish in the next tournament?
  5. What do you think we should do to prepare for the next one so you feel confident?


Questions like this get a kid (and adults) thinking about solutions.  It also helps identify what needs work and what is needed to get better.  Work Ethic and Grit come from knowing what we need to improve and putting in the time and effort to be better.



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Connect with Joe De Sena

Joe De Sena Book Spartan Up!

Joe De Sena Podcast

Joe De Sena Website Spartan Races

Thanks for checking out this week’s podcast on How to Teach Work Ethic.

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