Developing effective work habits in high school
April 26, 2010 9:51 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to help my brother form a strong work ethic while he is young?

Hi there,

I have a brother in grade 9. I'm home for the summer and I've noticed that he's starting to be negatively affected by procrastination already. I've always hated my inability to make myself do work and I'm wondering if there's any way I can help my brother form good work habits now.

I've slowly gotten him into the habit of flossing daily by doing it together and making a sort of joke out of it. Would something similar - getting into a pleasant routine - work for this?

If you feel your parents, teachers, or older siblings ever did anything that helped you form good work habits, please share! Thank you!
posted by mossicle to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this is in the vein of what you're asking, but...

....volunteer work. Nothing is as motivating as work you're not being paid for -- once you figure out how important it is to those who benefit from it. So many fabulous work ethics stem from volunteer work that I would suggest it is more important for teens to embrace than any other character-building activity.
posted by liquado at 10:02 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Compliment his effort when he demonstrates a good work ethic. Focus on aspects of his behavior that he decided to carry out, and emphasize that that it was his conscious decision that made it possible. New York Magazine had an article on praising kids that may be helpful.
posted by mnemonic at 10:08 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Praise things achieved by his working hard. Praise the hard work, that is: "That's great (that you passed the test) you worked so hard at that." Positive reinforcement can make great changes.

(On preview - echoing mnemonic)
posted by anadem at 10:10 PM on April 26, 2010

Best answer: Let him see you working hard. And just as important: let him see you enjoying it. Let him see that work, good work, honest work, is simply any process with which we are fully engaged. Whether it's mowing the lawn or writing a paper or peeling potatoes at the shelter kitchen. Show him that hard work is its own reward.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

The book you want to read about "praise him for working hard" is Nurtureshock. That's the first chapter, and a later chapter about a program called Tools of the Mind also discusses other things to help work ethic. Since you seem concerned about raising him right, you'll enjoy the whole book, though.
posted by Nattie at 10:43 PM on April 26, 2010

Help him find something that he loves to do. Then, putting in the hours and working hard won't seem like as much of a chore for him.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 5:06 AM on April 27, 2010

I'm a big fan of individual sports demonstrating the principle that the harder you work, the greater the success. Of course, I don't think anyone can teach anyone else anything, unless the student is willing.

Bitteroldpunk is talking about the Flow experience which is a great one for a teenager to learn. People are often happier at work than they are on vacation.
posted by mearls at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2010

I agree with mearls. There is no activity which is so certain to show measurable benefit proportional to effort invested as athletics or sports or training. Whether it's running or lifting or playing table tennis, practice makes you better and it is readily obvious.

If he likes movies a very good one is Apollo 13. The nerd engineers are as much the heroes in that movie as the astronauts. He has heard this a million times already, but maybe he will admire those people and you can point out to him that they had to work their ass off in school for years to get themselves a job like that. I have actually used this technique on a young person bored with school and it helped.
posted by bukvich at 11:23 AM on April 27, 2010

Get him to associate work with money. It sounds eye-rollingly simple but I'm not sure it's an obvious concept for kids these days (I sound so old!).

I actually never really got the concept until a couple summers ago when I desperately needed money and couldn't find a job to save my life. (I had considered jobs as kind of just another activity in my week that I could just call out of if I had something better to do. Yeah. Pretty spoiled. Pretty stupid.) My parents made a list of things that needed to get done around the house, with a pay rate assigned to each job. Like $5 for mowing; $10 for weeding. I got paid according to what got done, not in an hourly rate. Hourly pay for teens entices them to slack off - you're gonna get paid no matter what, you might well do the bare minimum. See if you're parents will go for it.
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 4:20 PM on April 27, 2010

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