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8 Things I Learned About Parenting While Working in the Oil Field

Having heard stories about how expensive law school can be and coming to the realization that working while in law school was not a possibility, I decided to take a job working in an oil field the summer before I began law school.  For those who don’t know, the companies that work in the oil field have a lot of money.  As in, more money than they really know what to do with, which means that many of the employees in the oil field make some pretty good cash while they’re there. The trade-off for that big paycheck is that you have to put up with a pretty crappy atmosphere.

My first week in the oil field was a real eye-opening experience. I had never been verbally berated before to the point that I hated everything about my job. The verbal abuse was loud, frequent, uncalled-for, and threatening. For one guy in the oil field, verbal abuse wasn’t enough. That guy decided to use physical force while he verbally berated me. After two weeks of working in the oil field, I was ready to quit.

Thankfully, things turned around for me that next day, and I now somewhat miss working in the oil field. As destructive an atmosphere as the oil field was, I learned some lessons that I’ve applied to how I raise my kids. Considering that the supervisors treated all of their employees as if they were children, there were a lot of lessons to learn about what to do — and what not to do — when raising kids. Here are the 8 things I learned about parenting while working in the oil field:

  • 8 Things I Learned About Parenting While Working in the Oil Field 1 of 9
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    Click through to read the 8 things I learned about parenting while working in the oil field.

  • Shouting Doesn’t Work 2 of 9
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    Growing up in a neighborhood where the local moms just shouted down the road for their kids, I thought I was accustomed to yelling. Not so. The oil field is filled with non-stop shouting. It's not just shouting because it's loud, it's shouting to call co-workers a combination of various four-letter words. My first day in the oil field was pretty eye-opening, as everyone I was working with started shouting at me as if I were the dumbest guy on the planet. In the end, the shouting didn't work. I didn't learn anything about how to do my job from the yelling. Instead, I just got angry and timid and afraid to do anything I was supposed to do. It's the same way with kids. Shouting at them just intimidates them and doesn't get the message across.

  • Pinch Points 3 of 9
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    I became obsessed with recognizing "pinch points" and staying away from them. Watching several of the other swampers have their fingers pinched all the way off their hands was enough of a lesson for me to make sure nothing on my body got pinched off. That same obsession has transferred over to my parenting. I constantly lecture Addie about not running between a running car and a garage or a building. The kid has heard the term "pinch point" so much that she could define it on the spot in a pop quiz.

    Photo Credit: Flickr

  • Don’t Give up on Your Kids 4 of 9
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    I watched a few greenhorns come and go during my time in the oil field. Those who stuck around grasped the concepts quickly and became anything from okay workers to exceptional workers. Those who didn't stick never grasped their responsibilities and how the whole operation worked. Those guys who struggled were given a few lessons and pointers here and there from coworkers, and then we all backed off and waited to see if the greenhorn would catch on. Either way, we weren't going to show him how to do the job again; we'd just wait for him to be fired. Giving up on kids isn't an option. There is a need to step back and let your kids learn as they grow, but if they don't figure it out, sitting back and waiting for them to be fired isn't an option.

  • Increased Responsibility can Feel Like a Reward 5 of 9
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    Once I finally grasped how the whole oil field operation worked, I started running from spot to spot before I was asked to get to those spots. That was the first sign to my boss that I understood what I was doing, so I was given more responsibility, and that pattern continued until my boss begged me not to go to law school. Even though none of my efforts resulted in a monetary reward or a medal, knowing I had my boss's trust to get extra responsibility felt good and made me want to learn even more. That works with kids, too. The more responsibility I give Addie, the more excited she gets that she's learning and doing good things — and it results in even more positive lessons learned.

  • Reward Kids For Learning on Their Own 6 of 9
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    While in the oil field, I took initiative to figure out how to do extra things that weren't in my job description. Not because I had any intention of changing positions — I knew I was only going to be there for a few months — but because I didn't want to wait for someone else to come along and finish that part of the job. None of us could leave until the job was done, so if my doing it before someone else could get there would get us home earlier? I was all for it — and my bosses noticed and appreciated the effort. Addie has been the same way. She loves it when she surprises me with a freshly mopped floor or a freshly hand washed truck. Rewarding those efforts will only make her learn how to do those extra things more.

  • Physical Force Doesn’t Work 7 of 9
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    The first time one of my co-employees took things past all the shouting, I was furious. I was on the back of a semi truck trying to rig up some cables when the truck driver hopped on the back of the truck with me and started shouting at me. He then shoved me off the truck, which was a nice 6 foot fall to the ground. My first thought? Did that really just happen? My second thought? I have 60 pounds on that guy and it's time he learned a lesson. In the end I kept my temper and I decided I would quit the next day. Physical force doesn't work with kids. We've only spanked our kids, and by kids I mean Addie, one time, and it was a spur of the moment thing several years ago. We haven't done it since, and it likely won't happen in the future. There are much better ways of disciplining kids that don't require physical force.

    Photo Credit: Flickr

  • Money Isn’t Everything 8 of 9
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    People in the oil field make a lot of money — more money than they know what to do with. But that doesn't stop them from figuring out how to use it all. As in, every last bit of it each paycheck. Almost every other person I worked with didn't have a dime in savings and they didn't have any long term investments to show from all their hard work. They worked 18 to 20 hours a day, many days in a row, and they were consumed with the idea of making huge amounts of money to blow on new vehicles. Their families became an afterthought and most of them ended up divorced and alone. It was a nice slap in the face that money isn't everything. Family, especially your kids, is more important than how many zeroes fit on that paycheck. 

  • Support Your Kids 9 of 9
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    My dad got me the job in the oil field with a company that was a client of his. They did him a favor, so when I got shoved off the truck and I decided the job wasn't for me, I knew I had to tell my dad about my decision first to make sure he was okay with it. That evening, I pulled my dad aside and I told him what was happening and why I wanted to quit. He was completely supportive of my decision. It didn't matter to him if it was going to hurt his relationship with his client. In the end, making sure I was safe and being treated okay was more important. I didn't end up quitting, but him giving his okay was huge in my mind and it's something I've taken to heart with my kids. I want Addie and Vivi to know that I will be supportive of them no matter what.

    Photo Credit: Flickr

Read more about my family on Moosh in Indy or follow me on Twitter!

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