Michael Pearl: Up until seven years old, the kids can work. I passed, just about a week or so ago, I saw this fellow going down through this corner here, and he had his tools with him, and he had a little boy about a year and a half, two years old, just barely could walk. He's going along with his dad and he had a plastic lawnmower that he was pushing. He thought he was working with his daddy. I passed a fellow a good time back, he just pulled up in his truck there, and he was rolling up a big tarpaulin, and he had this little boy, two of them in fact, up on this flatbed truck, and they were rolling the tarp together. Now, the kids weren't helping at all because one of them couldn't have been older than 11 or 12 months old. His diaper...
You could tell he'd been with his daddy because his diaper was full and hanging down.
Michael: Daddy had been thinking for three hours, "I've got to get him home so momma can change him." That little kid, his little fat legs, they're squatting there, and he's pushing on that tarpaulin, trying to roll that thing up. The daddy put them up there on the truck to help roll that tarpaulin up, nearly a year old and maybe three or four years old, not because he needed the help but in four or five years, he'll need the help. If they're going to work in four or five years, they've got to work today. They can't sit in the truck and be babies when there's work to be done. They've got to work with daddy.
I've had my boys working from the time they could do anything. I'd take them down to the shop with me where I was building stuff, and I'd give them a board and tell them to measure it and find the center of it. They'd work and work, and they'd take a square, and then we'd cut it. I'd have them pick up the sawdust and clean up behind me. I'd have them do some sanding for me. Then, when we got on the job, they'd go out with me.
When I was installing some kitchen cabinets or doing something, they'd go out with me and they would work and they would participate in what I was doing. There never was a time in their life when they started working. To them, work was life. It was life from the very beginning. There wasn't a period of time when they played and then they started working.
Everyone must bring a stick to the fire. Farm children accept work as a necessary part of life. If you were to ask them, "Are you having to work?" they'd look at you like, "What are you, stupid or something? Of course, I work. Who do you think I am! You think I'm a city slicker? You think I'm one of you softies? Of course, I work!"
They don't complain about it anymore than...We all complain. If it gets hot, we say, "Oh, it's sure hot today. Oh it's miserable," but that's just a way of establishing the degree of suffering we're experiencing, which sort of is a self‑praise. Here I am, out here in all this sweat and heat. "Boy, it's a hot day. Oh, boy, that's hurting. I'm getting tired of moving this way. Boy, this is killing my back. Oh, this is horrible. I'm glad we don't have any more bales."
That's not the kind of complaining that comes from a rebel. That's the kind of complaining that a man does just to document the degree of suffering he's experiencing.
Michael: Kids will do that. That's OK. It's OK to complain like that. But, that's a difference between a kid who is going to feel good at the end of the day because he had a contribution to make and a kid at the end of the day that's going to hate somebody because he was treated unfairly. I taught them to work so that they knew that work was part of life.