You Need to Instill a Work Ethic in Your Children

by David J. Stewart | October 2016

Lamentations 3:27, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”

       One of the biggest problem with youth today is the lack of work ethic in their life. They have no burden to bear, no labor to do. We read in the news almost daily about young people (in particular males) committing horrible crimes, and recently a tragic shooting in the Carolinas. A 14 year old boy murdered his father in South Carolina, and then drove up to North Carolina and murdered a 6 year old boy. He also shot a teacher and another youth. So sad! So tragic! Although we don't know all the details, we know that the young man said, “I hate my life!”

I'm not judging this family, God forbid. And I'm not saying that this boy fits what I'm about to say, but we don't know, do we. All across America, young children are parked in front of the television. They're watching violence, shootings, rapes, drugs and murders by the thousands. Millions of youth are glued to the television screen, playing video games every chance they get. Most teens today have free boarding and plenty of food to eat, and little if any real work to do. They ought to be taught to work. Hard work develops character. They can mow the grass. Electric mowers are too dangerous. Get a push mower for your teen to use. That's what I used to use! Evangelist Billy Sunday wisely said: “If you would have your children turn out well, don't turn your home into a lunch counter and lodging house.”

I thank God that my father was wise to make me work. This was in Chicago, Illinois. Each spring my father would hand me a spade shovel and tell me to overturn the dirt in our backyard to plant a garden. I'm guessing it was about 300 square feet total. That's a lot of digging, flipping and breaking of clumps of dirt! We planted tomatoes, hot peppers, carrots, onions, and many other vegetables. I remember that tomatoes and cucumbers were the main vegetable we grew. And then there was another area on the other side of the yard, where we planted more cucumbers. It was a small area, probably 40-50 square feet. I worked as a boy! I wore a bandanna on my brow, to keep the salty sweat from running into my eyes on those hot summer days!

While the plants grew, my father would tell me to pull up competing weeds and water the vegetables regularly. That was one of my jobs. When harvested, my mother often diced up cucumbers and sprinkled salt on the slices. That was a favorite family snack. One day my dad made me eat a really hot pepper! Whoa! I drank ice water and sucked ice cubes for 20 minutes! They were hot peppers!

Since my father directed a Skidrow mission all the time I was growing up, he would often tell me to unload 50 cases of Campbell's soup into the basement. Campbell's soup donated soup to the rescue missions. The next day my mom would say, “Dad said he wants you to load 30 cases of soup into the van.” The next week my mom would say, “Dad said he wants you to unload the van, then you can go play.” I'd think to my self, “No problem.” I'd tell my friends, “I'll just be a few minutes.” When I opened the back of the van, I'd see 100 cases of Campbell's soup (the big cases) stacked to the roof!!! I guess I should have known by the sagging back tires. That took about two hours to unload. The only basement door was in back of the house, so I had a couple hundred feet to walk each trip, one case at a time. I didn't keep track, but I think I have the Guinness World Book of Records for carrying soup cases back and forth. My dad made me work!!! In hindsight, although I didn't suspect it at the time, I think my father intentionally gave me that work to do, to develop character in his son.

My friends never wanted to help me. They often went to the park down the street to shoot basketball hoops and play, while I worked my butt off. I don't need to tell you how their lives ended up. A mother of a friend I had grown up with, saw me working in the garage one day while I was in my early 20's. I was attending Hyles-Anderson Bible College. She came over and kindly said, “I wish my son was like you.” Wow, what do you say to something like that? I truly don't remember what I said to her, but I remember what she said. I was saddened by what she said, because I knew that my childhood friend was in a mess, and I wanted him to live for Jesus too. You see, parents want the quality of youth that fundamentalism produces, but they don't want the Biblical principles and Christian living that produce such children and adults.

A few years later, after I had gone off to Bible college, one of those childhood friends who always avoided working with me committed suicide, shooting himself in the head while drinking booze. I wept bitterly at his funeral. I placed my small soul-winning New Testament in his casket. In hindsight his unwillingness to work speaks volumes. It breaks my heart to this day when I think about the loss of my friend. He had no work burden as a youth. He got into trouble, drinking booze, sleeping in the park. He had no purpose in his life. His life was aimless. The family moved away to another state. I think they did the right thing. Yet, it was in their new location that my friend shot himself at a low-point in his life at age 22. I'm not sure where they're all at now, but I still pray for them when I think of them. I'll never forget reaching forward to touch his embalmed body in the casket. I touched his wrist. It felt hard, like touching a table. There was no warmth or softness to the skin. It was like touching any other inanimate object. It was strange. Although far from perfect himself, I praise God for my tough father. If my dad hadn't restricted my activities, God only knows the crimes and big trouble that I would have been involved with as a teenager. Take heed my friend, if you are a parent and you are reading these words. I am being your friend. I am trying to help you.

