Tuesday, April 8, 2014

10 Tips For Raising Hard Working Kids

Raising Money Smart Kids

If you work you get paid.

If you don’t work you don’t get paid.

It seems like such a simple truth doesn’t it? But that simple truth seems to get lost in a world where everyone is trying to get something for nothing. It definitely doesn’t sink in to the minds of our kids without intentional effort on the part of the parents.

If we don’t teach them this simple truth while they are children, they may end up not learning it until they’re sitting at the bottom of a huge mountain of debt and despair.

My husband and I believe that what we teach our kids about work and money will have a bigger impact on their future than almost anything else outside of choosing to trust Jesus and choosing who they are going to marry. It is a BIG deal.

We are determined to have hard working kids, but hard working kids aren’t developed on accident. It takes time, intention and effort on our part. 

10 Tips For Raising Hard Working Kids

1.) Teach by example: More is caught than taught. If you already have kids, you know that this truth stands without further explanation.

    • Encourage them to help you with household chores and mundane tasks. Use this time to build your relationship and also to teach them how to do household jobs well.
    • Take your kids along with you to your place of employment and let them work with you for you a little while. 
    • Take your kids with you to help others. Are you helping a family move? Mowing a neighbor’s lawn? Cooking a meal for a new mom? Invite your kids to participate and they will learn the art of working and the joy of giving.


I work as a Standardized Patient at a local Medical University. My daughter has not only been able to come to work with me, but she’s also performed a pediatrics case with me on a number of occasions. She gets paid (rather well, actually) for her hard work and it’s been a great experience. My son is doing his first case in a couple of weeks too. It’s not a typical opportunity for grade-school children, but if you’re willing to think outside of the box you will find that opportunities do exist to help kids gain valuable real-world work experience.

2.) Create opportunity: When my daughter was six she wanted a Nintendo DS. We had just done a complete overhaul of our own financial lives and knew that we would be missing a huge opportunity if we didn’t pass our newfound knowledge along to her. We told her she was going to have to work for it, but that we would help her find opportunities to earn money.

Together we made a plan to sell Italian Sodas at a friend’s garage sale <---- think modern day lemonade stand. We invested in syrups and ice but she bought the cups, straws, cream and soda and whip cream with her Birthday money.

italian soda 2italian soda

I emailed all of my local friends and told them about her desire to earn money to purchase a DS. People came from far and wide to help her reach her goals. It turns out people get pretty excited to help a kid work for something they want!

This experience set a foundation for my daughter to learn some basic business lessons like supply and demand, cost of goods, profits margins, etc. Each time she does a little business venture (of which there have been several) she adds to her knowledge and understanding of business and money.

Of course I had to work quite hard myself, but it was more than worth it because she learned one of the most valuable lessons of her life that day—if you want something, you work for it!

3.) Reward their efforts with praise: Liberally praise your kids for their effort. The youngest of children will work diligently and tirelessly to know that you are proud of their effort. Even children only 6 months-old try their best to crawl when they see you delight in their efforts. In my experience, this is predictably true with kids of all ages.

A four year old child’s bed will look messy when they “make it”, but if you praise their efforts, they will keep trying and quickly turn into a 6 year-old kid whose bed is well made.

If you wait to praise them until the job is well done, they may never stick with the job long enough to learn to do it well. Well placed praise is a powerful motivator!

4.) Reward their efforts with money: In our house, my kids have specific jobs that they can do to earn money. We pay $.25 per job. They have four jobs that they can do each day to earn money. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid. They also have an opportunity to earn a “bonus pay” at our discretion. We award bonus pays for things like showing initiative, working diligently or doing a job outside of what they normally get paid for that’s above and beyond their household responsibilities.

You can learn more about our job charts and how our kids spend, save and give their income by reading this post.

5.) Let them spend some of their money right away: I know this one might sound a little odd, but the quickest way to motivate a child to become a hard worker is to reward them as quickly as possible after a job well done. The older they get, the longer you can go between the work itself and the reward. But regardless of age, if you’re just starting out on this road of teaching them to be hard working kids, make sure you reward them quickly and let them spend the bulk of their money however they please as soon as possible after they’ve done the work.

Yes, this includes letting them spend money on cringe-worthy things like dollar store toys, silly fads and food that you know isn’t good for them and will be fully consumed within minutes. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in letting them “waste” their money at a young age when the amounts are relatively inconsequential—but that’s fodder for a different post.       

6.) Encourage their strengths: This Fall my son (who was 7 at the time) was raking leaves in our front yard for a little extra cash because he was very close to having enough money for something specific he’d been saving for. A neighbor saw him working hard and offered to pay him to rake their leaves while they were gone for a few days. They had just put their house on the market and wanted to make sure the leaves were raked daily.

My son hesitantly accepted. You see, he’s not naturally a hard-worker. Well, not in the traditional sense. He seems to have little desire to exert physical effort to do something he doesn’t want to do unless he sees some personal benefit from it. He has one of those exceptional minds that analyzes every situation and always tries to come up with a “better” (i.e. less effort) way of doing things.

