When Child Labor is Good for the Child

“Wait, isn’t that child labor?”

Over the past month we’ve heard this comment about once a week and I’m beginning to get concerned, not for us, but that these laws, so important in their day, may be unintentionally blocking families from deciding to become teams.

But let’s take a step back.

The other day I was driving home and saw our youngest daughter Kaira rollerblading back from the post office.

Several days a week she delivers the packages from our quilt shop and drops them off three blocks away.

This scene filled my heart with gratitude.

For the practical way Kaira can help.

For the safe town we live in.

For the way our life just feels so integrated and holistic in these moments.

In order to build our team and be with our kids more of the day we have spent years prioritizing things we can do together over things we do individually, including our work.

It started many years ago.

Here’s a picture of Sydney when she was three years old (today she’s 16) putting labels on products for one of our online businesses.

Would it really be better if she was consuming products by playing with stickers instead of producing products? She loved getting to do this, and it had the beneficial side effect of making her feel like she was helping the team, which she really was.

Almost all families worked like this together throughout history, and it was considered a healthy and important part of family life.

Then came the Industrial Revolution.

Families moved from the farm to the city. In the city it was a lot more difficult to find jobs that allowed the family to work together. Desperate families began to send their children to work in factories up to seven days a week. They became an almost slave labor force. As this Dickensian experience worsened, laws were passed to prevent families from exploiting their children in this way. These laws make wide exceptions for children working in businesses owned by their family, but one of their byproducts is a lingering sense many have to this day that children should never do any economically productive work.

But what if a parent could spend an extra two hours a day with their children, coaching, training, talking, and enjoying one another if it can be done through an economically productive endeavor? 

This has been key to the amount of time we’ve been able to spend with our kids, not to mention the team spirit and practical training this has instilled into our family.

The home was meant to be productive.

Kids need some work in their rhythm.

Be careful not to let the culture have too great an influence over the kind of family you’re building.

Families were designed to be teams and teams work together.


P.S. We talked to Sydney, our 16 year old, about her first year of public school on the Family Teams Podcast. She had a number of great insights. Check it out.

This entry is a part of Jeremy’s Journal, a newsletter Jeremy sends out every Wednesday morning to encourage you on your parenting journey. You can sign up to get them every Wednesday here.

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