“Work ethic” is defined as the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward. It is a belief in the moral value, benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.
Someone with a good work ethic is assumed to believe there is merit in doing hard work, having a ‘natural’ feeling of satisfaction or enrichment from accomplishing things, rather than from the reward one does or does not get for it. A person with a strong work ethic can be relied upon to always consistently do their best in every detail of a project. A person with strong work ethic is self-driven (self-motivated) to accomplish tasks properly (through self-discipline) for the intrinsic value of the work itself. They take responsibility to ensure that tasks are done right in the proper order and timing.
Your son needs to know and appreciate the value of work. No one who succeeds in life does so without working hard. Additionally, it is healthy on many levels for males to work. God created the desire inside each man to want to provide for his wife and children. He feels great contentment and satisfaction when he is able to provide for them adequately. This is a natural instinct and not vanity. It is implanted in him by God for a divine purpose—to assure that families will be adequately cared for. Men who do not work (either intentionally or unintentionally) suffer because of it. They tend to have lower self-esteem and higher incidents of psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety. In addition, his wife and children have less respect for him. Women tend to have stronger emotional attachments to men when they feel provided for and protected. Lack of protection diminishes femininity.
So how do we raise young men who are eager to make a difference in the world—who can be depended upon to provide for their wives and children? We can start by giving them chores from an early age. Give him chores as part of his role in the family. You might give him a weekly allowance to teach him how to budget money, but he should do some chores with no compensation just because he’s part of the family and they need to be done. They should be age appropriate, but don’t be afraid to make them difficult and even physically challenging. You can always find other physical work that needs to be done around the home to pay him for if you want to keep his household chores and allowance separate. I had a wonderful decade or so where I didn’t have to mow the lawn after I taught my son to cut the grass at age 11.
Teach him how to work—he’s going to have to work for most of his life. The earlier you teach him the principles that help him be successful at work, the easier his life will be. I’d consider making your teenage son work outside the home. One of the major conflicts I hear from parents is whether to allow their children to experience positive extracurricular activities in school or to make them go to work. We experienced the same dilemma. For instance we chose to allow our son to be in band, play sports, be in Boy Scouts, attend youth group at church, and be involved in student government at school because they were healthy, wholesome activities that kept him out of trouble. We purposely told him as long as he got good grades he did not have to work outside the home. And so we provided a car for transportation along with insurance. A major mistake in hindsight—one we didn’t make with our second child. Those extra-curricular activities are important, but he probably didn’t need to do all of them. In hindsight, he would have been better served to have to work for a boss and learned what working for minimum wage is like so that when he went into the world he would have appreciated the value of an education and been better prepared to take care of himself. Additionally, being forced to work and pay for his own car and insurance would have been an excellent lesson to teach him the value of those items. Our daughter did and was much the better for it.
Many of the problems parents experience with their sons (of all ages) can be solved through work. Give your sons chores, make him get a part-time job, and keep him physically active. You’ll have fewer problems with his attitude, with getting into trouble, and with sex if you can keep him mentally and physically tired. The military discovered many years ago that they could eliminate fighting, horseplay, and sexual preoccupation in boot camp by keeping hundreds of teenagers and young men so physically exhausted that they fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow in the barracks at night.
Boys also develop confidence and competency (which define their self-esteem) by accomplishing masculine chores that increase their skills and abilities. They learn this best under the guidance of a father or other older male. Masculine chores include activities like building things, yard work, pouring cement, repairing a car, fixing a home, painting a house, repairing a roof, plumbing, or any other number of things that are best accomplished by his own two hands, his muscular physique, and the sweat of his brow.
Males are physical beings. We process information and emotions more easily when we move, we develop self-esteem through accomplishments, and we channel aggression into healthy physical activities. Without the chores and hard work that used to be necessary in order to survive, young males are turning more toward sedentary activities that keep them from becoming powerful physically, which in turn also contributes to their emotional and mental health.
Teach your son to work and everyone will be happier.