Bring Back Child Labor
You can’t give your children real self-esteem. They have to work for it.


Lee Habeeb

But she was also learning some other important life lessons. Lessons that build something few people like to talk about these days — character.

She was learning that work is good. That she is not entitled to anything. That money doesn’t grow on trees. That to have money, one must earn it.

She was learning that her parents are not an ATM, and that it takes a lot of work to pay for things like food and cable and a house.

You have to sell a whole lot of Subway sandwiches to pay for an iPhone, let alone a car.

The couple who own that Subway shop should get a parenting award, because they have dared to do something that many modern parents refuse to do: expose their kids early to the exigencies and realities of life. They heaped adult responsibility on their twelve-year-old daughter, and she ate it up. They gave her duties and responsibilities, and she owned them. They permitted her to be a part of the family business, and she was grateful.

Many parents I know do the opposite. Instead of making their kids work for what they want, they simply give them stuff. Instead of making them work for an Android or an iPad or a car, parents simply give their kids these goodies, and ask for nothing in return. Not a thing.

These are the same coddling parents who try to protect their children from all of life’s problems. Skinned knees? Let’s get our precious little ones some kneepads. A bad bump at the playground? Rubberize the place.

A bad grade from the teacher? Who needs grades? Let’s just give everyone a gold star.

Or worse, let’s appeal that bad grade.

In their endless desire to raise their children’s self-esteem, those parents are creating spoiled, entitled kids, and actually hurting their chances of succeeding in an ever more competitive work force.

That twelve-year-old in the Subway shop has real self-esteem. The kind you get only by earning it.

The kids who get what they want, when they want it, have the look of bored adults by the time they reach 18. They are insufferable before they’ve ever suffered. Indeed, that’s why they are insufferable. They get everything they want, and nothing seems to satisfy them.

I was reading the Ole Miss newspaper the other day (Oxford is home to the state’s flagship university campus), and there was a full-page ad for what appeared to be a beautiful retirement condo complex. Upon closer inspection, I learned it wasn’t for seniors at all, but rather for students.

The complex was called “The Retreat.” As if college kids need a “retreat” from their tough grind of 15 hours of classes a week.

Then came the list of amenities: “Fitness center. Movie theater. Sand volleyball court. Basketball court. Golf simulator. Fire pit. Green space. Swimming pool. Tanning domes. Computer lounge.”

Golf simulators? Sand volleyball courts? Is this a college dorm parents are paying for, or a Club Med?

When did a bed, a desk, a chair, a lamp, good study tools (today a laptop is actually essential), and a hot plate stop being a sufficient starting place for learning?

This is the great culture war no one is talking about right now in America. It’s the battle of the parents with common sense who want to raise responsible kids against the parents who give their kids what they want, when they want it.

Time after time in this bucolic town, my wife and I see college students — some of them all of 18 — walk out of gyms or restaurants in the middle of the day and step into Range Rovers or Mercedes-Benzes. We always do one of those double-takes you see in movies.

What the heck?” we say to ourselves. Because it shocks us to see young people casually strut into $70,000 vehicles and act as if those cars are theirs.

We make a very good living, and we don’t own cars like that.