Giving Your Children the Gift of a Work Ethic So They Don’t End Up Like Captain Hook

The greatest gift you can give your kids is a strong work ethic. It’s the type of gift that lasts forever. I love the scene from the movie Hook with Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams. A sweet little girl observes the cranky dastardly ways of Captain Hook and yells out, “You need a mommy very badly!” Even this little girl could see the long term impact of not having a Godly mother speak into your life. While most of our children and grandchildren won’t be ravaging never-never land, they need instruction more than ever.

I talk with managers and presidents of companies all the time and hear a resounding theme. They say that way too many college students are coming out of college with a severe entitlement mindset -lacking a good strong work ethic. They think that they will be rewarded equally to their co-workers -even with only a half-effort. Students are surprised by the competitive, merit based reality of how the workplace really works. Many quickly hit the wall and make changes; while others lose a myriad of jobs before finally learning the basics of incentive, reward, and work ethic.


God gives clear instructions about work. He tells us that work is a gift -as early as Genesis with Adam and Eve- and promotes a strong work ethic. He emphasizes the need to “Work as unto the Lord in everything we do” in the book of Colossians. He also teaches us that profit is good and uses a brilliant business woman in Proverbs 31 to show us how to run a business that blesses others. God tells us (as parents) to “teach our children” all the time in Deuteronomy, whether we are hanging around the house or going for a walk.

Never has there been more of a need for parents to teach our children how to work, what to expect, and why free market capitalism is the most powerful engine in history. Work is built on Godly precepts like property rights, incentive, and reward.


I started a little business with my children a few years back. I make balloon animals and taught my children to make balloon dogs, parrots, and hats. We got a license to perform at a local outdoor venue. At the time, my daughter was 12, and my son 10, and they worked with me for 3 hours. We made $33 in tips. After the crowd cleared, we talked about how to “divide the booty.” Their first reaction was to divide it evenly and pay each person equally. I asked if everyone had done the same amount of work. They acknowledged that dad did over half the work, my daughter pulled her weight second, and my son… well, he goofed off at least half the time. At some level, both of them knew that we should pay each of us based on our effort and productivity. Although my son would prefer to make as much as my daughter and I, he knew that he deserved less. So we divided up the proceeds and each person was paid fairly, not equally. I received $13, my daughter $11, and my son $9. As a result of this exercise, my son received incentive to work harder next time; and my daughter felt fairly compensated for her extra effort. Then as we went to get in the car, I explained to them that my $13 went to pay for the $10 on balloon supplies and $3 on parking. So really, I “made nothing,” but it showed them the hidden costs of the business owner. Hopefully, they could relate this to one day in the future, when they get a full-time job.


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