Monday, July 9, 2018

The Value of Work for Youth

In some immigrant families, simple work is considered something beneath the dignity of an upright person. Thus, there are so many families who over protect their children, not exposing them to opportunities of work. In their countries, people looked down on others who did low-level manual work. Doing such work was considered the ultimate insult. Children are expected to study well and achieve high academic honors, and get a good dignified job once they graduate from a professional university program. It is no surprise that one finds young people aged 25+ years who have no practical experience in some societies of the world.

This way of thinking is deeply flawed in so many ways. Scholarly knowledge needs to be supplemented with practical experience from a very early age. Most people learn best by doing, implementing what they learn in books and thinking about those issue in practical ways; Not only does one benefit from understanding day to day work better through formal learning but vice versa as well. One understands what one learns in books if one has accumulated practical experiences to compare the theories that one studies in school.

Work develops character. It teaches responsibility, the value of time, disciple, listening skills, following directions, organization skills, negotiating skills, communication skills, presentation skills, financial skills, political acumen, etc. One learns to depend on one's skills and abilities rather than support from society and thus learns to be a giver, rather than a taker. One develops a sense of community responsibility and learns leadership skills. Work engages the person in the practical world. No wonder, history attests that most self-made men started working at a young age. Muhammad (SWAS) was a shepard in his youth. Benjamin Franklin worked in the printing press when he was a boy. The world's leaders have not been those who graduated with the highest grades in university. They have been those that started developing practical skills early in life through work.

How can one develop the inclination and love of work in children from an early age? Children can be exposed to work quite early. They can be involved when the whole family volunteers to do simple tasks in which the children can work as well, like planting trees, or welcoming the general public to an open house in their masjid. In school, children can be encouraged to work for the Student Council or be the captain of their sports team. Children can be encouraged to publish books on Amazon or teach younger students. Boy Scouts are excellent means for children to be exposed to working together in a safe environment. There are many Muslim Scout troops in the world today. In school vacations, children can be encouraged to volunteer in the public library, recreation centers, as well as in masjid activities. Parents can motivate children to work early by paying them for some house chores. They can open youth bank accounts for them so that they learn to handle financial responsibility early in life. Mistakes made early in life will cost little but leave grave impressions in their young minds. Parents can further encourage children by motivating them to keep building their resumes at every opportunity they get.  

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