Wormsby: Teach Your Children What It Means to Earn What They Want

By Hollis Wormsby

When I was a child, many, many years ago, we were pretty much required to earn anything we wanted past basic food and shelter.  If I wanted five dollars to go to a school event, my parents required that I do $5 worth of work to pay for it.  My Grandfather used to tell us that we never had to tell him thank you for anything he did for us, because he was always going to require that we did something to earn it, and that if you earned it you didn’t have to say thank you.  I had an Uncle that would tell one of my cousins, “When you get your house, you can make your rules.”  Everything about my youth was directed towards the purpose of teaching me and the other youth in our family, that you get what you earn in life.

Today, at nearly 62 years old, the values that my family implanted in me as a child are still there, I don’t expect anyone to give me anything, I never have.  If I want something, I will create a plan to get it. That plan will not include asking anyone or anything to give me any part of it.  In fact, I don’t want anybody to give me anything, because what someone gives you is never truly yours.  This value is probably the greatest gift my family ever gave me.

But what about today’s children.  In so many homes today children are not tasked with any real responsibilities.  We give them the latest iPhone, the most expensive clothes, pay for whatever activities they request to be a part of, and demand almost nothing directly in return.  For some of us, it is giving our children a better life than we had.  For some of us it is living the youth we didn’t have through our children.  And maybe some of us just don’t understand how important it is to instill in our youth from early on, that they get what they earn in life.

If our children spend their entire developmental years in our homes with no responsibility and with us acting like open ATM machines, then where will they learn values like working for what they want?  If the only thing our children have to do to get what they want, is to ask us or tell us what they want and wait for us to give it to them, then how will they know how to get it for themselves once they leave our homes, or once the Good Lord call us home?

It is nice to be the good one who gives everything and is loved and appreciated for it, but I believe we do our children a disservice when we let them see so much of life from this perspective.  Almost none of us will be able to provide for our children throughout their lifetime.  At some point in all of our children’s lives will come the day when they will have to leave the nest and take responsibility for themselves and God willing, one day, for their own children.  Their time with us should not be just about having fun and enjoying the fruits of our labor, from an early age they need to begin to learn how to earn what they want, and the pride that comes when you truly know that you earned everything you have and you don’t owe nobody for it.

I appreciate each day that I come home, and I know that I provided for my family.  I know that because of my hard work, my name is on my roof, and it is my choice to provide it to my family as cover.  I have a weakness for nice cars.  It feels good to know that I didn’t go ask my daddy to buy me one, that my daddy taught me years ago how to go get what I want for myself.

I know that it is hard to say no to our children, and I know that sometimes it is easier to just do something than to fuss at your children to do so.   But it is not just, or primarily about saving a dollar, or getting something done around the house.  It is primarily about teaching them that most basic lesson in life, that either you learn young or never learn.  And that lesson as beautifully expressed by Frankie Beverly is, “One thing to never forget, you get what you earn, most of the time.”  Or at least, that’s the way I see it.

(Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 29 years.  He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM and of Real Talk on WAGG AM.  If you would like to comment on this column you can email him at hjwormsby@aol.com)