In my last podcast I talked about how my perspective on today’s workforce has changed since we purchased a restaurant 3 years ago. It changed, but not for the better. I covered the history of work and how men used to form at least part of their identity from the work that they did. Thomas Baker was a baker. James Carpenter built things from wood. I also mentioned that work was once viewed as necessary for survival. Laura Ingalls Wilder understood that in order to survive through the long winter in the Big Woods, they’d need to grow and store their own food, amass a stockpile of dry wood for the fireplace and maintain their livestock. Children in previous decades shared in the responsibility of work at home and they often watched work in action.
In my last podcast, I explained how the stay-at-home worker, computers and cell-phone are changing the face of work, such that children may no longer understand the difference between work and play.
Now let’s consider some more factors in the equation and come up with a few concrete antidotes that insure we are better teaching our children how to work.
Hierarchy/chain of command
The chain of command is critical in the military and it can also be necessary for problem solving. Again, the stay-at-home worker or the self-employed worker might look like they have no chain of command to report to. Single parents may also play a role in this confusion. My point here is that in many situations, including many employment situations for young people, there will be a chain of command that they will need to follow.
Television has done a lot to erode the respect we once showed to leaders. Think just about the way that most TV fathers are depicted. They are largely depicted as fumbling baffoons. The father in Leave It To Beaver was portrayed as an intelligent, thoughtful leader in the household. The family members sought his advice and leadership. Conversely, today’s sitcom fathers routinely dispense poor advice or are the butt of the family’s jokes.
The lead character in The Office was largely made to look like a fool such that his employees didn’t respect him.
Break-down in Respect for the Hierarchy
Not respecting the hierarchy or chain of command leads to confusion and some times the “it’s not my job” mentality. When no one is seen as the superior, then everyone may think they are superior to everyone else; therefore, no one wants to do the dirty work. I see it all too often, a lack of initiative on the part of young employees. Many are only willing to do the minimum. They see undone tasks as beneath them, rather than take pride in the value of a job well done. They don’t recognize that they can gain additional skills by going beyond the minimum.
Going back to the example I gave of the employee at the moving company, he thought the job was beneath him. He thought someone else should do it, instead of him. He didn’t value the fact that his employer’s reputation would be negatively effected if the job didn’t get finished on time. Additionally, he didn’t understand that he was still going to be held accountable for his actions. He failed in his part in the chain of command and there were consequences for the failure.
As a home school parent, help your children to look for tasks to complete. I know the temptation can be, to do chores yourself, instead of expending the extra energy to find a child and explain to the child what extra chores need attention. But it is important that you teach children to contribute to the household. They definitely need regular, assigned chores, but they also need to understand they that should take the intiative and do more because that is part of their responsibility as members of the household.
Parents should be united in this mission. Talk to your children about the fact that God comes first and He is over everyone. Talk about the hierarchy in the family: God, father, mother and then children.
What kind of protection is afforded to us in having a chain of command? How does it work in terms of problem solving? If your child belongs to an organization like Civil Air Patrol or Scouts, how does the chain of command work?
Apprenticeships and trade workers benefit from understanding this concept. Experience leads to mastery and there is value in learning from someone who has mastered a skill. Have your older children mastered a skill? How might they teach it to a younger child?
I’ll explain in one of my up-coming podcasts that several of my children have worked up the ranks with helping in the kitchen. Our younger kids all start out as salad makers. Once they master the skill, they generally have the confidence to tackle other cooking jobs in the kitchen. And on the practical end, my younger children understand that there’s kitchen hierarchy, so to speak. They know that before they can cook on the stove, they need to master kitchen safety skills sich as those they learn while preparing the salad. Those small, every day lessons that you teach your children, can have a bigger payoff in the workplace.
When my younger children come into our restaurant, they recognize that they may not be able to contribute by operating the oven yet, but their work bussing tables or sweeping floors is just as necessary.
Etiquette- the Proper Way
I’ll talk more about Dowton Abbey in my podcasts on Picky Eaters and how Good Manners Solve the Meal time Battles. Downton Abbey, or really just the traditions and good manners, displayed by the characters in the show applies well here. Tradition, order, and beauty once ruled the day. Unfortunately, our modern sense of individualism has up-ended those ideas, leaving us with chaos.
Good etiquette, polite manners, showing respect for others, as well as for ourselves. Think about who you would and would not choose as your lawyer? Your surgeon? Your banker? Would you opt to invest all of your savings with a man who had ear gages, purple hair, holes in his pants and skull tattooes? Would you choose that person as your surgeon?
Bodies Speak, We’re Still Listening
The body speaks a language, and it hasn’t lost its meaning, even if we’ve learned to tune it out in some situations. There is no getting around the fact that our appearance is the first thing that people see and it is what they make their first judgments on.
