James Richards, a dad in the United Kingdom, has taken a different approach to discipline, and he’s winning props for the idea.

The Kent father-of-three came up with a creative way to reach his chore-averse kids by using an example from history to teach them gratitude, as well as the difference between work and slavery.

Richards, fed up with his children going AWOL from the housework, decided to act.

Visual Reminder

He hung a grim photo in his home of three 6-year-old child labourers from the United States, dated to the early 20th century.

He then added the caption:

‘6-year-old oyster shuckers, circa 1912. Got up at 4am, 6 days a week. Child labour!
So don’t you dare complain about doing the washing up once in a while.’

The Mirror recounted that Richards was inspired to go in this disciplinary direction after seeing the image on Facebook.

The grim picture is part of photographer Lewis Hine’s (1874-1940) photojournalism from the period. Hine utilised camera technology to bring ‘social ills to the public’s attention’.

A forgotten hero, Hine was born in the United States and schooled as a sociologist.

Like Richards using an image to inspire change in the home, Hine, according to New York’s International Centre of Photography, used photography to help teach ethics.

For context, Hine served as the official photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, which was founded in 1904 to ‘promote the rights, awareness, dignity, well-being, and education of children in relation to work, and work practices.’

His photos documented the working conditions for kids in ‘the canneries, mines, factories, farms, and sweatshops.’

The children’s rights benefactor also worked with the Red Cross as a war photographer in World War 1 and is famous for documenting the construction of the Empire State Building.

Life Lesson

James Richards’ disciplinary dad move was a good way to incorporate a history lesson with some tough love.

He told The Mirror,

“It’s educational, it’s behavioural and I don’t see any issues.  It’s been a miracle and sorted the moaning out…”

Explaining the educational epiphany, Richards said he “saw the image on Facebook and it struck a chord. It was a eureka moment.”

“I wanted to give our kids some context to what children around 100 years ago were doing as opposed to what the children in the present day are doing,” he added.

As the Mirror reported, Richards’ kids bucked against the lesson at first.

However, ‘it wasn’t long before his kids started to empathise with the child oyster workers and started household tasks without complaint.’

Richards’ wife Natalie is on board.

She told Online news provider KentLive,

“[James] didn’t tell me he was doing it, so when I saw it, I just thought it was funny. I’m glad he’s done it. He’s a wonderful dad. Hopefully, it’ll save me some time and effort in future. Next time we ask them to do it, they might stop and think that we’re not being unreasonable.”

Most media outlets inferred, with their persistent references to “shame,” that Richards’ approach to discipline was abusive.

While this raises legitimate caveats against using shame as an emotional whip to discipline a child, any insinuation that James Richards was using a “shaming control technique” to emotionally manipulate his kids is bull-dust.

Richards simply deployed the Lewis Hine method of raising awareness to effect change and discipline his dishwashing delinquents. History is an influential teacher.

To quote Hine in 1908,

‘There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers.’


Photo by Gustavo Fring.

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

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