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Saturday, January 04, 2014

One Way We're Damaging Our Kids

My very, very favorite college professor (hello Heather!) posted an awesome article on Facebook today.  I am sometimes dubious about the publication it came from (occasionally some dodgy stuff comes out of there!), though it mostly contains some serious, thoughtful gems.

But this article?  This was one of those articulate, well-thought out, powerful articles I agreed with from the first letter of the title to the last little bit o' punctuation.

And what was the topic?  Yet another way we are ruining our kids.

The title is 'What to Pay the Babysitter' and can be viewed here, but it goes WAY beyond calculating a fair market rate for child care workers.  It speaks deeply, honestly and illuminatingly to one of the ways we are setting our kids up for failure in the 'real world.'  Sadly, it's only one of many.

The main idea of the article is that we are overpaying mere children for jobs that require no training, effort, or special skills.  14 year old kids expect $10 or more an hour to babysit children (the equivalent of an almost $30,000 pre-tax annual salary!) for giving their charges a pre-made supper, watching the boob tube and then sending them to bed.  No dishes.  No cleaning.  No educational or engaging developmentally appropriate activities.  Just.  Hanging.  Out.

Likewise, some kids are charging (and getting!!) $30 for mowing a lawn. . .which usually takes less than an hour.   That's the equivalent of about a $75,000 pre-tax annual salary.  For pushing a mower. . .most of which are self-propelling!


The article also mentions that only 28% of 16-18 year olds have their driving licenses, down from 43% in 1983.  The author suggests it's because kids are happy to be carted around and have their parents pay for everything.  I'm sadly inclined to agree.

So why do I fear this information?  Because it illuminates another way we are setting our children up for failure.

If we overpay extravagantly for unskilled jobs:

  • What motivation does any kid have to work at the local burger joint, sporting paper hats and  mopping floors for mere minimum wage?  And if a kid won't do that, how will he build a resume and establish a work history for a 'real' job later?

  • Where is the motivation to be creative and hard working and thrifty in order to save up for some desired treasure if an hour here and an hour there of no-brainer/no effort "work" plus a steady stream of cash from a parent gets everything a teenage heart can desire?

  • Where are the life-lessons of diligence and stick-to-it-tiveness and determination?

I ask you: where are the lemonade stands and recycling of pop bottles and saving up of birthday money?
And what will happen when we thrust our adult children into the real world, never having had to use their brains, learn a skill, budget or understand the concept of self-denial?

Do we expect that, somehow, our kids will know the value of working for their keep, how to prioritize 'must haves' over 'wants,' and how to see a job through to the end. . .even if it is boring, uninspiring, or decidedly un-glamorous?

Or suddenly understanding the art of budgeting and saving and thinking about the future?

And what will happen when there is no self-gratifying carrot dangled in front of their noses, yet there are piles of laundry and stacks of dishes to do, as well as bags of garbage to take out?

What.  Will.  Happen?!?!

Life is hard.  It has TONS of unglamorous bits.  There are long stretches where we must motivate ourselves without the benefit of cheerleaders or prizes.  Millions of times we must rouse ourselves to address the mundane, dirty, monotonous and downright yucky.

If we don't teach our children how to do that. . .how to motivate themselves, use their creativity and inner strength. . .how to think of the future and work toward it. . .what legacy are we giving them?

I'm not okay with that.

Our children do daily chores.  They are not paid to do them, nor are they given treats or prizes when they complete them.  They enjoy all the benefits of our lovely mountain home, and, therefore, help to maintain it.

Our children work to earn 'extra' money.  If they are willing to put in some effort, they are rewarded appropriately.  None of the tasks are exciting, and most are most definitely WORK: stacking wood, digging trenches, hauling rocks, etc.

If our children want something 'big,' they are encouraged to save for it.  When they do that, they tend to value it more and care for it better.

We want our kids to know the difference between a necessity and a luxury.  We want them to understand that a 'treat' is just that. . .something rare and valuable.

So, if we can manage to send them into the world able to rely on their own brains and drive and skills, without a sense of entitlement, we'll have given our children something rare and valuable indeed.  That, I want.

Our kids are sooooooooo worth it.

(Photos on this page are courtesy of www.publicdomainpictures.net.  You can find them here:  WoodLawn MowerChild)

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