People can argue all day long about the fairness of assessing someone’s appearance when they apply for a job. And trust me they do argue about this, but most of the people arguing are the very ones who want to don the pink hair and still get taken seriously. If your children are interested in careers in which they will be the “face” of the company, they should understand the reality of how their appearance can change their prospects when seeking work.
I don’t want the cashier in my restaurant to look ungroomed or have multiple piercings. When someone comes in to apply for the job and they look unkept it doesn’t help their case.
As a home schooler, teach manners, have traditions that you follow, dress appropriately for Church and other occasions. As I mentioned earlier, talk about how we dress affects the way that we feel and behave. Talk about how it affects the way others feel about us and behave around us. Teach cursive writing and proper speech. Keep a tidy house and work space. Those are just generally helpful skills that teach children the value of neatness, organization and beauty.
GPS- Losing My Way
I suppose this goes along with technology. Now I admit that I am quite honestly lost without my GPS. I mean it has seriously benefited me, since I am directionally challenged. But for a child who has never needed to read a map, GPS is one more piece of tech which can lead them to feel absolved of the role to solve their own problems in the work place.
We had a delivery driver to get lost. Rather than recognize that he could easily solve the problem and get the pizza to the customer in a timely manner by simply calling in to the restaurant and getting directions, he instead drove around and around for an hour allow the food to get cold and the customer to get angry.
Re-engage your kids in the car. Encourage them to watch the directions you follow when you go to Church or to grandma’s. Get them interested in geography and teach them map skills. Make a game out of reading a map. These things help them to pay greater attention to details and to develop greater problem solving skills. Again, technology is a useful tool, but too often we are becoming to slaves to it such that if it loses signal we are lost (literally).
Let’s Get Physical
Many jobs don’t require physical labor which has resulted in out-of-shape bodies, but more importantly we’ve forgotten the value of hard manual labor, the exhileration of a job well done. Think about working out in the yard all day and the joy of sitting back after the work is finished. When we push beyond our comfort level, that’s when we grow, when we gain strength and stamina.
Give your children manual labor and talk about the value of it. Make sure to give your children regular jobs which require their physical labor and set the example yourself. Engage them in house cleaning, yard work, etc. I am a firm believer in having pets, if you are able to, but make sure that your children are fully engaged in caring for pets.
Intrinsic motivation and creativity
In the book Drive by author Daniel Pink, he says there are three biological drives: hunger, thirst and sex. He says that our motivational 1.0 is all about our survival, but our motivational 2.0 is all about external rewards and punishments, the carrot and stick. Pink said motivation 3.0 is our intrinsic motivation. It’s doing something for the sheer satisfaction of it.
The author offered up the scientific experiments of Harry Harlow and later Edward Deci. Deci confirmed Harlow’s earlier findings. Anyway, both scientists discovered both monkeys and humans would solve puzzles simply because they could. Offering rewards actually resulted in decreased performance. So the test subjects did worse when they were asked to solve the puzzles in order to get a reward, a carrot if you will. They did best when they were simply giving a puzzle and they solved it for the sake of solving it alone.
They found that we have a default setting of sorts. We do best in some tasks when we have autonomy over the task, the time, the team and the technique. My point in sharing this information is that I think it is helpful to recognize that not all motivation is equal. I’d encourage you to read Mr. Pink’s book Drive for yourself as it has some valuable insights.
Teach Them to Problem Solve
Overall, while tasks absolutely do need to be accomplished and the chain of command needs to be followed, there can in some instances in which there is more than one way to get a job done. As home schoolers, we have room for this kind of creative thinking. Give your children challenges and invite them to strategize solutions. Give them a job to do on occasion, but allow them to decide how to complete it. Perhaps, make a game of it by asking them to come up with multiple solutions or strategies for getting the job done.
In the original movie of Cheaper By the Dozen, the father made his living in part by coming up with more proficient ways to get things done. There’s a scene in which he is showing the family how to use a sponge in the most efficient manner to wash their bodies in the least amount of time.
Vocation- What’s Your Calling
We absolutely must talk with our children about discerning their vocation. What does GOD want for their life? They have a purpose and fulfilling that purpose is what will lead them toward the eternal goal. Before they get focused on careers, vocation should be a topic of conversation.
Teach them to reflect on states in life. What types of professions fit well within the different states in life.
If I am called to be a married person I will have different responsibilities, restraints/freedoms than a person who is called to the single or religious life. I was listening to Dr. Laura Schessinger and she was speaking about a caller who wanted to know how she could juggle being a wife, a mother and a brain surgeon. In Dr. Laura’s opinion, the woman could not effectively fufill all of those roles well. Someone or something would lose out. Of course, you might argue with Dr. Laura’s opinion, but you can see how it would be quite difficult to meet a demanding job as a brain surgeon and still have time to make small children your priority.
