Parenting is hard: Part 1

OPINION: My 14 -year-old son believes in "quiet quitting," and I'm wondering whether or not I should dissuade him.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

The other day, my 14-year-old son came to me and said that he’d read some things online about “quiet quitting.” Then, he twisted his face into a confused, quizzical look before continuing. “Like, duh! Of course I’m not going to do more work than my boss is paying me for.” 

He is a person who’s never had a job, yet, he has a clear vision of who he should be as an employee. And he’s also very certain that companies are out to use employees. He’s not going to let that happen to him. If an employer asks him to do something extra, his response will be, “Okay, how much are you paying me?”

Quiet quitting” is the buzzy term that connotes the idea of doing the minimum at your job. It means doing exactly what your job requires and declining to take on all the little extra requests that come down from management without extra compensation. 

Quiet quitting marks a huge difference in the work attitudes of the generations. It made me question, “Should I try to change my son’s mind? Am I being a bad parent by trying to get him to think about work the way that I do? Or am I being a bad parent by not letting him find a way of working that makes sense to him?” So often parenting is about choosing the less bad parenting choice.

I learned about how to work from my father. He ran a small accounting firm in Mattapan, Massachusetts with hundreds of clients. Every year in March, April and May, he had a lot of work. There were many nights that I didn’t see him at all. He was at his office all day taking care of clients. I missed him, but mom taught me that him not being there was a token of his love. He loved his family so much that he worked hard to support us. I learned that showing love meant providing, and doing that might mean working all the time. That was life.

When I got into the workforce, I stared working all the time. I was a young writer who wanted the work to be great, so I spent hours all night tinkering with my articles before submitting them. By the time I had a family, I wasn’t just writing articles. I also was writing books and working on TV shows.  I was hosting two shows at BET when my son was born, so the workload was heavy. I worked as often as I could. I was trying to bring in money for my family to show them that I loved them.

Back then in the ‘90s and aughts, a lot people thought that not sleeping because your workload was so challenging was a badge of honor. It proved that you were valuable. When people met, we asked, “How are you?” People would respond, “Oh, I’m sooooo busy.” It made us sound important. We didn’t talk about work-life balance. We talked about the many movies about work such as “Mr. Mom,” “Wall Street,” “Baby Boom” and more that talked about how it was impossible to create a work-life balance. 

But, as with so many things, millennials came along and found a better solution – creating boundaries, turning off phones, having real weekends, engaging in self-care, refusing to work all the time and demanding work-life balance. My son is Gen Z, but he’s using the millennials’ approach to work that focuses on maintaining sanity. When you put it that way, it makes sense.

I think the quiet quitting notion makes sense in some situations. But I also believe that working hard will be rewarded over the long term. I went back and forth for a long minute and decided how to respond to my son. 

Parenting isn’t just about getting kids to think the way you do. It’s great for them to come up with their ideas. But you should protect them from bad ideas, too. Quiet quitting is not necessarily a bad idea but…

I told my son this: “There are two kinds of work, in a way. There’re jobs that you do just for the check, and there’re jobs that you care about. If you’re working at a company that you don’t care about, and the job isn’t anything you want to do for a while, then, yes, take the quiet quitting ethos with you. Do your job as strictly defined, and keep it moving. But hopefully, one day you’ll find a job that really fits you. It’ll be a company you believe in that you really want to be a part of with a founder you really want to follow. The company will have a mission you believe in, and the job they have you doing will have you doing things you really want to be doing and paying you a solid salary to do that. In that situation, you should work with the company to do whatever you can to help it grow.”

I envision my science and tech loving son to one day go off to Silicon Valley and get looped into a group of people who are building a new company with a goal that he thinks could improve the world in a valuable and fundamental way. He used to talk about building an app to help people find parking spots. Then he talked about making an app to help people make apps. If he finds something like that – a job that really speaks to him at a company he really likes – shouldn’t he work hard to help them succeed? 

This doesn’t mean giving your life to the company and never taking a breath, but I think there’s value in going to work and giving it your all and thinking you’re there to help this company win because you really believe in them. 


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U. Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.

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