Work > Talent: Why to Focus on Your Child’s Work Ethic Rather Than Natural Talent



As parents, it’s easy to focus on our kid’s natural talents. We see something they are gifted in and we lavish on praise. Parents are so proud talking about their children’s attributes saying, “They are so talented!” or “They can do anything!” These statements are encouraging but comes at a cost.


The more kids hear they are so talented, smart, gifted, athletic, etc., the more they only rely on their natural ability to get them where they want to go in life. Whenever they face something challenging, they don’t think they should have to put forth any effort because they should be great at it. They don’t have to study algebra because they are so smart. They don’t have to practice their instrument because they are so gifted. They don’t have to work because they are so good at life.


While parents try to encourage and build up their kids, more often the not many children grow up struggling in life when they only rely on natural talent. When they face a challenge of any kind, they give up and say, “That’s just not one of my strengths.” They are trained not to value effort or work. Kids become stuck in a place where they are defined by their natural abilities rather than what they can do. Why try when you are rewarded for accomplishing a lot with little effort?


Why Focus on Work?

Promoting a strong work ethic over talent will help your child accomplish anything in life. The power of a hard worker is the ability to accomplish whatever they set their mind to. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michael Jordan, Mark Cuban, Jeff Bezos, Venus and Serena Williams, and Travis Kalanick (the founder of Uber) all worked relentlessly to achieve their goals. Michal Jordan’s natural ability did not make him a legend. It was spending countless hours perfecting his skills that helped him accomplish his basketball dreams.


The benefit of focusing on work rather than natural talent does not necessarily mean your son or daughter will become the next Jeff Bezos or RBG. It means you will set them up for success. A life not set by limitations but by how big they can dream. Reaching that dream starts with a hard worker mindset. Promote your child’s work ethic daily with these three tips.


3 Ways to Promote Work

1. Allow Them to Struggle

As parents, we don’t want to see our kids suffer. However, it’s beneficial to provide a safe space for our children to work through challenges rather than doing it for them. When we do tasks for our kids, it’s teaching them to rely on us rather than themselves. Doing this repetitively will teach our kids to always seek help when they struggle rather than trying to figure it out on their own.


If they ask for help, give it. But don’t completely take over. To use a basketball example: assist rather than dunk. Let them do most of the work, just help a little. It’s okay to intervene if your child is about to hurt themselves, someone, or something else. But give them the chance to work out that hard math problem or write that tough book report. This will build self-confidence and autonomy. We can't get stronger without struggle.


2. Praise Effort, Not Outcome

As your child works, focus on the effort they are putting into the activity. Let them know you are proud of them for working on that project as long as they did. Give them encouragement for how hard they are trying. It’s okay to give praise when they get the answer right on a problem, but give the same amount of praise on the effort it took them to get that answer.


It’s okay to have high expectations. There is nothing wrong with wanting your child to get all A’s. But that doesn’t mean we only focus on the outcome. Talk with your kids about your desire for them to succeed and how hard work will help them get there. Hard work can help them be successful and get all A’s.


3. Learn from Failure

If your child gets a failing grade, talk with them about it. Help them understand what happened and how they can change their work patterns to improve their grade. Explore what they could have done differently and why. We want them to value failure rather than fear it.


Kids will learn to fear failure if they are grounded or yelled at every time they fail. When they worked hard and failed, express love and support. Encourage understanding of why they failed. If they did not work hard and failed, then it’s okay to implement a consequence. Be upset with the lack of effort, not the failing grade.



New School Year, New Perspective

With a new school year starting soon, it’s a great opportunity to promote your child’s work ethic. Your child’s self-confidence will grow. They will accomplish more than they thought possible. You will be ecstatic! Your child will not be limited this school year by their own natural abilities.


When Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, was in high school, he wanted to be valedictorian. When his classmates heard this, they knew they were all aiming for second place. Nothing stood on Jeff’s way because of his hard work. Your child doesn’t have to be the next Jeff Bezos. However, like Michael Jordan and Jeff Bezos, hard work can make your child a legend.

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