I read an article in this week's World Magazine that has me thinking. In fact, it's something that Josh and I have been talking about for some time. The basic premise of the article is that the need for college training seems to be waning while the demand for those with technical skills is increasing.
The article cites Mike Rowe's words as he testified before the U.S. Senate in 2011. Rowe states that while there is a high unemployment rate in the U.S., there is actually a tremendous need for people with trade skills. There just aren't enough people skilled in specific trades.
Josh and I have heard this idea mentioned by several people and have read about it in a variety of publications over the last several months. I'm sure it's something we'll continue to discuss as our own children speed toward the time when they will need to make decisions about their future careers.
However, regardless of whether our children decide to head the route of learning a trade or studying in college, there are some things that I'm convinced we need to teach our children if they will succeed in life.
The first thing they must learn is a good work ethic. There's a great little book called The Fred Factor. It's about a postman named Fred. Fred is an excellent worker. He is conscientious, goes above and beyond the call of duty, and cares for those he serves. Fred is a good example of how I want my children to behave in whatever God calls them to do.
Teaching diligence and perseverance starts at home. Teaching my children to tackle even the tough jobs begins with cleaning up toys, washing dishes, and watering the garden. Our oldest recently read the book "Do Hard Things" by Brett and Alex Harris. He loved it! The Harris twins challenge teens to go beyond the expectations of society. It's only in recent times that teens have been given a wild card to act out, be disrespectful, and continue their childhood. Throughout history, teens have held incredible responsiblity - some doing work that we wouldn't even expect a 30 year old to tackle nowadays!
So, in mutual agreement, Josh and I have decided that we will be counter-cultural in raising our children to be productive, respectable, honest members of society. Even as teens. But especially as adults. None of this "28 year old man-child living in the basement playing video games and avoiding the job market" stuff for our kids!
The second thing we have decided is of utmost importance to our children's future success is to teach them how to handle money. How many people do you know with absolutley no debt? Not even a mortgage? I know of maybe a handful. Now, I'm not totally against a mortgage, but I do feel that if it can be avoided, it should be.
When Josh and I first got married, we had the attitude that we were entitled to have everything our parents had. We began our marriage by filling our house with all the "necessary" items of life. Right down to a coat rack. As if a coat closet wasn't enough. If we didn't have it and we "needed" it, we bought it. Hang the cost!
It has taken us over a decade to change those habits - and especially to change our way of thinking. For the Christian, the attitude of instant gratification leaves no room for God to provide. It keeps us from bringing our needs to the One who loves to provide in remarkable ways and to receive the glory for it. It also negates the role of the church in providing for one another. How wonderful when a brother in Christ can fix your lawnmower and later you can serve him by tending his garden. We each have different skills and gifts. But when we rely only on ourselves, we neglect to utilize and recognize the remarkable gifts God has given to others.
In terms of spending, we've had some hard lessons to learn. We've been "in plenty" and "in want" in our almost 13 years of marriage. We had three lean years during seminary when we sometimes wondered how we'd pay for groceries or clothe our children. But God always provided and often in extraordinary ways! Now that we have a regular income we have to carefully keep ourselves from foolish spending. We recently switched to using cash only. If the money isn't there, we can't buy it. Our savings and our tithe come out of the paycheck first and the remainder is for us to wisely use for living. Would you believe, we're saving more now than ever before?! The absence of credit card spending has caused us to more carefully evaluate our purchases and to be sure it's something we need before just rushing out to fulfill our wants.
These are things I want my children to learn. A good worker, diligent and trustworthy will be sought after in the workforce. Someone who is mindful of his spending and who has adopted good money habits will have far fewer worries than his contemporaries.
Regardless of what my children choose to do in life, I hope they will regard their work in this way:
"No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be
undertaken with painstaking excellence.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
And their wealth in this way:
Proverbs 28:6 Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
Proverbs 23:4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.