Someone asked me recently, why I think hard work does not matter in contemporary society, especially among young people. While we must recognize and celebrate the young people out there who have managed to achieve great feats through tenacious efforts, we can’t but acknowledge the reality that many people in today’s society, and I dare to say, not only the young ones but also adults do not seem to see any sense in hard work. However, for the purpose of this write up, I would like to focus on young people, since my interest here is parenting.
So, why is it that hard work doesn’t seem to make sense to many young people?
The reasons are numerous but I would like to discuss only a few that I consider to be the most crucial influences.
Today’s Parents are Doing Everything for their Children :
Child development psychologists have established that an individual’s attitude to work – whether the individual is predominantly work -oriented and consequently hard working or pleasure -oriented and consequently lazy is developed during childhood, specifically, from age 3 and consolidated during adolescence. This orientation is largely the result of parenting and experiences during childhood and adolescence. From the age of 3, a child begins to exhibit the need for autonomy. The child takes initiative to do things and insists on being allowed to do certain things without being assisted, such as brushing his teeth, dressing up and helping with chores. If the child’s initiative and efforts are appreciated and encouraged, and the child is provided with opportunities to apply himself within the sphere of his capability (with helpful supervision), the child develops confidence in his own initiative and effort and consequently develops self-motivation for hard work.
On the contrary, if his initiative and effort are despised or criticized or he even gets punished because he did not perform the task correctly, or altogether prevented from doing things because his parents are over protective and have hired domestic assistants to do everything for him, the child would not only lose confidence in his own initiative and effort but may also learn to wait for others to decide and do things for him. As the child continues to relax, watching movies or playing while the domestic assistants do everything for him, including taking care of his room, washing his clothes, clearing the table and doing the dishes for him after meals, at an age where he is mature enough to do these things by himself, the child gradually loses the opportunity to learn to assert himself both mentally and physically.
If this trend continues at adolescence, the result would be a young person who simply wants to relax, have fun and enjoy the best things of life without any effort. This young person is not willing to work because he has been conditioned to simply relax and he has grown to see hard work as unnecessary and avoidable stress.
This young man gets into the university and he can’t bear to sit still for a 2hr lecture, let alone study for hours in preparation for examination, and this is not surprising because in the first instance, his parents probably paid others to write his O’Levels for him, and influenced his admission.
How can he suddenly begin to work hard now? That would be too much to expect. His parents must in addition to his upkeep allowance, make provision for sorting out his lecturers or course mates for assistance if he must graduate.
What about after graduation? Can this young person be expected to thrive in the competitive world of work? That would be asking for the impossible.
Misplacement of Values by Society:
Today’s society celebrates outcomes without taking cognisance of the processes. No one is interested in how anyone achieves whatever. We say the “end” justifies the “means”. So, we do not bother about “the means”, we simply celebrate the “ends”. “Just show us your result, we don’t care about how you got it”. Everyday, society makes these statements in many ways to young people. We hardly acknowledge ingenuity and integrity but we decorate and promote criminals as long as they have substance to show.
Hard work must be combined with consistency and patience in order to produce worthwhile results. Unfortunately, there’s no place for patience in today’s society, not even in religious circles do we teach patience anymore. The popular perception is ” get it now or never” As a result, the tendency to choose shortcuts above hard work (that requires a long and tedious process) is extremely high. Any society that operates by the above principles encourages desperation and shortcuts, and should not expect hard work from the young ones.
Many Adults are Showing Bad Examples:
As I mentioned earlier, the deviation from the path of hard work is not only among young people. Many adults are not good models for young people. Many adults cheat and intimidate others in order to achieve their goals, unknown to them that they are setting negative precepts for their wards. In families where cheating and intimidation are the keys to success, it would be an aberration to expect anything different from the young ones.
What can we do to Change this Trend?
If you want your child to grow into a hard working young man or woman, it is expedient to start early to train the child to work . Let your child learn from an early age that work is not punishment and that we can neither survive nor enjoy life unless we work and work hard. Stop making others to do for your child what he/she should do for him or herself. Your child does not need a special centre to pass his O’Levels. Provide the study materials, get him a private tutor if necessary and encourage him to study, and if he is not ready to study, let him repeat. This may sound harsh but it is the only way for him to learn. Parents may buy Good grades for their wards but they can’t be employed on their behalf. Equip your child to face life.
We would be able to change this trend when we as adults and parents begin to demonstrate in our own lives, the significance of consistent hard work and learn to commend our young ones for their efforts, and not always judge them by the results of their peers. We need to show them by examples that the “means” is as important as the “end”. Let us teach them that though hard work involves a long and tedious process, it is the only path that can guarantee lasting success.
Parents should stop mounting pressure on their young ones to achieve. Young people need encouragement and not pressure to succeed. When young people are encouraged, they are more psychologically stable to focus and improve their efforts, and this encourages hard work. On the contrary, when they are under pressure to achieve, they tend to lose confidence in their abilities and they may seek alternative routs that do not encourage hard work. One of the best ways to encourage consistency and patience, is to celebrate your wards for making tangible efforts even when the desired results are not yet visible. This encourages hard work.
No matter how much you love your child, and no matter how much you are willing to do for them, one thing is certain, you can’t face life for them. The best you can do for your child is to equip them to face life.
Dr. Rosemary Oshiomah Ogedengbe