Happiness Comes from Purpose
We like to say that you can be anything, but that isn’t entirely true. Happiness comes from discerning God’s purpose for our life and living a life, including our work, that fufills that purpose.
There is a prevailing pressure to send every child off to college. The message being pushed is that worth comes from career success and career success is dependent on degrees alone. And then if your a woman and you earn a degree than the message is that motherhood devalues your potential. Or that staying home to raise and educate your children is a wasted opportunity.
This push for everyone to go to college has led to increasing debt, a lack of vocational discernment, unnecessary sense of defeat and a shortage of trade workers. Men in their mid to late 20’s are stumbling around with no clear direction, no drive. They are just going through the motions and it isn’t serving them or society at large well. As home schoolers, you can focus first on discernment. I’m not saying every young person will know their calling right off the bat, but you can teach them to ask God the question first and then to keep asking Him the question as them mature.
Investigate Vocations and Work That Fits
Investigate the different types of work that are associated with different states in life. Talk about teaching orders or religious orders that minister to the sick. How might one career be better than another is your child is called to marriage as opposed to the single life. How might finances or travel schedules positively or negatively affect different states in life. Would the life of a sea captain be easier for a father or a single man? I remember my shock when at my bridal shower someone proposed the idea of my husband-to-be applying for work as a chef on cruise ships. The idea of his being off at sea for long period wasn’t ideal for married life in my mind.
Find opportunities to meet people who have various vocations. Ask about the education or training that was required. Discuss the real purpose of education and the end goal. Dave Ramsey talks often about choosing the most economical route for secondary education. You certainly don’t need an Ivy League degree to be a preschool teacher. But that prevail pressure coupled with competition can lead young people to make decisions that aren’t based on sound judgment. Having those discussions before they are high school seniors can put them in a better position to make thoughtful decisions, rather than decisions driven by peer pressure.
“All I want is for you to carry on as you are doing and endure what you have to do- but change your attitude to all these things. And this change is simply to say “I will” to all that God asks.”- Jean-Pierre de Caussade in Abandonment to Divine Providence
Attitude is the face we present to the world and it effects how we feel about our abilities and responsibilities. As the saying goes, we can make a mountain out of a mole hill. Conversely, an attitude of gratitude can change our thinking, our energy level, our desire to persevere.
Of course, most if not all of us parents has at some point in time dealt with a child who had a less than gracious attitude. It is normal human nature, but that doesn’t mean it serves us well or that it should go uncorrected. When I’m working as a cashier at our restaurant, I recognize that my attitude has a noticeable effect on the customers. If I sense that a customer is unhappy because they have to wait and I meet them with a cheerful smile and acknowledge their patience in having to wait, then nearly all of the time the respond positively.
Attitude Changes Attitude
My positive attitude causes them to change their negative one. Of course, the reverse is also true. If one of my employees is having a bad day, they can have a negative influence on the rest of the workers. And repeated negatively isn’t an endearing or helpful trait.
As a home schooler, inspire an attitude of gratitude. Look for things to be grateful for even, or especially, on the hard days and then share your gratitude with your family. Encourage them to count their blessings and find the silver lining in hard situations.
Of course, from a faith perspective this is a valuable lesson to learn. God uses everything for our good, so even the sufferings have value if we allow God to transform us through them. Learning that truth early on will have lifelong benefits.
Get in the Business
Owning our own business and having some real skin in the game, so to speak, has really been the best teacher for our children. If you are able to start some kind of small business with your children. If nothing else, make some crafts to sell locally or sell desserts during the holidays. Open an etsy shop together.
Years ago my friend’s daughter had her own baking business. She had regular clients and a set schedule for delivery of the food items they wanted to purchase from her. I’m not sure of the legal restrictions, so you’d need to investigate what they are nowadays, but there are opportunities out there to get your children involved in entrepreneurship and producing goods and services.
Let’s Be the Change
The future of small business and customer service doesn’t look bright from my current perspective, but that doesn’t mean we need to throw in the towel. On the contrary, as a home schooling educator I see that opportunity this affords my children. The opportunity to develop critical skills and understanding that will ultimately give them an advantage in the future workplace.
If I teach my children to discern their vocation in addition to finding and properly preparing for their future career, they will end up in a better situation. They will be better equipped to fulfill their purpose as God intends and they will waste less resources, time and money, getting the training they actually need. Lastly, they will develop a healthier perspective of their value as children of God and contributing members of His world.
I’ll close with this instruction from 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4: On the subject of mutual charity. Nevertheless we urge you to progress even more and aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you, that you may conduct yourselves properly toward outsiders and not depend on anyone.
If you follow this advice and teach our children how to follow this way, we will, by the grace of God, renew the face of the workplace and by extension the whole world.