Do you have a box-checker who speeds through tasks just to get them done? Here’s how to teach your child the value of a job well done.
Is your child a “box-checker”?
She wants to finish the job you ask her to do, regardless of whether she did the task well or not.
A quick smiley face for an art project? Done. Tossed the books onto the shelf? Cleaned.
From homework to dressing herself, she’s eager to finish—and finish quickly—regardless of quality. As much as you appreciate the speediness, you also don’t want to focus on ticking off the boxes and crossing off to-dos.
Instead, you want her to do a good job and put effort where it matters. To think long-term benefits, not short-term gains.
How can you encourage her to do a good job—and actually take pride in her work?
How to teach your child the value of a job well done
Your child doesn’t have to put painstaking effort into everything she does, but putting effort is an important skill to learn. By doing a job well done, she learns that:
- Doing it well once can pay off more than doing it haphazardly many times
- Her contributions to the household matter
- She can feel proud of herself for anything she does
- Being thoughtful and deliberate are important
So, if you have a box-checker at home, don’t worry—you can still turn things around. Take a look at how to teach your child the value of a job well done:
1. Don’t nag your child
No one likes nagging—parents or kids. Sure, nagging could get your child to finally do the task, but she’ll do it without effort just to stop the nagging. Not exactly valuing a job well done.
Instead, find ways to communicate tasks in a respectful way, not in a condescending tone. Ask yourself if you’d talk to your spouse or coworker in that same tone of voice. If not, experiment with speaking to your child ask if she was someone else.
Then, set expectations from the start as well as a time frame of when it should be done. Remind her that she has until dinner time to finish her homework. Then, let her devise her own ways of managing her time, even if it means she forgets and now has to deal with the consequences at school.
Use routines to ingrain regular chores that she does without thinking. In the beginning, guide her to make her bed, pick out her clothes, and brush her teeth. Do these tasks in the same order every morning until they become so automatic that you don’t have to nag her at all.
And bring these topics up when she’s not tired, hungry, irritable, or in the middle of something. Otherwise, she won’t be receptive or willing to give it a try, and will see it as nagging all over again.
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2. Focus on the process, not only the end result
One mistake we make that can lead to poor effort is highlighting the end result. We’re not happy until they put the toys away. We praise their painting once they finish. We high-five them for a perfect score on one test but focus on the one or two questions they got wrong on another.
You can see how a focus on the end result can send the wrong message. In celebrating the end, we overlook the effort they needed to exert to get there. Meanwhile, they hear the message loud and clear: what matters the most is the final product.
While it’s important to do the job, we can’t forget the process of getting there. You can:
- Praise your child for trying new and efficient techniques.
- Tell her how proud you are of her for not giving up when it got hard.
- Frame challenges as exciting and new.
- Praise her for taking her time to get it right.
3. Don’t accept mediocre work
Did you child scribble a few lines on paper without any thought and call it your Mother’s Day card? You wouldn’t be alone in feeling let down and disappointed.
Of course, well-intended scribbles from a smiling, proud toddler can melt your heart. But when your child didn’t put any effort and just wanted to get it done, you know that she can do much better.
It’s okay to establish expectations and standards. Tell her to try harder if she draws sloppy pictures for homework. You know her potential and abilities, and the pictures he did weren’t up to par with what you know she can do.
And you don’t have to praise everything she does. Ask her what else she can do to make it better. Suggest working on it another time when she’s not so tired. Be gentle, but honest. Avoid over-praising for something that doesn’t deserve it.
4. Slow down—it’s not a race
One of my kids was brushing his teeth at lightning speed—at one point, we caught him brushing his teeth for a total of four seconds. “That was so fast,” my husband said. “Take it slower, and hum the alphabet song while you do it. Don’t stop until you finish the song.”
I get it. Kids are all about racing and winning and who’s the fastest, oldest, tallest, you name it.
But speed isn’t always the winner. If you want something done well, don’t focus on getting it done fast. Explain that a fast job can mean a sloppy one, or one filled with overlooked mistakes. Let her know that you’d rather she does it well once, even if it takes longer, than to do it fast only to have to redo it again.
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Going through the motions just to finish can be tempting for your child, especially if she doesn’t see the importance of these tasks.
You can instill the value of a job well done by focusing more on the process instead of the final outcome. Don’t accept shoddy work or nag her to do things. Explain why doing a good job is important, and encourage her to take it slow and not focus on rushing so much.
You can encourage her to do her best—and not just check off boxes and call it a day.
p.s. Check out the children’s book, The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi, all about growth mindset:
Get more tips:
- 7 Surprising Reasons Kids Need Responsibilities
- How to Motivate Children to Do Their Best
- How to Teach Our Kids to Embrace Mistakes
- 5 Homework Mistakes You Should Definitely Avoid
- 8 Long Term Benefits of Reading to Your Child
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