What’s Kickin’ Blog

Fran Kick, M.A. Educational Psychology, CSP

Where Kids Are Learning A Work Ethic

Eric Chester will have a new book out in January 2012 entitled: Reviving Work Ethic. In this book he shares his take on the pervasive “entitlement mentality” that allegedly afflicts many in the emerging workforce. He also offers specific actions employers can take to develop within their employees a deeper commitment to performing excellent work.

As someone who shares his emphasis on working hard and getting better at what you do, I wonder how receptive today’s parents, teachers and employers will be to Eric’s latest book—needed as it might be. While he asserts that kids today have not been taught how to succeed in the workplace, at school, or at home. There are some places many students are learning the value of a “work ethic” and that’s in the high-quality music programs, pre-professional business programs, speech and debate, theater, Science Olympiad, Invention Convention clubs, Odyssey of the Mind teams, as well as a myriad of other co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Ironically, and mistakenly, the very activities that seem to be cut whenever State mis-funded budget realities force schools to save some dollars. Admittedly, most of these activities happen after school with lots of parent, community, volunteer support and fundraising.

Learning to work in school? Eric’s probably right. Students aren’t learning to work in school as much as they’re learning to work after school. U.S. kids (compared to other OECDmember countries) have one of the the shortest school days, the shortest school years, and only do (on average) about an hour of homework a day. Add to this around a month of “summer learning loss” that occurs thanks to most summer vacations, and it’s no wonder teachers spend too much of their instructional time cramming (I mean preparing) students for some state-mandated tests–most of which are biased and border on educational malpractice. Maybe that’s why 1 in 3 U.S. high school students don’t graduate?

Learning to work at work? Eric might be right about U.S. kids not learning to work on the job either. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the proportion of young people ages 16 to 24 in the work force has collapsed. And if you think this is simply a phenomenon from the recent economic crisis, realize that ever since 2000 (that’s over ten years), fewer and fewer young people have even been working. Of course the one’s who are, might be working harder given the current “less doing more” mentality in the workplace.

Learning to work at home? Now before you go all “Ozzie and Harriet” on me (who, remember were fictional characters), or start quoting President Eisenhower describing a time that has passed:

America did not become great through softness and self-indulgence. Her miraculous progress and achievements flow from other qualities far more worthy and substantial–a satisfaction in hard work.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower State of the Union Address, January 7, 1960

Realize that research (covering over a dozen surveys of how Americans use their time) taken at different periods from 1965 to 2007 actually show parents spend more time with their children now than they did back in the “I Like Ike” days. Time diaries indicate that married fathers spent on average 6.5 hours a week caring for their children in 2000, a 153 percent increase since 1965. Married mothers spent 12.9 hours, a 21 percent increase. Even single mothers spent 11.8 hours, a 57 percent increase. Over the last ten years the numbers have increased even further—spending 9.6 hours a week for college-educated men, 6.8 hours for other men, all caring for their kids. Of course, when your unemployed it might be a lot easier to spend time with your kids. Hopefully, helping them study since job losses tend to decrease scores on achievement tests.

NOTE: Some have cherry-picked, warped, or misinterpreted survey data from A.C. Nielsen (mostly when urging families to turn off or even kill their TV) and erroneously hype that the number of minutes per week “parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children is 38.5 minutes.” (They simply divide by 7 and state that’s 5½ minutes per day.) Others only consider the “Talking to/with children” calculation from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey data (which cites only 3 minutes per day). Yet wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that given all the childcare activities parents do “with their children” (i.e. physical care, education-related, reading to/with, playing/doing hobbies with, attending children events, travel with, and others) there’s really a lot more quality and quantity time being spent together? Actually, in total, on average, over 90-minutes per day!

While many working parents typically feel guilty for not spending enough time at home, kids often have a different view of things at home. In the landmark study “Ask the Children,” Dr. Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute asked more than 1,000 children about their “one wish” for their own parents. While parents thought their children would wish for “more family time,” the children wanted something different. “Kids were more likely to wish that their parents were less tired and less stressed.” Sounds like they might be working too hard. Now, what kind of example is that for our children?

Disclaimer: To his credit, Eric openly admits he’s an Old Caucasian Dude and that might slant his perspective on kids today as well as the work ethic he observes they bring into the workplace. Yet, I’ll bet his take on the emerging workforce resonates with many and makes his latest book Reviving Work Ethic well worth reading. So visit Eric’s Official Reviving Worth Ethic Facebook Page and find out how you can get three chapters to read in advance.

What do you think about the work ethic kids today have at home, at school or on the job? Be sure to share your thoughts, comments and perspective.

