James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Let the children play... and work, if they want to


Last week the Center For a Stateless Society ran a piece from Jay Griffiths: Why Parents Should Leave Their Kids Alone.

After reading the first couple of paragraphs, I wondered if the piece was mistitled. It argued that parents shouldn't leave their kids alone, especially when they're crying. But after that, the title made sense: it argues that when the kid no longer wants to cling to the mother's hip, and wants to be free to explore the world, he or she should be permitted to do so.

Griffiths cites numerous cultures, mostly aboriginal, where this persists. Children at very young ages learn self-reliance in the outdoors because they want to. In at least one culture, a child asks a parent "Can I do this?" not because the child is asking for "permission" from the parents, but is rather asking if it's permitted by the laws of their society.

I don't have any child-rearing theories myself, but I would bend strongly toward treating children in a similar way, as free. Parents should be their children's guides and support, rather than their rulers. If children want to stay inside and read books or work or play on the computer, great. If they want to go outside, they can go outside -- even in urban and suburban environments. They should be able to ride bikes wherever, go to playgrounds without supervision, or play ball on quiet residential streets.

The important thing isn't what the kids decide to do, but that they know they had the freedom to do it. Which is something that seems lost in the over-regulated, over-organized, over-scheduled world of today for today's young.

Frankly, I would also give them the freedom to work if they wanted to.

Why not?

There are some jobs anybody can do, even 7 year-olds, such as sealing and stamping envelopes or light cleaning.  Many cashier jobs can be done by children not that much older. Or simple data entry. Why not let them do it, if they wanted?

If the task is so easy a child can do it, why not let the child do it, and pay the child what the job is worth?

Absent minimum wage laws, bans on child labor, and rigid compulsory schooling laws, it could be done. For many children, working for pay will give a child a greater sense of accomplishment than good grades at school. Why be forced into the school, and be denied the opportunity to work for pay, or to become an entrepreneur at whatever age?

The child's brain lacks the knowledge of facts, but it is fiercely logical. And the child responds better to incentives. The child will work for the pay he or she receives, and won't feel entitled to it.

I wonder if child labor laws and compulsory schooling were never for the benefit of the child, but rather for the benefit of unskilled adults who do work the children could do at State-imposed higher wages.

After all, the unskilled adult has a vote. The talented and inquisitive child does not.

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