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Train Up a Child: Helping children learn to earn

Considering the situation we find our country in right now, few people doubt that the future holds less benefit in the form of entitlements than we are presently enjoying. Simple math tells us that we cannot keep spending more than we are taking in and when half of our country is taking from the government instead of giving to it in the form of taxes, we must admit there is a problem. Our present-day children will live with this problem as adults. One quality they must possess in order to cope in the future is to have the attitude of earning their own benefits instead of expecting the government or others to care for them.

      To develop the desire to earn, there are practices that must not be done as well as actions we should take. The realization that life is not fair and that nothing is truly free will help children develop an attitude of earning.

     We need to stop rewarding children when it is not earned. Why would anyone want to work for something that they can get for free? Where is the logic in thinking that we can give children everything they want or desire and then when they are grown expect them to suddenly think, “Oh, you don’t have to give me everything anymore. Now I will work for it?” If they have been given everything without having to earn it, they will most likely expect that they will continue to receive things without working for them. Someone remarked that they had seen a sign in a national park advising guests not to feed the animals lest the animals forget how to forage for themselves. Doesn’t the same principle apply to people? When children are given a prize that they didn’t earn just to keep them from feeling bad, they are learning that they don’t have to earn a prize and they come to expect rewards without the required effort. The notion that all should be winners is wrong. Each of us is unique. Some are better at one thing, and some are better at another. We do not all excel in the same things. Sometimes “feeling badly” is the motivation children need to improve. Good-intentioned parents, grandparents and teachers have unknowingly (or perhaps knowingly) taught our children the attitude of entitlement. 

     If parents will talk with children and help them set goals to achieve, then require that they work for those goals, children will learn to earn unless the parent jumps in and “rescues” the child. Is it possible that we give our children too much? I think so. They do not always have to have what others have.  If it is important to them to compete with friends for more expensive items, they should have to get jobs doing yard work, washing windows, etc. to earn the money to make up the difference between a moderately priced item and the more expensive item. When children earn their own money, they come to realize how hard the parents must work to provide for them. Children need to be told that what they may think of as government money is really money from hardworking people who pay taxes and that it is not fair for some to work while others enjoy things without working for them.

     “The Greatest Generation” grew up right after the Great Depression when things were in short supply. They knew they had to earn what they got if they were to have anything. Things did not come easy. As a result, we had a generation of people who knew how to work and did not have the entitlement attitude. If we don’t teach our children to earn, they may have to learn the hard way.   

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