Monday, September 17, 2012

Do Amish youth work too hard?

It never ceases to amaze me how the Amish treat their young teens like grown-ups. It reminds me of other cultures where boys are considered men at the age of 13. Some of you may chuckle at that, thinking of an immature middle school teen right now. But is the immaturity of some teens the American culture’s fault?

My dad left his home at 15 to join the CC Camps during the Great Depression to send money home to his mother and other siblings. When I see pictures of him in New Mexico building roads, he looks like a man. When I visit Amish settlements scattered across Western Pennsylvania, I see young teens driving huge hay wagons on main roads. I know a few of them aren’t even teenagers, being 12.  Their self-worth is so much higher than English youth, it sometimes takes me back. If parents aren't home when visiting a family business, a young son or daughter will come out and explain the business and clinch a sale. It amazes me.
One Amish family I know, depends on the income of their oldest daughter, who’s the local schoolteacher at 16. The whole family of 12 works at the vegetable stand, greenhouse, make crafts, just about anything to pitch in. When I see this young teacher, I think of my mom.  She did the same thing as a youth. She too lived through the Depression, and handed her paycheck over to the family when she got her first job as a shoe clerk. She told us about that job with such pride; she was a part of something bigger, a family. My grandma was a seamstress, and my mom did embroidery or other fabric arts to embellish dresses. I see this all the time in Amish country; mothers and daughters working on something to sell, whether a craft or jam.

I got my certification as a Montessori preschool teacher, and the approach to training children is similar to the Amish. As soon as a child can do something for themselves, or for the group, they’re required to do it. So, if a child can push a broom, they can sweep. It’s almost comical to see little three year olds with their pint-sized brooms clean-up after an activity. Cleanup is a part of the program. But I see this in Amish families all the time.

Getting back to teenagers, I really believe that as soon as they’re able to work, or contribute, it makes them feel needed and important, and less self-centered. When I see rebellion in a teenager, I wonder if he/she doesn't feel needed. Everyone wants to feel like a part of something bigger than them, whether it's a family, a church, a Girl Scout troop.
Since I have a world-wide audience to this blog, I wonder if some of you can let me know if teenagers are coddled in your country or made useful when age appropriate. Thank you!

These Amish "men" are between 12 - 15.


  1. Good article, Karen, and I agree, that the Amish sure aren't overworked - they have wonderful work ethics and it is carried over into their adult years. More teens should be raised like this!!!!!

    Dianna Bupp

  2. Wish our young people had the same work ethics as the Amish do. Maybe they do better at the jobs they get and then try not to have to do any more than they absolutely have to.

  3. Dianna and Juanita, thanks for your imput. ;)

  4. I agree, Karen! Trying to get my own children to work is difficult. However, the less I buy for them, the more they value their own hard earned money. Both of my children were able to work over the summer and are now quite appreciative of having cash to spend (working on saving money next!).

  5. WoW Great Article Karen..Alot of people should read more about others lives then always listening or reading about the bad...I know this all came from your heart as well it did from your own experience..high 5 you for this too...Thank You..I have 3 children of my own, and they have worked from the age of 16, and what they worked for, bought, they treasured, unlike alot of the kids today thats just handed stuff..they dont appreciate it as much..So to your question, maybe the Amish do work hard but the benefits in the end, they know is worth it, planting fields, they eat..milking cows, they drink..etc...

  6. I was raised to do whatever was needed done we all pitched in, and it was done . My grandfather had to build me a stool to keep water from dripping down my arms as I washed dishes in a dishpan at a very young age We had no indoor plumbing, not even a sink, no electricity etc. so even though I was not Amish, I can relate to life of hard work with a family of 8, and me the oldest girl. It builds good character and prepares you for life, and whatever that life may bring. I would not trade with most kids of today.