Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Not A Chore - An Economic Opportunity



Song:  Stairway To Heaven

Orchestra:  London Philharmonic Orchestra




Before I make my argument against the notion
 of a child having to do "chores"...
let me first show you what Alex had chosen to do.

Although I pay for lawn maintenance...
besides them wanting to charge an extraordinary amount
to weed the rock beds...
they wished to do so by spraying herbicides.

I never have any herbicides anywhere near any of the property.

It is not just for the rabbits and lizards which inhabit the yard...
it is mainly to keep any residue from affecting Alex.

Although there is weed block (a plastic sheeting) underneath the rocks...
after over two years without having to weed the rock bed...
a few hardy weeds have made an appearance...
and so, when my wife recommended that it would be a perfect
opportunity for Alex to earn some extra money...
Alex loved the idea...
as did I.

The yard is my responsibility...
I didn't wish to weed...
Alex wanted to earn money...
problem resolved.

(Although I don't wish to give the appearance of my being lazy...
I actually am  :)


Although we buy everything for Alex...
he still likes to save his money.

He enjoys seeing his account grow larger...
even if only by small amounts
(He is a natural saver.  Even as a young child, he loved to save
all of my change that I would always give him.
He would love to see how the money grew).

Pretty much anything Alex wants...
we get for him.

One of our great pleasures in life is to be able to make Alex happy in life.

Alex is very simple...
 and even though I often ask him if he would like anything special...
he often says that he has no special desires that have gone unfulfilled.

I know that what we do seems to be heresy to many parents...
that to not have a child have many chores as his responsibility...
that to buy everything for a child, instead of having him have to buy them...
that we will somehow spoil him...
that he will be robbed of the chance to build character through labor.

I will state my case later in this article...
and what I have to say will surprise many...
and hopefully, will give just as many...
reason to rethink what has come to be...
a societal norm.


Yesterday, I gave Alex the opportunity to make some extra money.

The job took less than an hour...
and I paid him $20.00 for his efforts.

He merely had to pull the weeds from out of the rock beds around the house.

I followed him around...
and with me not being one to miss an opportunity
to teach a principle or to reinforce a concept...
as I had noticed him pulling the weeds in an inefficient manner...
I thought, aha...
a perfect opportunity to not only explain a better way...
but to explain the reason through simple physics...
and the feedback he should be feeling in order to achieve
biomechanical efficiency.

Alex was using the tips of his fingers in a pinch grip to pull the weeds.

I had explained that the force necessary to effect the task was excessive...
and that he would have sore finger tendons after repeated use in such a manner.

I had told him to approach the weeds as low as possible...
 in a slight sweeping C fashion of the arm
(with the arm almost fully extended)...
 and to hold his hand vertically 
as if he were attempting to shake hands with it.

Then, by just a gentle bending of the hand...
with just the thumb gently clasping down on the weed bunch...
and with a 90 degree turning of his wrist to the outside
(not even grasping the weed)...
a friction hold would form.

It then becomes a simple matter of just leaning slightly back...
and the mass of the body effects the pull
(many of the "weeds' were larger plant suckers...
and so, were difficult to pull).

Very little muscular motion or force is used...
even on the tougher pulls.

I had told him that by pinch gripping...
the end of the (working) lever was far from the fulcrum...
which would then necessitate much more force used 
to achieve much less force applied.

I also told him that by then trying to use his arms to effect the pull...
he was wasting energy, besides not having the force that the body 
could generate far more efficiently and effectively.

I told him that when moving the body...
to always strive to get the most movement...
or the most amount of force...
with the least amount of effort.

The way to achieve this is to gently exhale as if you are sighing...
and to combine all motions into the space of that exhalation.

By sighing...
you enforce relaxation...
and the timing necessary to coordinate the body into one unit.

By combining all motions into one...
the largest muscles of the body move first...
and in a coordinated fashion...
which results in power coming from the ground up...
and efficient and effortless movement.


I know that all this seems a bit much coming from a lesson in pulling weeds.


However, it was far more than this.
It was a lesson in major life principles.


