by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 6 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Children)
"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man." (Proverbs 6:6-11)
No parent can be successful in rearing a child unless he teaches the child to work hard. No child can develop character without developing a willingness to work and an affinity for work. God did for man a great favor when He told him he would earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. The old proverb says, "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." Someone has said, "Idleness is the mother of sin." So really when God commanded man to work He was commanding him to be moral and to have a right outlet for nerve force which if not used, would find vent in wrong outlets. Hence, God uses labor to train us in obedience, self-control, perseverance, etc. Work is a tool which God uses to make men. In order to make men and women of character out of our boys and girls, we must teach them to work.
1. Teach them very early to help in the home. In the earliest years of a child's life he has a natural instinct to help. Girls like to "play house" and dust, scrub, wash, sweep, make doll dresses etc. Boys like to "play store" and make things. It is then that the child wants to help, and work is play to him. The wise parent will be careful not to destroy this instinct. During these early formative years the child should be taught that work is not a burden. It is not an evil, but rather something in which he can delight.
Do not associate in the child's mind that work is drudgery. Seize upon the natural instinct that God has given a little child by teaching him that work is proper, normal, and yes, even delightful.
2. Encourage the child to make his own toys. Is seems to me unwise to buy too many toys. Perhaps it would be better to buy the child the tools enabling him to make his own toys. The parent could join the child as he makes his toys and perhaps even things for the home. Hence, the child will be far ahead of the other children. He has been trained to realize that if he buys it, he forfeits the fun of making it. Even the tiniest of toys I ever had, I made myself. I can recall making carts, cars, scooters that had skates for wheels, slingshots, sleds, kites, etc. Girls could make doll clothes, doll house furnishings, etc. Not only doest this teach the children initiative, but it also makes them thrifty.
3. Children should help in household tasks. At a very early age children should be taught to clean their rooms and make their beds. It should be their regular duty and if the performance is less than acceptable, the parent should not correct it, but point out to the child the weaknesses, thus teaching him to finish the job he has started. There are many chores that even a little child can do around the house such as making the beds, wiping the dishes, cleaning the room, emptying the garbage cans, taking care of pets, setting the table, etc. Regular duties should be given the child when he is old enough to begin.
4. The child should be taught that he is a part of a team and that he is slack at his job is he does not work. He should think of himself as an integral part of society, a part that is essential to the whole. He must feel each of us must work to do some service for the rest of us and that if one person does not do his work, he is not being fair to others. It is like one player on a team not doing his best. An old proverb say, "An idle man is of no more use than a dead man and take up more room." It is not right or fair as members of this great team of labor.
5. Teach the child to do his best at whatever he does. When he does his best brag on him and magnify his efforts. When he doesn't do his best let your disappointment be shown. Of course, this is only workable when the parent has built a close relationship with the child so that the child's heart will be broken when he displeases the parent. We are admonished in the Scriptures to do everything that we do with all our might. Someone has said, "He who is afraid of doing too much always does too little." By constant reminder and praise the wise parent impresses indelibly in the mind of the child that anything that is worth doing is worth doing right. The job should always be done a little bit better than when someone else does it.
It has been said that there are three classes of people: those fail to do all their duty, those who do all of their duty, and those who do a little more than their duty. The first lose their positions; the second hold them; and the third are promoted.
6. The child should not be allowed to think that labor which is done with the hands is dirty work. Parents should make all work honorable and insist on honest, hard work. No matter what the work is, if it is honest and well done, it is dignified and honorable. Let him know that every job has its own particular charms and interests, and the more he knows about the job the more interesting it becomes. Hence, whatever one does, if he does it well, he should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
When I was a young man working my way through college, for eighteen months I laid oak floor for a living. For several months I put up dry wall. I have been a salesman, and I have worked in a service station and in a grocery store. Once I was a paper boy. In the Army I was a paratrooper and a parachute packer. I have worked in mechanics shops, loaded box cars, sold in clothing stores, and once in the Army I was on the garbage collecting gang. In every job I felt a unique pride if I worked and did my best. I even found a new way to stack garbage in the truck and became the envy of all the garbage collectors.
The child should not be afraid of perspiration or hard work. Whatever his job, if it is a proper one and if it helps society, it should develop a sense of pride. Of course, if this attitude is developed, it is because the parent stresses it to the child.
This means that one should prepare himself properly for any task and give himself to it completely. The more he knows about the job the more interesting it will become.
7. The child should be encouraged to have constructive hobbies. Even leisure can be work, and work can be rest. Rest is simply the changing from the use of one set of nerves and muscles to another. The postman rests in an air-conditioned room; the executive rests by taking a walk or hike. City folk rest by going to the country for the weekend; country folk rest by going to the city for the weekend. George Bernard Shaw once said, "Happy is the man that makes his living at his hobby." A famous baseball star said that he was happy because he was getting paid for what he preferred to do.
