Helping students develop a personal work ethic
By Sr. Patricia M. McCormack, IHM, EdD
INDUSTRY is the capacity to be persistent and diligent, to follow through on a task, and to create a systematic approach for meeting responsibilities and solving problems and challenges. COMPETENCE is a by-product of industry.
Industry — or establishing a personal work ethic — is a core element of positive self-esteem. The elementary-school years are the initial time for developing a sense of accomplishment. Successive years build on that foundation.
The opposite of industry is inferiority. Children who make it a practice to plan their work and work their plan develop competence as a personality trait.
Children develop industry when they purposely stick to a task until completion without needing reminders, give steady care over time to projects, persevere diligently even when natural interest wanes, and utilize some method of time management (such as a calendar, checklist, or chore chart).
If parents micromanage or repeatedly reject a child’s ideas, he learns to second-guess himself, feel guilty, and hesitate to try new things, expecting to fail before even attempting a task.
How can parents cultivate a culture of industry?
Teach goal setting: Teach children to set short- and long-term goals in age-appropriate ways, identifying specific behaviors and tasks that are necessary to reach a goal and determining suitable timelines for completion. Monitor progress every few days. In middle school have children set realistic academic goals and communicate them in writing at the beginning of the year or as often as the beginning of each quarter.
Monitor time management: By middle school, expect children to project a weekly calendar that safeguards time for family and leisure in addition to completing school assignments, developing personal interests, volunteering service outside the home, and participating in extracurricular activities.
Require Ownership: Involve children in preparation for any projects that they support — for instance, assisting in baking and/or wrapping goodies for bake sales or purchasing canned goods for food drives.
Oversee school performance: Compliment effort and give specific praise, then dialogue about future strategy and support your children’s efforts with encouragement, suggestions, and constructive criticism. Let planning and accomplishment belong to the child.
Review Report Cards: Celebrate good grades but do not belittle if grades are lower than the children’s ability. Praise hard work, consistent effort, and patterns of progress. Expect high grades in conduct, effort, and homework.
Sr. Patricia McCormack, IHM, EdD is an international consultant and public speaker on issues of whole-person formation.
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