Teaching Your Child To Work
As president of HSLDA I have responsibility for about thirty employees. As we interview potential workers, we have found that there are four qualities which are becoming increasingly scarce. These qualities should be emphasized in children from the youngest ages on up to prepare them to become good workers when they are adults.
1. Respect for Authority. Employers want workers who will respect the principles of a chain of command and who will cheerfully receive a directive as an order. Too many workers believe that their supervisor’s directives are merely suggestions which can be followed or not, depending on how the employee feels about the matter. Others will do what their supervisor asks but only with a begrudging attitude. A worker who is willing to follow directions with a smile will shine as a star in the eyes of any employer.
This is an attitude which home schooling fathers must instill in their children. If we fail to teach our children to obey, they will never follow directions on the job. If we are tyrants and obtain obedience through undue harshness, then our children will probably become the kind of workers who do what they are told-and no more-and with a sullen attitude.
We need to teach our children to joyfully obey and genuinely respect those in authority over us. Our willingness as fathers to display respect for authority in our own lives is a critical factor in helping our children develop a proper attitude toward authority. Do you show a proper respect for your boss? Do you have a good attitude toward the leadership of your church? What do you say about traffic policemen in the presence of your children? How do you talk about the President and other political leaders?
You can respect those in leadership without having to agree with them about everything. If you disagree, you should model the practice of a respectful appeal for your children. If your Governor supports a gay rights bill, for example, calling the Governor bad names in front of your children will not instill the kind of attitude you desire in your children. Instead of bad-mouthing, write a strong letter of appeal to the Governor and let your children read it. You should then pray for your Governor to change his mind. And since the political context allows us to change those in authority over us, you should work diligently to get a better person in office the next election.
2. Taking initiative. As an employer I always value a person who not only does what he is told but sees something else which needs to be done and does it. Taking initiative is a skill and attitude which is much easier to develop as a child than as an adult.
If your child is told to wash the dishes, he has the opportunity to show initiative if he not only washes the dishes but also sweeps the floor. A child who learns to walk into a room, see a problem, and resolve it will climb to the upper echelon of any business.
3. Striving for excellence. Too many in our society have forgotten how to be excellent. We are satisfied with being “good enough.” When we were in school the prevailing practice was to produce “acceptable” papers. Now the prevailing attitude on the job is to produce “acceptable” goods and services.
We need to go beyond being “good enough” in home education. Our children should learn to read, understand, critique, and judge literature. They should have a thorough introduction to some of the great books of literature.
Our children should also be able to write well. It is not enough for our children to be able to write clear prose. We should teach our children to write logically and persuasively.
Our children should master basic math and be able to understand and perform some advanced math. Not every child needs calculus. But the ability to perform algebra and geometry are benchmarks of acceptable mathematical performance. These two courses are also excellent methods for teaching logic and reasoning. My ninth grade algebra teacher taught me skills I frequently use now to analyze a proposed piece of legislation. Logic, orderly thinking, and reasoning skills are important in many fields outside of the traditional careers associated with math.
There is one academic subject in which we need to go far, far beyond public school standards. We need to provide the best available instruction in the history and geography of our nation. While the public schools are drowning children in the academically meaningless and morally damaging world of “multiculturalism,” we should be teaching our children to thoroughly know the history and philosophies of the men and women who founded this country. If American children are not taught the principles of freedom, America will not be free for very long.
4. Willingness to work hard. There are too many lazy people. Go to a shopping mall and try to get a clerk to help you. Go to any fast food restaurant. Chances are you will encounter mostly lazy people-people who have no enthusiasm for work.
Let me tell you a secret. I am a lazy person by nature. I do not like to work. It is true that I am very busy and work long hours for Home School Legal Defense Association. It is true that I help my wife with the home schooling of our eight children. It is true that I do work around the house. It is true that for a year-and-a-half I pastured my church on top of all my other responsibilities (as a volunteer). I coach a softball team, chair an international human rights organization, and write books. Nonetheless, I remain a lazy person by nature.
Obviously, something happened to me along the way to adulthood that allowed me to overcome my natural tendency toward laziness. That “something” was my father. He taught me to work. And I have to admit it was over my extreme protests. I fought him every step of the way.
I was forced to mow the lawn, paint the house, re-roof our house, dig ditches for our irrigation system, and dig up some awful stuff in the yard called “quack grass.” Since my father was employed by the public schools and received only one pay check at the beginning of the summer, our family almost always ran out of money later in the summer. When that happened our whole family went out and picked fruit. We picked peaches, cherries, plums, pears, strawberries, and raspberries. I remember having to help significantly from age eight on. And I hated it. I cried and I screamed-literally.
I look back today and believe that my father did me an enormous amount of good by forcing me to work and work hard. I don’t want to give you the impression that we never played, because we did. I remember with considerable fondness the great fun our family would have when we would finish a day’s work in the summer and go to the city pool for family hour. And I was much older before I worked all summer long. In my younger years it was only for a two-to-three week period that I worked anything approximating full time. But compared to many kids around me, and compared to almost all kids today, I was compelled to work hard.
I wasn’t given any realistic choice to live a lazy life. As a consequence, my natural tendency toward laziness was eventually overcome by my father's diligence. I still have a heart that is easily tempted by laziness. But as a child I was trained up in the way I should go and now that I am old I have a very hard time departing from my training and returning to my natural state.
I believe that fathers have special responsibilities to prepare their children for adulthood. Obviously, neither parent has exclusive duties with younger or older children. Both parents need to be involved throughout the child's life. But fathers do have special responsibilities as a child approaches maturity.
Fathers have a duty to see that their children are properly prepared for a career. When children are at home, the father has the clear biblical mandate to be the provider. God never intended for children to receive lifelong provision from their father. God intended that somewhere along the line, fathers would stop simply giving their children a fish and teach them how to fish for themselves. There are many facets of your responsibility to train your children for a career. The first step is to teach your child good work habits.
Adapted from The Homeschooling Father