If the child can be taught to use his spare time constructively, he is a few steps ahead of the others. The making of model airplanes and handcraft can help the child prepare for either a vocation or an avocation. Hence, he is taught to enjoy work rather than leisure and that part of his life which is not given to his vocation can be a constructive part. Many of the greatest works ever written were written by men who were employed in fields other than writing, but who used their leisure for writing. Marcus Aurelius wrote his meditations in moments of rest.
8. Teach a child to choose an occupation that helps mankind. There are many jobs that are of no service to one's fellow human beings. Children should be taught to respect the work of the carpenter, doctor, merchant, preacher, farmer, garbage collector, baker, merchant, lawyer, etc. A vocation should not be chosen because it is one's preference or solely because one enjoys doing it. High on the list of criteria should be its service to fellowman and its making of a part of this aforementioned team of society. No occupation should be just a means to make a living but rather a means of service to others.
For years I have encouraged by young people to play sports as a hobby but not to consider professional sports. They should enjoy music but not consider a professional career in music. Of course, no one should enter a profession that caters to the lower instincts and hinders society. Such professions as working a factory that produces liquor or tobacco and being a bartender, a barmaid, etc. should be taboo. Every vocation should be one of service and one that helps our fellowman. One of the finest statements in the Bible is said of David when it was said of him that he "served his own generation by the will of God." (Acts 13:36)
Once there was a man who inherited a good name and much money. He did not participate in the life of his community; he dedicated his life to riotous living. He went through the money, spent it on pleasure, and died leaving his money to another. However, a small portion of his money was left to a publisher with instructions to the publisher to prepare an issue his biography. When the book was finished it was beautiful and costly. The binding was elaborate. There was a title page and picture of the deceased. Then on page one was recorded the day of his birth. On the last page of the book was recorded the date of his death. The rest of the book was simply expensive blank paper. The biographer was saying that this man was born and died and in between did nothing for others. How sad! It is sadder, however, to realize how few parents instill in the minds of their children the importance of choosing a profession that will benefit society.
9. Stress should be given that one should work hard even without an overseer. Teach the child that someone is always watching. Tell him about that great cloud of heavenly witnesses in Hebrews 12:1. While he is very young lead him to realize that those in the family that have gone on to Heaven are watching. Many years ago when I was a little boy my mother called me off to the side and said, "Son, I want to tell you something. You have three sisters: one that you can see and two whom you cannot see but who can see you. They are in Heaven. Each went when she was seven. Remember son, that they are always watching you, so live your life to make them proud." This is one of the incentives God has used to make me work hard through the years.
This chapter is being dictated on an airplane. I am flying to Los Angles, California, where I shall speak for a few days. The lady across the aisle from me is reading a book; the couple sitting next to me are drinking champagne; four people behind me are playing cards; the man in front of me is sound asleep; the fellow behind me is reading a magazine; I can see no one who is working! Far too many of us work only if we are watched. The parent who teaches his child that someone is always watching and that he should work without an overseer is doing him a great favor. One personnel man said, "For every two men that I employ, I have to employ a third to oversee them." Employers are eagerly searching for people who will work without oversight. Such people go to the top. The fellow who cannot do so, stays at the foot, has the same job, draws the same salary, hates his work, and grows old too soon!
10. Do not associate success to genius. A genius comes along only occasionally. Most of us are just common, average people with common, average minds. Hence, the difference between success and failure is not genius, it is hard work! This means working while others sleep, toiling while others play, and planning while others idle away their time.
I know man great men. Few of them have brilliant minds but all are hard workers who use all the ability they possess. By all means, stress to the child that success is caused not by genius or by being a mental giant, but rather, by hard work, diligence, discipline, etc.
11. Make no provision for failure. This has been a motto of my life. Such statements as "What should I do if I fail?" should not even be tolerated. If provision is made for failure, then thought must be given to failure. If thought is given to failure, then one has considered the possibility of failing. Such possibilities should never be considered. There is too much stress on being a "good loser." Now to be sure when losses do come, outwardly we should accept them gracefully, but inwardly we should despise defeat! No child should be taught to accept defeat gracefully inwardly. He should hate defeat. He should make no provision for failure and should be surprised if it comes.
Many of us brag on our child more if he loses gracefully than if he wins. We are in some sense guilty of raising a generation of people who like to lose. We need to build a generation of people with a passion to win!
If one plans to win, he will make no provision for failure.
12. No child should have to bear the burden of having a lot of money left to him. James Fargo, as President of the American Express Company, once said, "If I were worth a hundred million, I would make my son earn his living. It is wrong to bring up boys to be gentlemen loafers." Rather than leaving children a lot of money, why not leave them what will make them money and give them the privilege of earning it themselves!
