Preparing Kids for Hard Times


A few generations ago farm kids were raised differently than children today. There was plenty of work, few toys, and little or no processed foods. Fun was interacting with your family, caring for animals, and playing with others through games of wit or physical dexterity. There was so much to be done children had to help as soon as they were able. They became responsible and helpful long before teenage years. If parents helped them realize the rewards of their work and encouraged their ideas and input, children grew up with a good work ethic and were solid even under duress or discomfort. Not everyone turned out well in this environment. Many hankered constantly for the excitement of city life, but no one came away without learning real down-to-earth skills.

Compare this to our current generation where parents provide everything and children only receive. Parent’s work is often so specialized, children cannot help out. We bestow on children everything they need and leave them with too much free time. So, they are quickly drawn to the exciting world outside the home, hoping for flashy toys, playing all day with friends or becoming addicted to electronic games. Parents and home quickly become boring when the screens are off. Work is worse than drudgery and they mope around until they can escape to the “real fun.” This is all very destructive to core family values. Some parents try to keep them at home by facilitating all these distractions within their own walls, but it is still a waste of precious time needed to learn core skills. Children become lazy, discontented and withdrawn.

Hard times will shatter the illusions of our present “conveniences” with real want, real hunger and worse. These lessons will be much harder to learn for kids, even considering their naturally optimistic and flexible natures. The worst part is they won’t have any skills to be helpful when you need them most and they will only know how to complain and become a drag on you. Here are some basic points to help them grow into more stronger, helpful people.

First, don’t spoil your kids. It is too easy to give in when the toys, treats, movies, electronics, and trips to restaurants are so cheap (or seem like it). Of course they demand more once they realize this is “an option.” Smart parents keep these rewards for special occasions or expect the kids to earn them on their own. This teaches a good work/reward ethic. Later you can teach them what is valuable and what is cheap and short-lived. Kids are much more likely to be judicious and delay gratification when it is their own hard earned funds.

Second, teach kids to work. Expect them to be helpers not freeloaders. If you are working and they aren’t, ask yourself, “What can they do to help?” You’d be surprised at what they can do. Teaching them means more work for you at the beginning but it pays off as they learn. Motivate with appropriate rewards at the end so they learn to finish quickly. “Finish this weeding so we can go have a nice lunch.” “You can have free time until dinner after you get this done.” We don’t pay our kids for helping around the house, only when they are helping on a job that brings in money. Reward them according to their work, not more. Kids know when they have done a good job and when they haven’t. They should be proud of their work when it is done right.

Third, teach them toughness. Life in the future won’t provide an option for copping out because you don’t feel like it. Kids on a farm naturally learned some toughness with all the work in difficult conditions, but we don’t all have that training ground. Fortunately physical exercise training can be a good substitute.

Children, in particular, need the mental toughening and physical benefits of exercise. Nobody “feels like it” at first but gradually people can learn to tolerate the hard breathing and appreciate the benefits sticking with it as their body and mind grow stronger. You do them no service by letting them off easy. I realize that some kids have no natural inclination for strenuous physical exertion, but those are the ones who need this the most and it will require real pressure from the parent because the kid is battling his own innate weakness.

Understanding innateness is very important to proper parenting. Children are not simply a product of their environment. Every child comes to earth with his or her own innate personality that differs from even his brothers or sisters. You can tell which weaknesses are innate because of the high levels of resistance a child has to repeated attempts to get them to change. Emphasize to them that mental self control—to control errant desires—is just as essential as developing physical self control.

Fourth, teach your kids. “Preaching to kids” is considered a negative today, with the insinuation that it is always hypocritical, but children need to know why you are “being hard on them.” Don’t lambast or monologue. Explain what you are trying to do and why. Sit down with them and teach them where their innate weaknesses and strengths are and how improve on them.

Each of these aspects deserves further discussion in the future, but don’t delay your efforts to work with your kids now. Although parents will have to be “drill sergeants” at times to reinforce wholesome, tough activities, that should not define your relationship. Much more time should be spent doing uplifting things and reinforcing good habits and attitudes. Remember the real goal in all this preparedness is to preserve the things most precious to us and find true joy in them.

by Andrew Skousen –

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