Teach a Child to Work, part 2

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. In this post, I am continuing my train of thought from the previous post, which comments on the work ethic in our society. There are many facets to be discussed, but for today I would like to advocate that parents consider paying their children for getting good grades.

This is not something my parents did for me, nor was it ever a topic of discussion. School came easily to me and I continue to work hard for its own sake. It is only in thinking on this topic in the larger context of our culture that I see the value in this idea.

I fully believe children need to work hard and take responsibility simply because they are a part of society. These values can best be taught at home in contributing to the family home and caring for his or her own room. No adult gets paid for doing chores, but is instead required to care for his or her own space for health and practical reasons. In the same way, children can certainly clean their room, do the dishes, and help with various chores in order to learn to do work for the sake of work and maintenance.

However, when a person becomes an adult and takes on a job or profession, that person is rewarded for his or her efforts. You do the work, you get a check. A person of strong character takes pride in their work and chooses to show his or her own character by performing well, regardless of the recognition. In an ideal world, that performance is recognized and rewarded. Holding or doing a job is for the sake of a result – serving a company, furthering one’s own career, and earning a paycheck.

As a child, the counterpart of this is going to school. Yes, it is necessary and required to go to school, but holding a job is usually necessary and required as well. Earning an education and working for grades is excellent for personal development, but is generally intended to eventually help a child be interpersonally and financially successful in life. Good grades lead to good college, good college leads to good job, good job leads to financial security. Alternately, learning certain skills (such as a trade) and applying those skills comes to the same end of making a living. So doesn’t it make sense to begin instilling this understanding at a young age? If a person does good work and pushes him or herself, this usually results in greater responsibility and reward. Therefore, if a child shows dedication to school, exerts effort in study and projects, and ultimately gets good grades, it makes sense that child can learn to view their schoolwork as their profession and earn a paycheck, just as they will be doing for the rest of their lives.

Conversely, if a person simply shows up and does minimal work, they get the minimally required compensation and might possibly lose their job and references, thus damaging their ability to earn a living and have the things they want and need. Therefore, if a child simply goes to school – or sometimes chooses not to go – and does the minimal work, it makes sense the child earns the consequences of this behavior. These consequences might include more child-friendly results, such as grounding or other consequences, but practically could also include withholding less necessary novelties, such as gaming systems, name brand clothing, snacks, new items (as opposed to used) and other items that a person with a lower income would not be able to afford. The intention of this view isn’t to inflict punishment, but to instill an understanding of how life works. It should also teach the child to recognize what is necessary for life (a place to live, clothes to wear, healthy food to eat, the ability to get where you need to be, paying bills) and what things are novelties that a person only gets if they have succeeded in providing the necessities (a night out at the movies, the latest fashion, chips and candy, and various entertainment). Many financial experts also have things to say about how to teach a child to manage money, such as giving some and saving some, which are also valuable skills.

My point here is not to make a child’s life militant or all about the grades. Even as adults we need to find a work-life balance. In my own life, I am blessed to be in a place where I have minimal expenses so I only need minimal pay. This is allowing me to be available to care for and homeschool my nephew, while also teaching some dear friends. I am very busy and put in the work, but the majority of my effort is not paid. It is something I do because I love it and I see the value in the work, apart from the money. I am also protecting Saturday as my one day per week that I do not go anywhere. I currently work six days per week and I know that I need to have some alone time to preserve my ability to be kind and have a good attitude at work. Career is not a priority for me, unless you count my passion as a teacher, which I am doing mostly for free these days. Work-life balance is very important and I adamantly do not want my life to be spent on the job. Likewise, children should be given the majority of their time to play and they should be able to create memories in safe and positive ways. Parents are available to carry most of the burden in childhood, and I fully believe in letting kids be kids.

Yet they won’t always be. As children grow and move closer to adulthood, it seems wise to instill practical skills that will help them in their futures as they make the transition between childhood and adulthood. Rather than letting them live a free-for-all life as a child and then throwing them into a world where they don’t know how to care for themselves, be responsible, manage their money, and improve their status, we can give them the principles along the way to help them as they grow and which they will eventually be able to teach to their own children. This is how we will help our society maintain strong and responsible values.

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