Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Entrepreneurs and Bureaucrats

One of our major goals in raising children is to raise entrepreneurs, not bureaucrats. We do not attempt to dictate their future careers--we will not disown them just because they work for the government. It's the attitude that matters. People can have an entrepreneurial mindset even though they work for someone else; if they do, they will either be very successful employees of a very happy employer, or they will drive everyone crazy, including themselves, and go find something better. People with bureaucratic mindsets can also own their own businesses, they just won't do very well.

This is bigger than just instilling a good work ethic, and irrelevant to how much income they make. A stay-at-home-mom can choose to be an entrepreneur or a bureaucrat. It's about how they look at work.

The bureaucrat looks at his job as a series of tasks to be fulfilled; when they're done, his job is done, regardless of the outcome. The bureaucrat works to make enough money to fund his leisure. When obstacles arise, the bureaucrat waits for someone else to solve them. The bureaucrat may work diligently enough, but he doesn't own his work.

The entrepreneur looks at his work as a goal to be reached. When he finds an obstacle, he does whatever it takes to get around it. He sees his work as valuable in and of itself; he thinks he's doing something to benefit the world. He can enjoy the money he makes, but he also looks at it as a tool to use for further influence.

Now, chores are the classic way to teach children to work, and I don't dispute their significance. But, I've seen a lot of kids doing a lot of chores, and they were almost all bureaucrats. Some of that is no doubt the natural problem that the chores were working on eliminating. But I'm not so sure it's an inevitable trait. Whoever heard of a lazy toddler?

Part of it starts with not discouraging them from work at the age when they are most eager for it--which is why I spend five minutes letting D1 push the laundry basket down the hallway instead of carrying it myself. Part of it has to do with how the chores are structured, whether they are allowed to own a task and deal with the consequences, or micro-managed in procedures and time. Part of it has to do with giving them the exhilerating feeling of being in charge, of knowing that their work is essential. I'm sure that's not all the pieces, but we'll start there.

1 comment:

Devona said...

I think that you're on to something.

Rob is struggling at work because he has the title "manager" but none of the responsibility that goes along with it. No risk, no authority, no independence. Rob's boss has managed to communicate to him that his work has no value, so why should he continue doing it? Now he's completely burnt out and is looking for a new job.

Children will quickly learn to go do their own thing (which is rarely productive) if their attempts to help prove to be unappreciated or not encouraged.

When I was teaching my 12 toddlers at the daycare, the only way I could keep order was by delegating tasks and then allowing the kids to complete them ("Daniel, can you bring me the baby wipes? Angel would you put away those blocks?"). I would step in to prevent the chaos, but as long as I was the adult in charge we had order, and we had respect. We also had fun and cooperation. Imagine being able to keep the peace with 12 two year olds and only 2 adults. It worked though because we worked together, and they felt a sense of ownership and pride because they were able to help me. And they liked me because I was usually patient and smiling.

It seems like a lot of benefit of the doubt to assume that two year olds have that much invested in their relationships with adults that they look up to. But I don't think that it's unwarranted. There was a lot less stress in our class than in the classes with teachers that yelled and demanded, and then criticized. Our room was messier though. :)