Teach a Child to Work, part 1

Life is about work. Life is about attitude. Both things come easier to some than others, but most successful individuals – regardless of how they define success – will confirm that you get out what you put in and hard work is rewarded.

Unfortunately our culture has forgotten this. As a preschool teacher, I am right in the middle of the liberal culture which is destroying these values. While there are children in the world who are required to walk miles just to get enough water to make it through the day, the children in the United States are given awards for having their name on a roster, and the adults they become are given allowances to buy candy and soda. This is not the way life is meant to work. Even if handouts are available, someone still has to foot the bill for them. Consolation trophies are paid for by organizations or coaches, food stamps are paid for by working citizens, free school lunches are paid for by the school district… which is paid for by working citizens. Nothing is free and what is fair is for each person to be responsible for themselves, and then to be generous to others.

I recently met a couple who is expecting their first baby. They had just come from a parenting class, offered free through a liberal community college in my area. This couple told me that the instructor discouraged the use of consequences for young children. They actually said something to the effect of “Adults live in a world of action and consequence, but young children don’t understand this”. This parenting class advocated that parents work on reasoning with their young children and save consequences for when the child is closer to eight or nine and is able to understand how their consequences relate to their actions.

There are not enough words or punctuation in the English language for me to communicate how absurd this is! Young children cannot understand reasoning. They don’t even speak English! What they do understand is experience and one of the first lessons a child learns is cause and effect, beginning with learning that they get what they want by crying, to watching a block tower fall over when kicked, to experiencing the results of their behavior.

A child’s personality will determine the way they naturally react to situations, how they approach life, their natural work ethic, and their temperament. While no one can change who a person is, a parent’s job is to work with a child’s personality to shape their character. As a matter of fact, studies show that a child’s personality is often established by age three. If a child is not taught to obey and submit himself as one small part of a larger society, there comes a point where it is too late. Certainly age eight or nine is way past that point.

I am now seeing the results of these thoughts on childrearing. Commonly referred to as “millenials”, the first generations of these softly-raised children are entering the workforce. Due to economic fluctuations, as many as five generations worth of workers are working alongside each other in the same workplace. Childcare is a prime example of these types of workplaces. While the grandmotherly-type is cuddling the babies in the infant room, high school students are popping in after school to play with the “cuties” in the toddler room. The differences in work ethic are palpable. In general, the older or more conservatively raised teachers are dedicated to their students, take ownership of their classrooms, have great attitudes about their responsibilities, and are faithful to a fault. In contrast, many of the younger or more liberal teachers (including those who are raising their own children in the same soft manner as we are discussing here) do minimal work, have excessive absences, complain about their responsibilities, and expect a pay raise after sorry performance. As our culture continues to embrace these attitudes, all areas are suffering, including increased crime; poor care of possessions; lack of motivation to further education and career resulting in fewer professionals, artists, scientists, and mathematicians; lack of standards and values; and overall reduced quality of life.

Hard work and responsibility need to be foundational in a child’s life in order to set them up for future success. As a preschool teacher, I have come to realize that the most valuable lessons I teach my young students are not about letters and numbers. These are foundational concepts that I certainly introduce, however, young children under the age of five or six are not always at a place of understanding how these concepts work. What they do learn from preschool is being part of a social setting. They are learning to work together, to follow social conventions, and to accept group learning. These are all forms of discipline which will feed into their continued success in school, from attending to and obeying what their teachers say, to understanding that a group lesson is meant for them personally, to developing strategies to be successful learning what they (as an individual) need help with.

Childrearing is a topic close to my heart. I have had great success as a classroom manager and caregiver and I have a lot to say about child development, discipline techniques, and family culture. However, one suggestion arose as I was thinking through this post. I would like to advocated that parents consider paying their children for getting good grades.

For the sake of keeping this post to a readable length, I will expand on this in my next installation.



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