*This article originally appeared in the SCOPE newsletter, September 2012. It has been lightly edited.
By Karla Worell-Memmott
I recently attended a webinar in which the speaker was addressing statistical evidence of college graduates’ lack of preparation for the labor force. In one of the surveys cited, employers emphasized the lack of work ethic in many college graduates. As I listened to the information presented, I reflected back to a book I read in my early years of parenting entitled, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World. The authors, Glenn and Nelson (1989), voiced their concern with respect to the parenting trend of that time which included entertaining children rather than training children. The author’s apprehension included only the amount of television entertainment to which children were exposed in the late 1980s. I don’t know if there has been a revision to the book, but ponder whether the author’s anxiety has increased in our “entertainment saturated society.” These cares were expressed in the webinar, wherein the speaker cited facts identifying the number of hours spent in entertainment-based activities, which in the webinar’s speaker’s opinion included television, video games, internet, social media, as well as the inclination towards sports and other entertainment-based activities.
The solution presented in the book and the webinar were somewhat similar. The suggestion addressed the need to target young children with a healthy understanding of work, responsibility, and team membership. The three concepts are interrelated. Now obviously, this is not a suggestion to set up a child-labor based society, nor a suggestion that we have no entertainment whatsoever. The intent is to instill in children a healthy concept of work by giving the child age-appropriate responsibilities that contribute towards the functioning of the family. The idea is to teach a child that he or she is a valuable member of a team, the family. If the child neglects his responsibility, the family will share in that neglect. In my own life, I recall that as a young child of seven or eight, my responsibility on our family vacations was to crank up our tent trailer and set the jacks. I also vividly remember the time when I forgot to set the jacks and my mother went inside the tent-trailer to set up the beds. I learned that when I didn’t uphold my responsibility, others could suffer.
The responsibilities given to young children will obviously vary based on age, ability, and family circumstances; however, young children should not be denied the reward (Eccl. 5:18-19) that comes from a healthy work ethic. For example, if a family is constructing a fence, younger children can be assigned the responsibility of bringing glasses of water to the family members or perhaps handing nails to the workers. The idea is to practically instruct the child that he is capable of work and can contribute to the success of a team. Through the process of repetitions in varied circumstances with increasing responsibility over the years, this focus will be internalized and will later translate into an adult who is ready to enter the labor force with a solid work ethic.
We live in a society in which the youth are encouraged not to work, to enjoy their youth and put off work as long as possible. Alex Chediak (2011) notes that the lack of a work ethic is one reason behind the influx of many college graduates returning home to live with their parents. Can you imagine the testimony we send into the business community when a young adult graduates from college prepared to enter into the workplace with a solid, Biblical-based work ethic? This training does not begin during the college years; it begins when a five-year-old proudly boasts to a neighbor, “My family built a fence. My job was to give everyone the nails.” It continues when this event is repeated in many small increments through the developing years.
Chediak, Alex, (2011). Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the Real World. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
College Plus Webinar (2012). “The Importance of Knowing Your Worldview When You Enter the Market Place” [Webinar]. Spring Branch, Texas
Glenn, H.S. & Nelson, J. (1989). Raising Self-Reliant Children In A Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People. Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing.
The International Inductive Study Bible, (1993). Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers.