By Maralee Turner
Success is achieved through work. In fact, all admirable men and women, husbands and wives, and mothers and fathers have a developed a strong work ethic. My husband, Brian, the 10th of twelve children, learned to work by assisting his parents in their family-owned wholesale candy business. Once the candy arrived, the family organized and put away the boxes of candy. Then, he and his siblings prepared and sometimes helped deliver the candy orders. This work needed to be completed each week day, in addition to other family responsibilities, homework and public jobs. The success of their business and livelihood depended upon the assistance of each family member. As exemplified, work is best taught at home by conscientious parents. A family who works together can teach vital skills of self-sufficiency, team-work, responsibility, and resilience to their children. Individuals who abdicate work responsibilities often are afflicted with fractured relationships, reduced health, decreased school success, and the inability to provide for themselves and their dependents.
Do Children Really Have Time For Work?
- Despite work being valued highly by over 90% of Americans, in many households, there is very little time actually allocated for household work.
As of 2003, children spent only about 24 minutes per day doing household chores. This is a 12% decline from 1997 and a 25% decline from 1981. While children do attend school and complete homework, and participate in sports or other organized activities, many also spend excessive amounts of their time on media. It may be advantageous for families to log their activities to determine if their time is being spent productively or otherwise. Children actually have the time to work and can help with household chores in practically all stages of their development. Not learning to work effectively as a youth has tragic results that extend into adulthood. Work ethic and self-sufficiency are vital skills that many people lack upon high school graduation and even college graduation!
Will Children Be Prepared For Future Employment?
- 57% of U.S. CEOs report education and workforce preparedness is a “very important” or “most important” policy issue among employees.
Employers need workers who possess knowledge and accompanying degrees, but also possess exceptional skills in work ethic, collaboration, written and verbal communication, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and leadership. Unfortunately, many of our children are not being prepared adequately in our homes, schools, or the community to enter the local workforce, let alone a global one. Many employers note that their employee’s skills in afore mentioned areas are only adequate or even deficient, especially among high school graduates. A coach, a clergy leader, a teacher, or a day care worker can nurture these skills, but it is not their job alone.
Parents are in the ideal position to encourage and foster the abilities and skills needed for future employment in the home setting. “The research does suggest that the family makes important contributions to workforce education in a manner beyond that which is typically recognized. Disregarding or oversimplifying the role of the family in occupational preparation may lead to missed opportunities to nurture and support work-related learning among children and adults …” Children should learn to cook, do laundry, clean bathrooms, mow lawns, do car maintenance tasks, and/or serve in the community. The abilities learned through simple chores may seem unrelated to “real jobs”, but they do transfer to future employment. Often, laboring as a family at home or serving in the community are the preeminent ways to learn the urgently needed employment skills.
Does Unemployment Really Harm Children?
- “In 2013, there were 3 million people [living] in poverty…” Poverty is known to be associated with a decreased work ethic and unemployment, among other things.
Sadly, however, instead of being just ill equipped for jobs, some Americans are abdicating employment altogether, turning to welfare for sustenance. In the 1930s, due to wars, hunger, political issues, and economic instability, many Americans began suffering from unemployment and underemployment. In response, official governmental aid was established. The original program was intended to be small, but has expanded dramatically. Currently, many unemployed Americans receive governmental assistance. While temporary aid may be helpful, and some Americans need sustained assistance, our communities and families are dependent upon work.
Unemployment affects a current family, but unemployment, poverty, and welfare can affect a future family as well. According to the Heritage Foundation, “welfare dependency as a child has a negative effect on the earning and employment capacity of young men. The more welfare income received by a boy’s family during his childhood, the lower the boy’s earning will be as an adult …” Additionally, poverty, combined with welfare, is particularly detrimental to a child’s development. June O’Neill found that a child’s IQ may be reduced by as much as 20% the longer the child spends on welfare. Lastly, welfare is also associated with illegitimacy and even seems to promote it. Being born outside of marriage and raised in a single-parent home is associated with behavioral and emotional problems, increased teen sexual activity, and criminal activity. Welfare statistics are indeed concerning. What is equally injurious, however, is the fact that “government aid is usually based on one-sided aid without accountability for a person’s regained responsibility for self and toward his community.”
Not only is work needful for every home, it is beneficial for every family as well. In fact, “work is generally good for health and wellbeing ” and “long term work absence, work disability and unemployment have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.” Working as a child also strongly correlates with a propensity towards success as an adult. My husband’s whole family concluded that the benefits of work were literally very sweet! Besides being able to eat the reject candy, the whole family developed a strong work ethic that has extended well into adulthood. All twelve children currently labor vigorously as a spouse, a parent and/or an employee in their chosen fields.
Parents from all economic circumstances, ethnic backgrounds, and education levels can and should teach their children to work. Responsibility and a commendable work ethic are skills every parent and child will need. If we are to prepare our children for their futures, more of their time should be spent working. Children will one day need the same skills learned in their own homes and families to not only subsist, but flourish as well. The right amount and type of work aids intellect, benefits health, gives meaning and purpose to life, prepares children for success, and trains children for future employment. Truly, work is vital whether, we like it or not!
(Artwork courtesy of Natalie Stringam)