Read More »
Steve Jobs’ Leadership Example

Frederick Allen, at Forbes shares how a very smart friend of his once said that “the whole difference between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and thus between Microsoft and PCs and Apple, was simply that Bill Gates thought everyone wanted to be a programmer, at least a little bit, and Steve Jobs said, oh, no, they don’t.” An article worth reading as it resonates very deeply with us as we re-launch our web site. Ahhhh, technology is wonderful when it works more for you, than you have to work for it.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

—Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.
Read More »
$226,920.00 to Raise a Child (excluding college)

How much to raise a child today you ask? Well, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual report, Expenditures on Children by Families, finding that an average middle-income family* with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920.00 ($286,860.00 given an estimated annual inflation of 2.6 percent factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years.

The good news is that this represents only a 2 percent increase compared to 2009. Which according to economist Mark Lino, who who oversees the annual report and serves as the Senior Economist for the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, is below the average increase for the past 10 years which has been 3.2 percent. Lino attribute the lower increase due to the cost of housing and clothing declining a bit. “The economy has taken a downturn so people are cutting back on some items. They may not be buying expensive sneakers,” Lino said. (Nike take note?)

This is the 50th year the USDA has issued its annual report on the cost of raising a child. FYI: In 1960, the first year the report was issued, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($185,856 in 2010 dollars) to raise a child through age seventeen.

You can check out the USDA’s Cost of Raising a Child Calculator to estimate how much it will annually cost to raise a child.

*Nationally, for this report the USDA defines an “average middle-income family” as earning between $57,600.00 to $99,730.00 in annual before-tax household income. The report covers expenditures for major budgetary items estimated in this study consisting of any direct parental expenses made on children through age 17. These expenditures exclude college costs and other parental expenses on children after age 17.

Read More »
Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation

Dan Pink makes a strong, science-based case that intrinsic motivation is being squelched with extrinsic rewards. If you haven’t read his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us you’ll want to after hearing this TEDTalk at TEDGlobal July 2009 in Oxford, England.

Read More »
I.O.U.S.A. For Decades To Come?

While our nation’s “leaders” debate how we’re going to “bail out” the U.S. economy (here’s a thought: how about stop “sinking us further into debt!”), perhaps we would benefit by preparing students today on the “price they will have to pay” for decades to come. That might take a few lessons in Macroeconomics. (FYI: Macroeconomics is a branch of economics that deals with the performance, structure, and behavior of a national economy as a whole.) I know, I know, try to find that on the state standardized tests. Yet given we seem to be on the brink of a financial meltdown that potentially will be worsened long-term by an ever-expanding government, overextended entitlement programs, and debts that are becoming impossible to honor, we may all need to pay attention and respond appropriately.

Watching a movie might be faster and easier than getting into a macroeconomics class, so check out I.O.U.S.A. This film boldly examines the rapidly growing national debt and its consequences for the United States and its citizens. If you don’t have time for the entire movie, here’s a byte-sized 30-minute version…

Since no child will be left behind in dealing with this mess, perhaps we should seriously consider expanding the teaching of financial literacy and related civic activities for middle and high school students around the country.


Read More »

When Trophy Kids Go To Work

Parents who spoiled their kids growing up are now surprised how “entitled” these same kids seem to be as employees in the workforce? The price employers will pay for what many parents and teachers did to carrot-and-stick their kids to “do what they told them to do” might challenge the workplace. That’s according to Ron Alsop, a contributor to The Wall Street Journal and author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace.

Apparently, managers are starting to see how many Millennials “flounder without precise guidelines, but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules.” Perhaps that’s because kids born between 1980-2000 have always been told “what to do and when to do it?” Let’s face it, there’s little time to “figure things out for yourself” when you’re being shuttled from one adult-led activity to the next as a child growing up.

Imagine what your attitude would be growing up with most of your time spent as a student mainly being motivated with carrot-and-stick incentives-and-threats? So much for developing self-motivation. Upon graduating into the workforce would it be a surprise that you would respond to any given task with: “What will I get if I do?” and “What will you do if I don’t?”

To his credit, Ron does admit that “in the final analysis, the generational tension is a bit ironic. After all, the grumbling baby-boomer managers are the same indulgent parents who produced the millennial generation.”

Read More »
Not on the test = Not on the schedule

Art, debate, drama, music and sports are what kept Tom Chapin involved in school. Yet, today these subjects are “not on the test.” So in many schools, according to The Center on Education Policy they’re not even on the schedule. Tom Chapin and John Forster’s satirical song for NPR’s “Morning Edition” on January 1, 2007 expresses their disappointment in educationally focusing only on the test. So much so, that the test has become the reason to teach and study in public schools.

For more information and facts about the arts in education, check out:


Read More »

What Makes Kids Kick

A collection of ideas, research, and thoughts about kids today.

More Info

“I laughed-out-loud while reading your e-newsletter. But, as always, I also learned a great deal”

Michael Kumer, BoardsMTO