Teaching Children to Work for What They Want

teach, children, work, chores, earn, life lessons

One of my goals as a parent is to give my child everything he could ever need or want. That being said, I certainly don’t want to raise an entitled little brat. I have tried to get creative. He gets plenty spoiled between his two grandmothers and countless other relatives. When there is something he really wants, my husband and I make him earn it. He’s only three. But we feel it is important to teach him early that he needs to work for the things that are important to him. Honestly, I can’t believe how well its going. Here are my tips for teaching children to work for what they want.

Identify the “What”

The first step to teaching children to work for what they want is identifying their “what”. If your child really wants something, they can at times be relentless in asking for it. If your child is asking for something often, that is a good sign that it is important to them. This would be a good place to start teaching them to work for what they want.

Example: My nephew came to live with us when he was 8 years old. He really wanted a desktop computer he could play games on. He was really into that. My husband, being an IT and tech guy, made him a deal. He would get him all the parts and teach him to build his very own computer if he did certain things. We are using this with our Paw Patrol obsessed 3 year old now. He wants an expensive Paw Patrol toy. Its all he talks about. So we told him we would get it for him, if he does certain things to earn it.


Set Goals

When teaching children to work for what they want, it is important to set goals and make clear expectations. If they don’t know exactly what is expected, they could become frustrated or feel like they aren’t making any progress.

For our nephew with the computer, his goals were crystal clear. He had to get a good behavior report from school each day. He had to keep his grades at a certain level. We also expected him to help us around the house with specific chores.

For our toddler, he has clear objectives as well. He has to stand up on ice skates by himself (without help) because he could do it, but he wasn’t trying. We expect him to do a good job following instructions and listening to teachers in his classes. He needs to listen to us when we tell him to do something or not to do something.

Track Progress

It may be helpful when teaching children to work for what they want to make a chart or some type of system for tracking the child’s progress. With our 8 year old nephew, we had a sticker chart. He would earn a sticker for each goal he reached. He could also earn bonus stickers for any above and beyond good behavior. Once he reached a set amount of stickers, he earned a part for his computer. It helped him to be able to visualize his progress. He was able to keep his eye on the prize and it kept him focused on making sure he was doing the things he needed to be doing.

The Outcome?

The nephew earned all the parts for his computer over time. He really enjoyed getting to pick out the parts and learning how to build his computer from nothing as well. Furthermore, it helped reinforce some of those positive behaviors into habits.

Our toddler is still working toward his goal. He can stand up by himself now on his ice skates. It was a huge victory for him. He is doing a noticeably better job at listening to instructors in his classes. His listening has improved for me and my husband as well. He has his eye on the prize. Every class he does well, or every time he hits one of his goals, he tells us how excited he is to earn his toy.



Ideas of Rewards

Again, this will work best if your child is working for something they really want. I have made a list of some examples to give you an idea.

  • Toys
  • Games
  • Outings/Activities
  • Trips

The bigger the reward, the more work your child can do to earn it. If they want to go to a local park to play, that will take less work to earn what they want than say for example a trip to Disney.

Ideas of Goals

Make sure you set attainable and realistic goals for teaching children to work for what they want. Anything too lofty and the child will become discouraged. Goals that are too easy wont be effective in teaching them to work for what they want. Here are some examples of goals you could set.

  • Good grades
  • Positive behavior reports from school
  • Chores
  • Specific behaviors
  • Specific skills like potty training, trying new foods, etc.

Things to Remember

Children are children. They are still learning and growing. You will have set-backs in the process. Our nephew didn’t come home every single day with a great report from his teacher. Our toddler still acts like a threenager sometimes. Make sure to stick with your reward system. Do not give in. Be consistant in positively rewarding hard work and don’t be afraid to withhold the reward when your child misses the mark. This is how they learn.

Teaching your children to work for what they want is so important as they grow. Someday, they may want to try out for sports, and they need to know that they will have to put in the practice to earn their spot on the team. Even as an adult, if they want to get a job and advance in their career, they will need to put in the work. The earlier this becomes normal for them, the easier it will be later on.


Have you tried this with your children? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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About Lisa Wingerter

I'm a 32 year old, married, stay-at-home-mom from the Metro Detroit area

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22 Comments on “Teaching Children to Work for What They Want”

  1. Hi Lisa,
    Wow, this is such a great habit to train your children in! I like the action steps you outlined in the post, this should be something all parents should read.
    Great post!

  2. I couldn’t agree more and it is our job as parents to prepare them for the future by helping them understand that they need to work for what they want, nothing in life will be handed to them…

  3. This is so great that you are teaching him so young! I will definitely keep these tips in mind for when I have kids:)

  4. Great post! You’re right; if we want our kids to do better then we must participate in teaching them. Your strategies are great ways to go about that. Thanks for sharing.

  5. We gave our four year old chores. She has to: feed the dog, pick the tomatoes, and help load the laundry. She has a schedule and it doesn’t matter what she’s doing, when the time comes for her chores, she stops and goes and takes care of it. She knows that if she doesn’t get them done, then she doesn’t get to watch cartoons later.

  6. This is wisdom and giving them stuff like no effort just because they want it is not a good way of raising kids. This is a very useful article for parents like me! I must share this with my husband and looks like a good topic to explore.

  7. This is great! I always struggle finding a balance between giving my daughter a better life and start than we ever got, but also wanting her to work for what she gets so that she respects it more. We live by many of these tips, but I have learned a few things as well. Thank you!

  8. I think that when kids have to work for what they want they take care of it better. We live on a cattle farm and work in tobacco so the kids earn money to buy things they want. Thank you for the post!!

  9. Love this!!! Teaching your kids to be independent and to work is something really great. This way they can appreciate the ocjects they but with their work and also their parents hard work.

    Thanks for this !!

  10. Absolutely! The sense of entitlement that many children have these days is appalling. A little work, responsibility, and ownership are some of the best gifts you can give a child. Thanks for the important post!

  11. My two eldest kids have just started doing jobs for money. They have three jars, SAVE, SPEND, GIVE. We have had a money talk with them about how to manage their money responsibly and why it is better to save it than to spend it all. So far so good! Rose @ Our House of Love

  12. I did this a long time ago when my kids were very young. They had chores from the moment they could walk to when they left home to live with their spouse. Start them when they are very young. It is def. a lot easier to teach them from the get go of understanding. Love this article.

  13. Such a great work ethic to enstill in children. I think it is so important to learn a work ethic at a young age and to build on it as they get older.

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