I am seated right next to my parents as I write this. Looking back, my parents did a great job of parenting. In my early years, I witnessed the parenting of future workers first-hand. My parents were proactively involved in getting us to do what needed to be done. House chores did not feel like work; we enjoyed cooking and cleaning up. Growing up on a farm, it was not all about simple house chores; there was farm work to be done. We picked and pruned coffee, weeded the crops and harvested them, and fed and milked the cows. As other farm workers were lining up to be paid for coffee picked, my siblings and I were on the list too. I recall picking coffee as fast as I could so I could have enough money to munch some sugarcane. Being a farmhand was something I enjoyed; it was part of my early years of schooling.
I am not a parenting expert, but I have observed parenting at its best and worst. As far as work ethics are concerned, parents can influence their children either positively or negatively. Parenting at its best for future workers involves parents supporting their children to develop mindsets, skills, and behaviours needed in the world of work. They do so by introducing chores at an early age and integrating them into everyday life. They let the children pick up the toys after themselves. Such parents model and value hard work. They make work enjoyable and celebrate with their children when they learn a new skill or make a good habit routine. I recall us singing as we weeded the crops. It was fun! Maybe we could have done better with our last-born brother. When children are babysat for too long, it can be damaging. We cannot be the parents who, instead of helping children do their school work, do it for them.
Today, another generation of workers has been transitioning into the world of work. This generation is different from the one before it. It is a generation that has grown up in a smaller, largely urban family set up, with the mobile phone, the TV, and the internet. It is a more informed generation. This generation has spent hours studying to pass exams. Every time a student asks me what questions to expect in the exam, it bothers me. Why not simply study as per the course outline and be ready to show understanding during exams? One day, a parent called me regarding their son’s exam marks. I asked her to tell their son a university student to call me, but he did not. Should a parent call the boss when their son or daughter oversleeps and fails to report to work? As this generation continues to join the workplace, many are ready and willing to get the work done. Unfortunately, others are only interested in the money and not the work.
As parents, siblings, and society at large, we have a critical role to play in preparing better future workers. The greatest lesson I learnt from my parents was about the need to put in effort and being reliable. As we parent workers for the future, let us be more intentional, let us instill in them positive mindsets, interpersonal skills, and the right behaviours that will propel them in the very competitive workplace today.
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy