Many grandparents feel that the younger folks on their family tree have life too easy. Granted, few of them have had to rise before dawn to milk cows or gather eggs. But have things really changed that much? Do you remember lying around, listening to rock music and rolling your eyes when your grandparents told you you didn’t know how to work?

Yet there’s reason for concern. A healthy attitude toward work is supposed to be developed in childhood. Unfortunately, because many parents have tried to protect their kids from a difficult life, they haven’t encouraged this godly trait. A childhood of leisure and self-indulgence used to be a luxury. Now it’s the standard for youths everywhere. And since most young people have to be taught how to work, many will experience a wake-up call when they start their first real job.

Fortunately, that’s where you can help. Whether your grandchildren live around the corner or three time zones away, you can help them develop a strong view of work by remembering four words: example, expectation, experience and encouragement.

1. Start with your example

If you bring home a paycheque, your grandkids need to see you approach your job with an attitude of gratitude. When they notice that you live by the motto "It’s not that I have to work, but that I get to," they’ll be encouraged to adopt the same attitude. If you’re retired, let them see you make the most of your golden years by helping others.

2. Set expectations about chores and jobs

Chores are what grandchildren do to contribute to the ongoing maintenance of a family. Jobs are efforts for which they get paid. The time your grandchildren spend in your home affords an opportunity to pass on the joy of work through these two outlets.

Although there’s plenty of time for fun and leisure each day, our grandchildren understand that doing various chores around our house is our expectation – not an exception. We ask our granddaughters to pick up their toys or games when they have finished playing with them. This chore has become second nature for them before they go home.

We also expect household tasks to be performed with humility, gratitude and generosity. When whining, complaining and laziness are not tolerated, our grandkids rise to our expectations.

Even if your grandchildren are small, you can expect them to pitch in. They can help you make the beds, prepare dinner or clean up afterward. Our grandchildren are quite proficient at setting the table and creatively arranging the napkins and silverware. When our meal is over, they love to help wash the pots and pans because of all the suds.

3. Give them experience

You can also build a strong work ethic into your grandchildren by paying them to do jobs. This gives them experience with a personal incentive. Whether picking grapefruits from our trees or mowing our grass, our grandkids receive a tangible reward and a taste of a real job.

4. Always encourage

Finally, remember to pour on praise. Applaud their attempts to complete any task, big or small. Notice when they work with a good attitude, and tell them when you see that they’re developing a strong work ethic.

Criticism, comparison and shame will never produce a healthy attitude for work in your grandchildren. However, the examples and expectations you set, the experiences you create and the encouragement you give have tremendous power to establish an appreciation for work in them that will last long after you are gone.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox

View comments ()