Friday, 13 September 2013 02:14

Parenting Leaders 2: Work is Honorable

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“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 “Hello, Demola!  How are you?  How is business?  Hope all is well.” 

“Ah! Ah! Benji, long time!  To what do I owe this call?”

“My friend,” Demola responded.  “I wondered if you could give Kola, my son a job.  He needs to start building his career.”

“Hen hen, so why is he not calling me to ask for the job himself?” Benji inquired.

“Ehm… ehm,” Demola stuttered, “he has gone out with friends but I will send him to your office whenever you say.  When should he come and see you?”

“Next week Monday will be fine.”

After that Monday passed with no appearance of the boy, Benji made further inquiries and realized his friend’s son drove a Benz and received an allowance of $2,000 each week.   He thought to himself, ‘what job can I offer a young man who is already making a living without lifting a finger?  Would he even know how to work?’ 

From the overly indulgent mother who cooks, cleans, launders, and caters to every want of her pampered child to uber wealthy yuppy parents who throw money at their offspring without requiring any labor like Kola’s dad in the preceding dialogue, parents who thus devalue work, place their children and society in jeopardy.  Such parents raise children who have no concept of labor and no value for its rewards. 

While it is commendable that parents want their children to have better lives than they had growing up, there is a fine line between upgrading your kids’ existence and contributing to their delinquency.  When kids are over-indulged, they tend to grow up with a sense of entitlement and an aversion to laborious exertion.  Simply put, they lack the incentive to work whether for wages or for societal improvement.  Consequently, they become parasites who scam to gain wealth illicitly either as blue-collar or white collar criminals occupying exalted offices.  For example, Kola as the son of upper class parents would be maneuvered into a government position where he will syphon public funds in order to feed his inordinate appetite for grandeur without adding value to society.

Thus, raising children who have no value for work is unequivocally bad for the child, the family, and for society both local and global.  A child with no value for work will always expect others to make his or her life comfortable.  They would expect to be served by parents and others throughout their lives adding nothing to society beyond their presence.  While doting parents might appreciate their presence, they are no good to the rest of us.  Further, growing dissatisfied with the missing lack of fulfillment which only gainful labor can provide, they become a menace to society perpetrating all manner of criminal and immoral acts.  They become the indolent, petty thieves, armed robbers, embezzlers, and looters of public funds.

Consequently, it is imperative that we train our children to honor work in all its manifestations whether it is service of members of the family, volunteer work in the community, or wage labor.  As long as it is not debasing of self or others, work is honorable.  A gainfully employed vulcanizer is better for society than an indolent college graduate.  From an early age, teach your children service if you want them to grow up to be leaders.  Clearing the table, cleaning the bathroom, or fetching a cup of coffee, are all acts of service that positively impact a child’s view of labor.  As they grow, increase their responsibilities both around the house and in your community.  As I told my 14-year old who complained that I no longer cooked for her, “when you were a toddler, I did everything from wipe your nose to scoop food into your mouth, now you are grown.  You should be not only be doing those things for yourself but doing some things for me too.  Ask what I want to eat then go cook!”

There is dignity in labor and work must be encouraged in order to groom the leaders of tomorrow:

  • As toddlers, encourage your children to play at work.  Let them pretend to be teachers, parents, doctors, and the like.  Playing at work allows them to be inventive.  Beware of tech stupor whereby they spend hours on end playing games on gadgets which add no value to their lives or yours.  They may be busy but they are not busy learning work ethics.  
  • Give them causes in which to serve. Leaders want to lead even from an early age when it appears they are not old enough.  Help them raise funds for a charity, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or perform other community service.  Align their service with their passion so that the child who loves nature volunteers with a preservation club.  What is your child’s favorite thing to do?
  • Let them imagine they can change the world.  Indeed they can – with an idea, a product, a movement, or a dream.  Don’t discourage small beginnings because such are the foundations of greatness.
  • Aid their entrepreneurial adventures by planning and executing their projects.  So your child wants to bake cookies for sale; help make it happen.  Show them the way to make a living for themselves and they would not become unemployed as graduates.  Remember, any work is noble so long as you are not exploiting people or degrading self.
  • Let them serve you.  If they do not learn to serve you now, be very certain that they will dump you in a nursing home and forget the address when you are old.  Or worse, they will force you to an early grave through abject neglect!

To conclude, if we have a leadership problem in a nation, we have a parenting problem because every leader was once a child!  And it is values imbibed as children – lying, stealing, sloth, apathy, idleness – that’s acted out as adults. 

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Abi Adegboye Ph.D

Abi Adegboye began writing as a young girl growing in western Nigeria.  In a culture that reveres boys, she was born the second of three girls.  Certain she had to be her family's 'boy,' she climbed trees to harvest fruit, dressed chickens for dinner, caught mice, and whatever else required male-handling.  She also loved to read, write, and draw.  Her initial efforts yielded publications in local newspapers and newsletters.  However, she was advised to get a day job which turned out to be as a professor of political science.  This opened to her, a different avenue for publication in her areas of research including African women and development, women migrants, and the impact of public policy on women’s political economy.

On her 40th birthday, she rekindled her creative writing with the publication of Butterfly, a picture book and Reflections on Nigerian Christianity, a social commentary.  Since then, she’s co-authored Owanbe! Yoruba Celebrations of Life (2010), a cultural anthology and published Wanna B Prez? 10 Life Strategies from President Barack Obama’s Journey to the White House (2012), a YA motivational YA book, and Renike comes to America (2016), a novella.  

Abi writes multicultural fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults.  She shares her writing through speaking engagements, performances, storytelling, and classroom visits. 

For more information about Ms. Adegboye’s publications, or to connect with her, visit her

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