I was once talking to the son of a famous preacher. Suddenly I looked him in the eye and said, "I feel sorry for you."
He asked, "Why?"
I then replied, " I feel sorry for you because your father is so famous."
He began to weep and said, "Dr. Hyles, I didn't know anybody ever thought of that. I envy you because your father was a drunkard. Nobody expected you to be successful. Everybody expected me to be so."
This condition was unavoidable, but it is possible for one to avoid the leaving of great sums of money to his children. He does them a disservice, not a service!
13. The child should be taught to work cheerfully. His parents should set the example of enjoying their work. It is actually possible for one to look forward to a "day on" and to a "day off." This is the way it ought to be. To say the least, a day at work should not be considered worse than a day at home, and a day of toil should not be considered worse than a day of rest. Each is a diversion from the other. Hence, work should be approached and done cheerfully, happily, and enthusiastically. This will take away the despair that often comes when one has to work on what is otherwise a day off. It will remove grumbling when overtime is necessary, and it will certainly equip the child with the tools that can take him to the top.
14. Teach him that all work is an art and a way of expression. Hence, one should look upon himself as an artist regardless of what type of work he does. When a bricklayer becomes an artist he becomes a builder. When a typist becomes an artist she becomes a secretary. When a meat cutter becomes an artist, he becomes a butcher. When the carpenter becomes an artist, he becomes a builder. When a cook becomes an artist, he becomes a chief. When a speaker becomes an artist, he becomes an orator. When a bookkeeper becomes an artist, he is an accountant. When a plumber becomes an artist, he is a pipefitter. When a custodian becomes an artist, he is a maintenance engineer. No work, no matter how slight or insignificant, should be despised. Whether one is sweeping out the place, mending socks, mowing yards, or shoveling snow, he should be an artist about it. It is somewhat sad that in our day the assembly line at the factory has eliminated such pride in one's work, but even with the assembly line the wise worker will develop pride an consider his work an art.
When I was attending a state university as a young man I simply had to find part-time work. No jobs were available, so I began laying oak floor. What a job! What a backbreaker! The first few days were sheer drudgery. Then I resolved to become the best oak floor layer in the county. I began thinking about the families that would live in the houses I helped to build. When each house was completed I would drive by it again and again and take pleasure in the realization that someone was enjoying the fruit of my work. I looked upon myself as an artist and soon I began taking pride in the opportunity of telling others my vocation. It has been about a quarter of a century since I have laid a piece of oak floor, but I still enjoy going back to the old home neighborhood and driving by the houses that I helped to build.
15. A child should be taught that hard work is healthy. No one can reach his peak of physical health unless he has learned to work. Work is nature's medicine. Just as idleness rusts and decays a machine so the disuse of a muscle causes it to shrivel. The doctors find agreement in the fact that many men and women are in sanatoriums because of a lack of good, hard, steady work. In such places patients are put to work immediately. Especially is this true in case that suffer nervous disorders. Without work the body becomes weak and the brain deteriorates. A girl should be taught that work is a beauty aid and the boy should be taught that work is a body-building device. Parents should point to heroes and remind the children that they obtained their positions through hard work.
16. Young people should be taught trades. A poll was taken in one penitentiary which revealed that 90% of the convicts answered "no trade" on a questionnaire. In a certain period there were 3,154 boy admitted. Not one of them had a trade. Consequently, all of them were taught trades and only 14% of the returned!
During the period that a young person is usually taught a trade he is also facing his greatest temptations. Hence, the learning of the trade keeps him busy at a time when his mind is most susceptible to temptation.
In some ancient societies it was a low that no man was under obligation to support his father when his father became aged if his parents had not taught him a trade in his youth. Perhaps this is a little severe but it does not alter the fact that the wise father will teach his son a trade, and the wise mother will carefully and deliberately teach her daughter to prepare for marriage and motherhood with the same diligence that a physician prepares for his vocation.
17. Always compliment the task that is finished and done well. The reward method is an important one to a child. He should always associate completion with rewards. To the contrary he would always associate failure and an unfinished task with disappointment on the face of one he loves.
18. The child should be taught to accomplish the hardest and most distasteful part of the task first. Perhaps he should eat first the vegetable he likes least. Perhaps he should mow the hardest part of the yard first. This helps to prevent the awful sin of procrastination.
There are many other things that parents should teach their children concerning the proper development of work habits such as teaching them to choose their heroes from ones who have worked their way from the bottom to the top, teaching them to choose a profession that will enable them to leave something for others when they are gone, teaching them to be thrifty and yet generous with money earned, etc., but in it all there should shine forth an ability to work and the dignity of labor.
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"I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years." óBilly Sunday