My father made me attend a Baptist church. My father wouldn't let me listen to The Beatles. My father made me work hard. My father enrolled me into a Baptist church's Christian school. My father wouldn't let me “bum around” with my friends as a teenager. I was 17 years old. I asked my dad if I could go ride the transit trains with my friends. He said to me, “You're my son, not a bum! I want to know where you are going. I want a phone number. I want to be able to call and get a hold of you wherever you're at!” Wow, I hated my dad then, but I love him so very much now! My friends mocked me, and ridiculed my father, thinking how stupid it was.

My dad used to pull up with 25 concrete bags to mix on the ground, each weighing 80 pounds. And that was on an easy day for me! Most often, to save money, he'd buy the basic ingredients to make what we called “a 3-2-1 mix” (i.e., 3 parts stone, 2 parts sand, and 1 part cement). It was really hard when it set! It was homemade concrete. I was with my father most of the time when he bought the supplies at the brick yard, working together from start to finish on whatever project we were doing. We did a lot of brick-laying, sidewalk-laying and tuck-pointing work. When I was old enough to drive, he sent me to get the rocks, sand and cement by myself. Between the mission and the house, we always had plenty of projects.

Urbanization (herding people into the big cities) has destroyed America. Instead of having plenty of work to do on the farm, today's youth have nothing to do living in concrete and steel highrises. Large apartment complexes in the big cities are magnets for crime of all sorts. Street gangs recruit young children to deal drugs for the gangs. That way when the kids get caught, they avoid serious prosecution and the big players get away. The gangs have it down to a science. The big city is a horrible place to raise a child. Get them out of the big metropolitan cities! Pick a smaller town in North Carolina, or tens-of-thousands of small towns across the United States. Make sure to avoid known high crime areas. I'd pick the Bible belt myself.

When I was growing up, my father was very ambitious. He tore out all the old plaster-covered-chicken-wire in the interior of the home he bought in 1970. We wore dust masks if we had them, but oftentimes worked without them if we didn't have them. Our lungs must have been black at times. It was hard work! I remember back in the 1970's before the modern plastic garbage containers were invented, that we had 55 gallon drums instead. My dad used to scold me for over-filling the cans with plaster. I was supposed to fill them only half-way. Those poor garbage men! I remember watching four men heaving with all their might, unable to lift the 55 gallon drum to the garbage truck. They'd lower a cable wench and lift it slowly. My dad often slipped them money for their extra work. They liked the money and my dad got rid of the broken plaster. Still, they'd complain sometimes. I don't remember how many garbage cans we filled over the years, but it was in the hundreds I'm sure. This was an ongoing project for years, as the house was really big (a 2400 square foot duplex with an attic, garage and basement). In time, all the plaster walls had been tore down, insulated with fiberglass rolls of insulation (I used to itch like crazy when I got that stuff on my skin), and covered with 4" x 8" paneling of some sort. To say the least, I had a very active childhood.

We replaced the wooden front porch every 5-years or so. We did tuck-pointing every summer, removing old bricks and replacing them with new ones. I was given the job of scraping off loose paint, and re-painting the brick foundation every summer. It was usually dark brown or maroon color paint (and I wore some of it unintentionally). I worked as a child. I mean I worked! Video games hadn't even been invented until I was already a teenager, and I loved my Atari 2600 when I was 15 years old. I used to go from one neighbour's home to the next, offering to rake leaves in the fall, shovel snow in the winter, and cut their grass in the summer. I had lemonade stands often in the summer in front of my house. A cup of ice-cold lemonade was only 10 cents (which I raised to 25 cents eventually), then the street gangs started shooting people in drive-bys and I stayed in the backyard.

I watched my peaceful childhood neighborhood go from 100% Caucasian in 1970, to mostly Hispanic and Black by the 1990's (no offense intended), and the crime skyrocketed. The slumlords moved in. Gang murders and drugs were common. The neighborhood went to hell with the rest of Chicago. Anyway, as a youth I always had money that I earned by hard work, which I spent on tons of fireworks (ordered from Wisconsin), Atari video games (I had most of the games), Big Gulps at 7/11, and “Star Wars” movie cards (you'd also get some bubblegum and a sticker). I also loved the film “Close Encounters” (same gum, sticker and cards) when it came out. For the time it was revolutionary in film making. I have always loved science fiction, spaceships and anything dealing with outer space. I realize that they're secular films. I was a normal kid and had a lot of fun growing up in America.

I cherish those times with my dad. My father loved to work! In fact, he was the hardest physically working man I ever knew. If we had a barbeque, he'd take a few bites, leave his food unfinished, and I'd see him trimming the bushes or hammering down a nail sticking out. My dad always had a hammer in his hand and nails in his mouth. He often told me that he preferred to build “German style,” nailing 2" x 4" boards eight layers thick!!! A tornado couldn't have destroyed our garage! We'll, Ok, perhaps, but it would have been the last garage to go, guaranteed!

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