What are we teaching our children today that will prepare them for tomorrow? Are we just going through our daily routines, failing to realize that our children’s futures are in our hands? On the other hand, are we just espousing that tired cliché-“Our children are our future.”
I hired a 6th grade Black African American male to assist me in doing yard work at my home about a month ago. When we first met, I was driving home and saw him walking in the neighborhood carrying his rake. I pulled up beside him and asked if he was interested in doing some yard work for me and he said, “yeah.” I immediately admonished him about saying “yeah” and instructed him to say either “yes” or “no” when responding to me, which he promptly complied. I gave him my address and told him to walk there and we would discuss what I wanted him to do and what his fees would be.
He arrived at my home a few minutes after I did and I asked if he knew how to mow a lawn and he replied, “yeah.” I looked at him (with my evil eye-smile) and he immediately said, “I meant yes sir.” I asked how much he would charge and he said, “$50.00.” I shook his hand and told him his fees were too high and I would continue mowing my yards myself, and he left without saying anything.
What prompted me to stop him in the first place was because I have lived in Augusta, Ga. for over thirty years and I can count the number of children whom I have seen actively seeking legal ways of making money on one hand, with fingers to spare. This has more to do with the fact that their parents in general and their mothers in particular prohibit them from working.
For instance, I was standing in the check-out at the grocery store listening to the customer in front of me tell the cashier how much money she was spending on her seventeen year old son’s tennis shoes and how she had just bought him expensive tickets to a sporting event.
I did not know either of them, yet, me being who I am (always butting in), I suggested that the customer encourage her son to get an after school job, mowing lawns, or washing cars. The customer seemed angry with me as she snapped, “I don’t want him working. All he has to do is get good grades and I’ll take care of him.” I took my cue from this mother’s hostile tone and shut up.
Throughout my adult life, I have heard Black African American mothers and fathers say, “I don’t want my children to grow up like I did.” I would always challenge them by asking them to look at their lives and asked if they were satisfied with their outcome and most would say they were. I would then remind them that regardless of what they perceived as being negative, had their parents not subjected them to discipline and hard work, they would not have grown up to become who they are.
I would also share with them that they could take the best of what worked for them and use it on their children. On the other hand, all of their negative experiences, they could carefully consider not using on their children.
Instead of teaching our children the basic skills to self-sufficiency, many of us become doting parents. Instead of giving them love, they give them $tuff. I say this because when you love children, you ensure that you have equipped them with all of the tools and skills they will need to grow into successful adults.
Going back to my young employee, I give his mother full credit. He showed up at my house the following week offering to cut my grass for a negotiated fee. He said, “My mother said I was charging too much, so I needed to lower my price.” I asked him if he knew what “minimum wage” was and he said he did not. I then informed him and asked if he would be willing to work for me for $8.00/hour and he said he would.
Since I had already mowed my lawn for the week, I scheduled an appointment for him to come back the following week with two stipulations. First, he had to be on time and if he was not, he could not work. Second, he could work for me only if he kept his pants no lower than his waste and he agreed.
The following week, he arrived on time with his pants at a respectable height and I began to teach him how I wanted him to mow my lawn. On this first day, he worked three hours and to my chagrin, he could not tell me how much money he earned, in spite of my repeatedly telling him I would not pay him until he told me how much he had earned.
After about twenty minutes and numerous attempts, he was guessing all over the place and he still could not tell me how much he had earned for working three hours. I told him how to compute his wages and walked him through the math, with my finally telling him that he had earned $24.00 for three hours work. I gave him a $2.00 tip and we scheduled for next week.
This young man consistently comes by weekly with his pants pulled up and on time to mow my lawn and he still does not know how to compute his wages. Today he worked 2 ½ hours and it took him approximately 30 minutes of my repeated coaching/prompting for him to realize that he had earned $20.00 today and he left with a $2.00 tip.
This Black African American child started the sixth grade this past Monday and he does not know basic math. I have decided to meet with his mother next week and offer to tutor him in basic math as well as reading and writing-you know, the three “Rs.” Since I do not know her, nor have I ever seen her, I am not sure of her response. We will see.
Family, I strongly encourage you to teach our children legal economic survival skills. As it says in 2nd Thessalonians 3:10-“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. KJV
We need to start teaching our children basic work skills once they begin walking, by teaching them how to pick up after themselves. As they grow older, their chores should also grow proportionally. By the time they get into the first grade, they should know how to make their beds, dress themselves and pick up around the house.
By the third grade, they should be able to cook a basic breakfast of scrambled eggs, grits and toast, leading up to their being able to cook a full course dinner of baked chicken, mixed vegetables or whatever side dishes you want. In addition to cooking, both our sons and daughters should also know how to clean a house and wash and iron laundry, all of which they should know prior to completing the sixth grade.
Let us go back a bit, prior to our children beginning kindergarten, they should know how to spell their names, your names and know their home addresses and telephone numbers. By the way, all of these skills will require your spending considerable time interacting with your children.
For instance, as toddlers, you can have your children in the kitchen with you helping prepare meals and wash the dishes. Oh, as the young folks say here in Augusta, “My bad”. To be able to acquire these skills, mean that some of you must first learn these basic skills yourselves and be willing to do them on a regular basis.
There is no way that our children will be able to grow into young adults with the ability to think, feel, learn and communicate, unless we teach them. We are the biggest and first influence on our children. Whatever they grow up to become, whether doctors, business moguls, or even the president of the United States, it is totally up to us.