You’re Not an ATM: 5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids the Value of Work
By: Kevin Friedrich
“Mom, can I have five bucks?” These words will be heard by all parents at some point. Every
parent must decide—and fairly early on—how to answer and handle being a walking,
breathing ATM. Children need to be taught the value of work and the value of money. It is
important children learn not only by seeing but also by doing.
TEACH BY MODELING
The first step in this all-important process is to teach by doing. Instill at a young age your own
strong work ethic, both professionally and at home. Encourage your kids to pitch in around
the house. A strong work ethic is contagious and if you are able to instill this concept now, by
the time money comes into the picture, the work part has already been taught.
WORK IS FOR FUN
Before your kids understand the value of professional work, they see your work around the
house. Just by seeing you work, your kids will begin to understand that part of life is working
and that you enjoy doing it. By demonstrating that work is fun with intrinsic value, later on it
won’t become all about the money.
WORK IS FOR MONEY, TOO
Kids often don’t understand why mom and dad leave the house everyday. Only when they are
older do they understand their parents leave to go to work and work is how they are able to
buy food and clothes for the family. If you have built up a work ethic in your children, the
lesson only gets stronger once you add in allowance. Doling out allowance can lead to real
conversations with your kids about the costs of things in life.
BRIBERY NOT ALLOWED
In teaching the real value of money, do not use money as a way to encourage and enhance the
work or work ethic of your children. For instance, “If you get all your chores done by 7 p.m.,
we’ll all go get ice cream.” That teaches that only the end result matters. By doing this, you
have enhanced the money in the equation and diminished the work ethic. However, using
money to reward quality work and strong work ethic can help instill the right lessons about
ENCOURAGE PART-TIME WORK
If the last four steps have taught the value of hard work and what money is used for, a part-
time job is the logical final step. There are different jobs that make sense to both encourage
work ethic and help them earn their own money. This likely will be a stressful time for the
both of you, but a part-time job also teaches time management. The first job is going to be
rough as your kids learn about “real” hard work; however, this job will go far in improving
their self-esteem and self-worth.
Teaching your kids the value of work will not only reduce their dependence on you as their
personal ATM, but it will also increase and encourage their respect for hard work— a lesson
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