Child Labor: It's Not All Bad.

Family Matters on 10.21.11
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Photo: The Perennial Plate

With all the concern about sweatshops these days, it's common to hear the term "child labor" as if it is always a bad thing. But the fact is that kids can learn an awful lot from a hard days work.

A few weeks ago I posted on TreeHugger a video about a Christian perspective on organic dairy farming. But what stayed with me the most was not this farming family's views on pesticides or the treatment of animals (important though those insights were), but rather the notion that kids can be happiest when they feel they are contributing to something. Here's the father of the house talking:

"If you take a 5 year old and ask him to hold the other end of a wrench, you'll make his day. It may be at my expense, but if I can carry that then he'll benefit from it."

Sure, kids need plenty of time to play - including unstructured play - but it is worth remembering that traditionally kids learned from watching, and helping, with whatever was going on around them. And while the idea of putting your kids to work may sound like an excuse for mom or dad to put their feet up, as the quote above shows, more-often-than-not, allowing your kid to work with you will be at least as much hassle as it is help. (My 2-year-old daughter's inability to carry a 2-gallon watering can is a big reason why I won't be gardening next year.) But it's usually a hassle well worth enduring.

I myself remember many a summer afternoon spent mowing the lawn or hauling firewood for my parents. (My Dad would often have to remow the lawn afterwards because I'd left islands of long grass where I thought I'd seen a frog.) I'm sure some of our efforts were of help to my parents, but I'm sure much of it was of more value to my brother and I.

Anyhow, here's that farming family. It's well worth watching.

The Perennial Plate Episode 74: God's Country from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

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