The year is 1925, my grandfather is only 15. He has two younger brothers, aged 10 and 3. He is living in a mining camp in Idaho with his mother, who is a school teacher, and his father, a veteran of the Spanish-American war of 1898, a miner and alcoholic. That year, his mother contracts tuberculosis and dies. Within a month, his depressed father drinks himself to death, leaving the three boys on their own. My grandfather, now head of the household, drops out of high school and goes to work hand loading boxcars at a railroad yard to support and raise his brothers. By 1930, he marries my grandmother and they start a life of farming (still taking care of his brothers) in which they become successful, running over 2000 acres, despite being in the middle of the Great Depression.
The reason I tell this story is to contrast this with the typical teenager today. Hooked on video games and porn, no work ethic, no real responsibilities. I do not know of any kid that would take on that sort of responsibility today. What has happened, and what can we do to reverse this trend?
For generations, media all around us has been inundating us with pro-feminist, pro-socialist rhetoric that is poison to the minds of everyone, young and old. I have said before many times, and will say it again, THROW THE ‘EFFIN TV AWAY! No kid can spend 5 hours (average) per day watching sitcoms where promiscuity is the norm, problems seem to get solved in 1/2 hour or go away by themselves, or the dad is a Homer Simpson buffoon and not have it affect them. Girls have their vanity fed to their detriment. Boys are continually told they are no more than defective girls.
Lock the computer when you are away and monitor what the kids view. Surround your kids with decent reading material and read with them. I get my kids up at 5:30 for morning scripture study. 30 years ago as a kid, I found Pac-Man and Space Invaders very entertaining. If they whine because they don’t have the newest available, tell them to suck it up. Do they really need a cell phone? Maybe, but not a smart phone.
Work and Responsibility
A strong work ethic is rare these days. With my office job, I find little opportunity to teach my kids how to work. When I was a kid, it was the opposite. Growing up on a dairy farm, I hated spring break and summer vacation. Countless hours of sitting on a noisy tractor, feeding cows, milking cows, or repairing one thing or another filled my time away from school. While I am not sure how much good it done me, I learned wiring, how to fix a car, and more importantly, to bust my butt early in life so I don’t have to later on. Being self reliant allows a person to have the freedom to do as they want, not subject themselves to handouts.
As an office guy now living in a small town, I struggle to find opportunities for my kids to find meaningful work. Some things we do are :
- Give them some stewardship (the kids are in charge of 9 chickens)
- Regular chores (setting table, cleaning, etc.)
- Instead of an allowance, we regularly give them opportunities to earn money by doing jobs above their chores. (25 cents for mending a hole, $50 for a full day of packing firewood to pickup, etc.)
I think it is important to have meaningful work, not just busy work. Kids are smart, and they know if something is needed, and not just moving gravel from point A to point B. My neighbor’s kids (single mom) have been tasked with hand digging this pond in their back yard for aesthetics. Consequently, they are resentful towards the task at hand. Conversely, there was a time when I was in middle school, and being one of the last kids to hit puberty, I was small and picked on. It was bad enough that I had suicidal thoughts. What brought me out of it is this cold snap (around 30-40 below zero) were my parents really needed me. We had a dairy farm and the milk would freeze in the hoses in the time you pulled the milking machine off the cow, got a new cow in, cleaned her up and put the machine on the new cow. My dad simply could not do it by himself while my mom was feeding calves. They pulled me out of school in the mornings to help out. As much as it sucked, it was good to know that I was needed.
Last, but not least, is let your kids play. They love rough housing, they love to make noise. They want to be challenged in what they do. Sadly, I look around the neighborhood, and the kids are not playing anymore, either they are soaking up media, or they are in these regimented programs, or when they do go to the park, they are in these restrained swings or platforms which have been so dumbed down by sue happy lawyers that it becomes difficult to really enjoy physical activity.
While we are not completely free range parents, we allow our kids the liberty to play outdoors extensively. We try to give them the tools to build what they want (within reason). A couple months ago, I come home and they are digging this hole in the back yard, they tell me they are making a swimming pool. Whatever, our neighbor just gave us this excess plastic roofing material and they think they have found a use for it. 5 days of digging, and they place the plastic and fill it up with water about 3 feet deep, and 10 feet diameter. While it is an ugly hole, they have thoroughly enjoyed it this summer. Next month, we will fill it in and replant grass. No harm done.
Along with allowing them to play, I will take them camping several times throughout the year, including at least one major backpacking trip. This year, we hiked up to the top of Kings Peak, the tallest mountain in Utah (elev. 13,520). We go rock climbing and other adventures that push their limits and build their confidence. Seeing your 8 year old daughter on top of the mountain would make any dad proud.
As a father, I want my children to get the most out of life that they can. This is only possible if my wife and I have the self discipline and ambition to see that they know how to work for positive goals and believe in themselves, something that is lacking today. It is a great feeling to know my kids are becoming the strong, dependable men and women that God intends them to be.