Today is Take Your Child to Work Day. Or Take You Sons and Daughters to Work Day. Or whatever. Regardless, I'm not falling all over myself to do it. Granted, my kids would love to go to work today with their father, who is in Sri Lanka today, but their mean parents refused to pay for the plane tickets.

Personally, I think if you're going to do a take your kids to work day, it should be done in July when no kids are in school. I'm pretty curmudgeonly when in it comes to pulling kids out of school, though, so you can disregard me. And you probably do, as many companies participate in this day of pulling kids out of school to come to work with mom or dad and do what exactly?

And that's my point. If you're going to have your kids miss school, let's at least do this right. Your company probably has activities and games and talks about the interesting things that go on in the company. That's all fine and good, but here's what you should be doing.

Don't just focus on fun. Fun is good. Fun at work can even be good, but this is supposed to be a learning experience, so by golly, let's learn. Plan out actual learning activities. Think of this as a one-day internship, not a day of fun.

If there's no program, leave the little darlings in school. If your company doesn't formally participate, don't pull your kids from school. I'm not opposed to you spending more time with your children, but there's a huge difference between working from home with a sick child and bringing a healthy child into the office. In the former, you can turn on Netflix and make sure the barf bucket is nearby and do your work. In the latter, you're going to have a bored child preventing you from getting anything done. And if you just turn on Netflix for them? That's silliness. Send them to school.

Programs should be age specific. David Almeda, chief people officer, Kronos Incorporated, said that they found a sweet spot of 8-11-year-olds. Kids this age are old enough to be pretty independent but young enough to be excited about coming to work.

You can do as Kronos does and do this age range, or pick a different one. Regardless, if you are going to open it up to all school-age children, you'll find you need vastly different programs for the second graders than you will for your high school students. Pick one age range and focus on that group.

Consider making a summer program for older teens. Not every company can offer tons of internships, and with the strict rules around paying for internships, that's even more of a reason to lessen the number of interns. Consider, however, not a take your children to work day in April, but a bring your high school junior or senior to work for a week in July. Think of it as a mini-internship where they can actually learn about the world of work. That's value.

Don't make it about entertainment. I've seen a lot of programs where the kids are practically entertained by clowns. If the children aren't learning about work, then call it "free day at the company's expense!" Then it's accurate.

Watching is not the same as learning. I'm a writer. You know what is super boring? Sitting over my shoulder and watching me type. You know what would teach a child about being a writer? Giving that child a topic and some references and setting him to work writing an article.

Make sure the children are doing and not simply watching. This, naturally, is easier for some jobs than others. Set up some actual lab experiments for your future scientists, and have your future accountants search for errors in an audit.

Interests, not parents. While it's fun to be with mom or dad, if you're going to learn, it's better to learn something you have an interest in. Don't have children shadow their own parents unless the child has a deep and abiding interest in their parent's line of work-and even then, try to find someone else for them to help.

Why? The relationship between parent and child is different than the one between a child and anybody else. Too much familiarity makes it difficult to teach and learn. Break it up.

 

 

 

 

Published on: Apr 28, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.