Alex thought my reasoning was sound...
he applied my suggestions...
he was happy to be weeding in an efficient manner...
and I was happy to have taught him important principles in life

(unless you have reached perfection...there is always a better way...
to always monitor situations using feedback...
to think things through...
and to constantly adapt to achieve greater efficiency...
not merely through bodily motion, but in everything...
as gauged by the results).


Now...
you would think that this approach would work with everyone.


Many years ago...
when I was still an inexperienced husband...
I noticed my wife being inefficient in the kitchen.

I thought, aha...
a perfect opportunity to not only explain a better way...
but to explain the reason through simple physics...
and the feedback she should be feeling in order to achieve
biomechanical efficiency.


Although my intent was pure...
 her reaction wasn't entirely what I had expected.

When her retort was the typical...
"If you think you could do it better...
then you do it."

Now...
had I thought it through and just left it alone...

Well, what I had thought at the moment would be a good idea...wasn't.

I had thought that a little humor would diffuse the situation.

So I said...
"It is far easier for me to just sit back and make recommendations".

Even though I had smiled when I had said it...
 her knitted eyebrows told me she had appreciated...
neither my suggestion...nor my humor.

Ok...
two lessons learned.

Firstly...
to tailor the lesson to the audience.

Secondly...
and perhaps most importantly....
when making recommendations to a wife about her kitchen...
don't.  :)






Alex worked happily.

He was even happier when I paid him :)

He did the work that I would have had to have paid someone else to do...
for a fraction of the cost, without the persistent hazardous chemicals in the yard...
and he got to have a chance to earn some money
(Ok...I don't have to pay someone else to do what I could do...
but as I have said...I am lazy :)

Alex did the work of a man...
he deserved to get paid as one.


Now...
some may believe that a child should be expected to perform many chores 
around the house for free, that it is his responsibility...
and that it will teach him responsibility.


My counter to this:

What I would really be teaching him...
is that by having him do for free...
that which is really MY responsibility...
is that a position of authority allows one to skirt personal responsibility...
and to assign it to those he sees as beneath him...
to somehow justifiably transfer his responsibilities
to those who are not in a position to refuse.

NO...
the yard is my responsibility...
not my son's.

His responsibility...
is to excel in his studies...
and so, to excel in life.

In this...
he performs admirably. 

Alex is also very neat.

He picks up after himself...
his room is always tidy.


So far as having a chore to teach him responsibility...
there is no chore which teaches more about responsibility...
no chore more effort inducing...
no chore more time consuming...
no chore more important...
than preparing for life through academic performance.

As a child...
Alex's sole function in life...
is to learn.

He is preparing for life...
and nothing will prepare a person for life more...
and nothing will transpose to good work ethics more effectively... 
than the development and daily practice of good study habits.


Physical labor is easy in comparison.
Physical labor doesn't involve much in the way of thought.

It is tedious and unnecessarily time consuming...
the only saving grace of which is to negatively reinforce the desire
to not have to perform such tasks for the rest of a child's life...
and so, to do well in school so he could then choose a career 
which he would love doing.

As Alex needs no such lesson...
lengthly chores at home would take away from his study time...
or from his richly deserved free time
(Although Alex is responsible for taking out the trash...
and for picking up the mail...
it takes but a few minutes of his time...
and it is to reinforce his organizational skill
for events not done on a daily basis).

A person may counter that if a child has time to play or relax...
then he has time for chores.


My counter:


A child who has time for chores...
has time to study.

Once he is done with the proper amount of his daily studies...
then he only has time for his free time
(we always strive to give Alex at least one hour a day free time...
a little more on the weekends, in the summer, and during the holidays).


A child who puts in tremendous effort into his studies...
needs, and deserves, free time to enjoy and to recharge himself...
to be free from the mundane daily tasks of those who don't put in the amount
of intense effort as does someone who takes his studies seriously. 

A child who studies well...
well understands real work.

To assign a serious student a chore for the "learning experience"...
would merely be an exercise in tedium.

A child who is subjected to tedium...
learns to adapt by escaping into his mind...
to daydream...to distract himself from the mind numbing
and senseless repetition in hopes of not becoming
the intellectually apathetic and zombified person 
who accepts this as the way things are...
or worse still, as the way things should be.

I say again...
nothing teaches a child more about...
personal responsibility...
determination...
hard work and excellent work ethics...
than does academic excellence through excellent daily study habits.








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