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


Lee Habeeb

I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve been at a fancy steakhouse in town, and there next to us are eight college kids laughing it up, well dressed and having a good ole time. And when the bill arrives, out comes mom and dad’s credit card.

I didn’t take a girl to a fancy restaurant until I was 25. Until then, my dates got the Denny’s special.

And when I talk to these students and ask them if they have a job, they look at me as if I had just sprung a second head. “A job? Are you kidding me?” is the look I get. They don’t even bother to respond verbally.

And our little girl, Reagan — who is seven years old — sees all of this. She sees the stuff other kids have, and she will soon be asking us why we don’t give her the stuff those other parents give their kids.

We will tell Reagan, once she’s old enough, that if she wants that stuff, she’ll have to work to get it. That we’ll help, but she has to have some skin in the game, so that she’ll appreciate the work it takes.

She won’t like it at first. What kid does? But this I know: If more of us parents who think this way will simply stick to our guns, we can beat back those crazy parents who give their kids everything.

We need to fight back against the coddling culture and ask of our kids what our parents asked of us, and what their parents asked of them: Do your part. Work hard. And help pay your own way. Just a bit.

So on this Labor Day, I have an idea that I hope will soon spread around the country like a virus: Let’s extol the virtues of work, and of working children.

Not the sweatshop, indentured-servitude kind of child labor. I’m talking about the kind we all experienced when we were kids: the paper route, the job at McDonald’s or 7-Eleven, which was my first job. Or a lawn-mowing service in the neighborhood.

Labor Day as it is celebrated is really Union Day. And unions in the past 30 years have been all about slowing down work and pitting worker against owner.

I say we parents — we Americans — who care about work must make Labor Day a celebration of all work.

And while we’re at it, bring back child labor once and for all.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt.