Friday, September 3, 2010

The Value of Instilling a Work Ethic In Children

In the previous post I mentioned how our family built our own houses growing up.  Sounds like fun right?  When you're a kid, that isn't so certain.  When other kids are sleeping in during the summer time and enjoying the lazy days of summer, you envy them.  You think of how nice it would be to be in bed right then, enjoying the nice air conditioning, while you're sweating in the Vegas heat, hammering away at the roof with no shade to cover you.  My friends would tell me that my parents slaved us to death.  I must admit that I agreed with them.  I started to dislike my dad for all the "cruel" theory of work he would insist that we do. 

On quite a few times I would rebel and tell him I wasn't going to do this or that when building.  Sure enough no matter what I said, it was done.  When I was RPCed (Required Parent Conference) in Middle School for doing something naughty, I thought, " Ooooo great.  I'll get a day out of school to relax and have fun while all my classmates are doing all that schoolwork."  Instead my dad handed me a broom and said, "Get to the 'LOT' (what we called the house we were building) and start sweeping up."  He told me I was to pick up all the wood, sweep up all the sawdust, do such and such and such...  I immediately thought my dad was the cruelest father ever.  How could he possibly make me do that?  The plywood had just been set on the roof and there was sawdust EVERYWHERE.  It was a complete mess.  And I must admit that the thought of this event YEARS later still makes me shutter.  I grudgingly finished it as fast as I could so I could get back inside to the AC.  It took HOURS to get it done.  He woke me up before he left for work, and I didn't finish til about an hour before my school would have been getting out.  Needless to say, I worked hard manual labor longer than I would have just been in school.  The next day when I was able to go back to school, I was happy to be back. 

All those years while performing all those countless hours of labor, I truly started to hate my dad.  I thought he had a barbaric parenting style.  I would have loved to be playing with my friends, enjoying the summer months like they were.  They would go to the school by our house and run through the water sprinklers during the evening.  I remember being invited quite a few times and was immediately told NO by my dad.  Sleepovers?  "No, you need to do this and that on the lot tomorrow like I already told you."  Crushed, I continued to resent this work he was making me do.  Isn't this man's work to do?  Why should I be doing it?  I had an older brother, but he had a job and proceeded to stay out with friends afterward.  In fact, my brother would call my little sister and I "the slaves" of the family.  He thought it was funny and would make fun of us to no end. 

No, my dad wasn't that bad, though at the time I surely thought so.  He would let us do some things on occassion, and we would surely cherish them more than if we were allowed to go to everything I am sure.  Looking back on this though, I am so incredibly greatful that he taught me the value of work.  I know many people my age who don't work hard and haven't ever been taught how to.  Man, do I love my dad for the lessons in life he taught. 

I remember having to hammer on the roof, and I figured I would do it really fast in my section and not do it all the way like I was told.  I figured my dad would have no way of knowing.  Man was I wrong!!  That same night he was inside the structure of the house and looked up at the roof to see so many "shiners" as we called them.  (Nails just hammed through plywood and not going through the trusses.)  He then noticed how far apart the nails were and that there were only 4 in the entire side of that sheet of plywood.  I was supposed to have put a nail 2 " apart on the entire side.  My dad continued to ask me about it, and I started to lie and say it wasn't my section.  He knew better since he specifically told us which sections were ours the night before, and not to mention the fact I couldn't even look at him when I was telling him it wasn't my section.  Sure enough I was informed I was to get back up there and do it again the correct way, and I was not allowed to come back into our house down the street until it was done.  Grumbing and bitter, I learned not to take short cuts.   

We weren't afraid of hard work after being used to it for so long.  Now days I see so many parents who don't expect their kids to do anything.  I will freely admit that I don't expect much out of my kids.  But who is benefitting from this?  It might be easier for me to just do it to save time, but later on will they know the value of work?  Will they know how to do things? 

My daughter is 6.  When I was 6, I had a list of chores I had to do every Saturday morning.  In fact, we were to go NOWHERE unless our chores were done.  I had to clean one bathroom, my room AND one other common area room in the house.  In fact, that is what all 3 of older kids had to do at the time.  There was no question about it.  You better believe we would race to whatever room we wanted to do so someone else didn't do it first, resulting in having to do a room that we hated in the houes (like the kitchen YUCK).  If we went out to play without doing our chores we would get in so much trouble. 

So what am I really teaching my kids?  What work ethic am I teaching them in life?  I think I need to address this, so I can raise hard working adults.  Without the guidance and "cruel parenting" (as I called it at the time) I have no idea where I would be.  I would probably just have given up and resorted to living off the government and not working whatsoever.  Thankfully for me, I was taught better than that.  Or as my dad would always say when I did anything wrong, YOU KNOW BETTER THAN THAT!  Ouch, the words that could break you harder than anything else. 

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