He asked if he could bribe hire his older siblings to help. At first I was tempted to say no, he had to do it himself. Then I realized that he’s actually very likely to be a manager/boss/diplomat/CEO/world leader/master leavesmanipulator someday. I figured this actually would probably line up well with what he may very well spend his life doing, so I let him sub-contract his job so long as he worked alongside of them too. One day he even hired the girl who carpools with us. I explained that he didn’t know how much he was getting paid for this job so he ran the risk of having to pay them from his own spend envelope if he didn’t make enough.

That was a risk he was willing to take. In fact, because it was getting dark so early and it was so stormy, it ended up being a necessary move since he only had about 20 minutes worth of light after he got done with swim practice. The job was bigger than he could do alone with the time that he had.

He used his brains more than his muscles for this job, but I really I think his brains are going to be his hardest working money-making muscle anyway, so I’m grateful that I had the insight to let him work within his strengths. You’ll be happy to know that he had plenty to pay his employees and still have enough left over to help him meet his goal!

While my son is extrinsically motivated, my 10 year-old daughter is intrinsically motivated. She will work tirelessly all day long to serve people simply because she loves to help. Our 17 year-old foster daughter is a whole different ball of wax. She’s motivated to work by logic in that her wants are more on the spendy side, like wanting to earn enough money to go out with friends or buy a formal dress for a dance. We have to approach our parenting techniques from different angles to account for our kids’ individual personalities. This is true in every area of parenting—and raising money-smart kids is no exception.  

7.) Help them set reachable goals: Confidence and self-esteem are built through setting goals and reaching them. Help your kids develop age-appropriate goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound.

When they set a goal and reach it, they develop internal motivation that will spur them on to working hard to reach their next goal, then their next one, then another one after that. In time, they will become hard working kids.

8.) Help them reach their goals: Once your child has set a SMART goal, become their biggest cheerleader. Be careful not to to reach their goals for them, but do work with them to help them accomplish what they’ve set out to do. They’re not miniature adults. They need adults to walk alongside of them and work with them to teach them how to work for what they want.

Even though teenagers look like adults, they still need our guidance too. They still need a cheerleader and coach to help them reach the goals they set.

9.) Strike a balance between work and family: I am a firm believer that kids need to have regular on-going opportunities to earn money if you want them to learn about money and how it works. Practice makes perfect! However, I’m also a big believer of kids doing jobs around the house just because they are part of the family.

In our house we have a set number of jobs that each of the kids get paid for (4 each) and the rest of the things they do just because it takes effort from all of us to keep our household running smoothly. We choose to pay them for setting the table, clearing the table, washing the table, emptying the dishwasher, switching loads, taking out the recycling and checking the mail. These jobs get switched up and rearranged from time-to-time, but the principle remains. They are welcome to work to their hearts content and we’re always happy to find extra jobs for them if they’re looking for extra work, but everything else they do just because they’re part of the family. 

10.) Provide for their needs and provide opportunity for them to work for their wants: I am not a magic genie. I don’t ever want my kids to think of me as one either. I am a parent and I’m determined to be the very best parent I can be. Therefore, I will provide for their needs to the best of my ability and I will provide them with an abundance of opportunities to work for what they want.

We take a certain amount of money out of each paycheck that we put aside to pay our kids for their jobs. We WANT them to be hard workers so we give them lots of opportunity to work for what they want. The only way they’ll learn to be motivated to work for what they want, however, is if they are responsible to purchase the things they want with their own money.

Think about this. Your child wants a $10 Lego set. You want them to have this Lego set. You could either 1.) Go out and buy the set and give it to them yourself. Or 2.) You could could help them reach their goal by providing them with opportunities around the house to work for the money to buy it themselves.

Either way they get the Lego set, but if you make them work for it you are helping them build life long survival skills and you get cheap labor. I’d say that’s a win/win… and a no brainer!  

BONUS: Read the book Smart Money Smart Kids: Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze have recently written a book that puts all of the Ramsey family wisdom on raising money-smart kids in one place. Most of the ideas we’ve put into practice in our own family have come from being students of Dave Ramsey’s materials for the last five years. I recently received an early-release copy of this book and I assure you that it is well worth your time and money.

You don’t have to take my word for it—you can read the first two chapters yourself by going to the Smart Money Smart Kids webpage and entering your email address at the bottom. If you choose to pre-order the book before April 22nd, you can also get $50 worth of cool “freebies”.


You are reading a series about Raising Money-Smart Kids that I am writing as part of a

Smart Money Smart Kids book launch team. We are often asked what we do to teach our kids about money and good stewardship. In this series I will share our story along with some of our best loved tricks and tips for helping kids win with money in a debt-filled world. Click here to read more posts in this series.


Caley M. said...

I love this, such sound advice for raising hardworking kids in a world where that art seems to have been lost. I have actually been thinking a lot about this lately and when to involve the boys in "chores" other than the typical clean up when they are finished with something. As they get older I would love to implement something like this. Thank you for sharing what has worked for your family, and thanks for raising kids that will make such a difference in this world. :)

Robyn said...

Thank you Caley. I am confident you will raise some amazing young men yourself. Personally, I would say 3 is the perfect age to start something basic, but a little more official and intentional. That's just my two cents though, it really depends on each kid and their family.