Yesterday I had a big project to get done before this weekend, so I hired two teenage boys to help.

The contrast between the two is striking. While one is a go getter with a strong work ethic, the other is not so much. The one not so much is a friend’s son, the go getter is his friend he recommended. Both have worked for me before, but this was their first time working together.

I had a meeting to go to, so I made up a to do list, gave them some marching orders, and went. Having been a teen myself, I worried about leaving them unsupervised but hoped the go getter would lead the way.

When I returned three hours later, my heart sank. The biggest project I had asked them to start with, clearing a main corner of tall grass and weeds, looked no different. When I left they had been heading toward it with weed whackers going. Not good.

I found the two boys taking a break. “Lets see what you guys got done,” I said. “Walk me through it.”

After them showing me two smaller projects that I estimate would have taken them an hour, hour and a half tops, I looked them both in the eye and asked, “Ok guys, did you work as hard and diligently as you could while I was away?”

My friends son replied without hesitation, “Absolutely!” The other boy looked uncomfortable, then looked away.

“Ok,” I said. “Because remember that list? Whatever you two don’t get done today, I will somehow have to do it.” And I started giving direction, putting one on one task, the other on another.

The go getter busted it out, making up for lost time. The other, not so much.

My friend was here, and I could tell she didn’t want me to correct her son. She did not correct him either. Instead she started doing what I had asked him to do, completing the work for him. Then I saw perhaps how he’d developed his nonchalant view of responsibility. It’s too bad.

I can predict already which one will never want for a job, and which one will have trouble keeping one. I also know which one I will be asking to come back, and which one I won’t.

I shared the tale with my older daughter, not one for physical labor herself. She surprised me by finding things to do, and jumping on them! Yay!

Don’t coddle your kids. It ends up working against them.

Let those who have ears hear.

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