Every parent wants their children to have the ability to live an active, productive, happy life. The question is how do we get the kids there?
Unfortunately, it is not unusual to watch families struggling with their children’s poor attitudes about doing work.
“Uch, I have to put my plate in the garbage?”
“I hate homework.”
“You always ask me to set the table.”
“Why do I always have to help you?”
These are nothing short of horrific comments that reflect the emotional demise of our generation.
The New Normal – Condemning Hard Work
First, let’s look at what has gone wrong in our society today. Why do people complain so much about having to work hard? Our great grandparents knew that hard work was good for them. Unfortunately, it became the norm in our society for people to avoid hard work. Let’s recognize that this new generation’s contempt for the value of hard work is all wrong.
In Dr. Martin Seligman’s book, The Optimistic Child, he states that he was baffled by the emotional state of American society that was plagued by rising levels of depression. So, he researched why this was the case in the second half of the 20th century. He looked to understand why it was that in a generation that had more conveniences than in any time in history, people were so miserable. Seligman concluded that for thousands of years, parents raised their children to believe that hard work was good for them. You want to be happy? Do something hard that affects positive change in the world around you. However, after World War II people adopted the belief that the best antidote to pain was indulgence. Basically, there was a cultural shift, where the old philosophy of “Do for your family, do for your country, do for your religion,”
became outmoded. It was replaced by the hedonistic take on life, “Do for yourself. Eat, drink, and be merry.” This take on life, however, is a sure recipe for misery! Many people sensed that something was wrong, and those are the ones who held on to the old value systems.
Tips to Raise Kids Who Embrace Hard Work
We want to raise our children to know that hard work is good for us. Use phrases often like, “We love hard work, hard work makes us smarter.” When you leave the supermarket with your children and everyone is carrying grocery bags to the car, make sure to comment, “What a gift! Carrying these groceries makes us stronger.” And say it like you mean it! When your children complain about a child in their class or a counselor in camp, after you have empathized with them, smile with confidence and say, “Who knows what great things in life this challenge with them is preparing you for?!”
Above all, modeling always takes the win! Let’s model for our children that we, too, love hard work. It will take time and mental energy to transform yourself into this type of person, but anyone can do it with patience and practice. Even though we live in an age of fast food and remote everything, we CAN remember that having the ability to do hard work is an awesome privilege.
And that leads us to recognizing that parenting is truly a tremendous privilege. Yup, waking up at night, changing diapers, being there emotionally, etc. are healthy opportunities for us. They are opportunities to give, to bring more joy into the world, to become happier people ourselves, and to help us reach our full potential. If our children see that we view things this way, they too will believe that hard work is good for us. Do whatever it takes to adopt this attitude. Attach fun to it. Put on music while you are changing your 12th diaper of the day. Take good care of yourself. And as your eyelids are drooping at the end of a long day of hard work, always remember that parenting is a privilege.