A few years back, my father hired a teenage boy to be an afternoon kennel assistant at his veterinary clinic. Cleaning cages, feeding the animals, tidying up--a job of all work. Mopping kennels at a vet clinic doesn't require a tie, but this kid always showed up to work with his jeans sagging down off his butt. Every time he stooped over to put a bowl of water on the floor, he had to adjust his pants. While he stocked shelves or swept the exam rooms, he was constantly hiking his pants up or pulling them down to keep them in just the right spot.
This drove my dad NUTS. So he, as the business owner and boss, told the kid, "Those pants are interfering with your work. Either wear a belt tomorrow or don't come in at all." The kid got huffy and replied, "I don't have to put up with this sh*t!"
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Which led to much laughing from the actual adults who worked there. Gina, the lead tech snorted, "Oh, yes, sweetheart--YOU DO have to put up with this sh*t!" The kid didn't show up the next day. He didn't want to compromise on his fashion statement.
Grownups aren't working for weekend pocket money. We're working to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. How do we teach our kids about the world of work and the rules of the workplace?
Instilling a sound work ethic in our children starts from an early age--with understanding WHY people work. We work to earn money that lets us get stuff. Earning money gives us options. To children, it seems simply magical that Mommy and Daddy have money to pay for water parks and sneakers and oatmeal crème pies. Grownups get to buy things! We talk often about how Mommy and Daddy have money because we work. Sure, I love my job, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't get paid. (I'm in it for the oatmeal crème pies.) Money doesn't bring us safety or peace, but it does give us options. We can cook or eat out. We can stay at home this weekend or go on a little trip. On a cold day, we can choose the red coat or the blue hoodie. We can save for retirement and we can share what we've earned with others.
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We also teach our children WHEN to work. The mantra around our house is "Responsibilities Before Privileges." Work comes before play. I came home one day during the summer and the teenager had not gotten around to doing her chores. I asked her what she had been doing all day and the reply was "um...just chillin'." Yeah. Chillin' does not earn you any crème pies, sister! I am so proud of the teenager when she empties the dishwasher and puts away the laundry before asking to go hang with her friends. Even the first grader knows that Fruit Ninja comes after homework. The toddler? Well, he's a real drain on the system. He still does a lot of chillin'.