6 Tips for Raising Hard Workers @ Walking in High CottonThe crew is home for summer break and, as usual, part of their day includes filling water buckets and feed pans. I get asked a lot about how we manage farm chores with the kids–and how we get the kids to do “so many” chores in general. Our crew has been doing daily farm chores pretty much since birth (thank goodness for backpack carriers!).

Here’s some tips that have worked for us over the last 8 years…

1. Have a Year-Round Routine

We keep the same basic routine, year round. It increases efficiency because everyone becomes good at their jobs and decreases the exhausting debate because everyone knows they have to do it every day. There’s about 30 minutes of morning chores before breakfast and 30 minutes of evening chores as soon as we get home every day. If we’re already home, we just stop at 4 pm and do the evening chores. (Sometimes it’s a little longer in winter.) Our 30 minute routine includes everyone outside working at the same time, even if we’re doing different jobs.

Tips for Raising Hard Workers via www.walkinginhighcotton.net

The Ladybug has been fully responsible for those two new chicks she got a few weeks ago.

2. Supervise and Lend a Hand

I tell our babysitters that the crew knows how to do their own chores, I just make sure to be out there in case someone needs help and to keep everyone on task. Sometimes they need help opening a new bag of feed. Sometimes the hose gets caught around the tractor. Sometimes a chicken or a duck gets loose. {smile} Even though it’s their chores, it still takes my time and attention and availability. And, as Kim Brenneman (who has a lot more experience than I do!) says in Large Family Logistics “You have to inspect what you expect!”

Tips for Raising Hard Workers via www.walkinginhighcotton.net

Part of that chick-care includes emptying their little washtub home every week and filling it with fresh shavings.

3. Ignore Whining and Complaining DURING Chore Time

Our kiddos aren’t perfect. We get whining and complaining. We get fussing and temper tantrums. I’ve had Speedracer howl like we were killing him all the way out to the compost bin and back again. (Bet the neighbors just loved listening to that!) I still made him do it.

The key to getting your children to do chores is to just make them do it.

95% of the time, it’s not a chore problem, it’s a heart problem. If you’re sure they’re capable, and you know it should only take 20 minutes of their day–let them drag it out for 2 hours if they want to, but make them do it. And address the heart problem after the chores are done.

Tips for Raising Hard Workers via www.walkinginhighcotton.net

I find that the kiddos will always immediately ask for help for a job that isn’t easy.

4. Address Heart Problems Separately

Once chores are finished, I’ll sit down and talk about the problem with our little helper. A few ways we’ve addressed heart issues related to chores?

  • Simply talking it out–sometimes the attitude has nothing to do with chores. Someone is over-tired. Someone is too wound up from rainy-day cabin fever…get to the root problem.
  • Address technical issues–sometimes there is a technical chore issue frustrating them and they haven’t been able to make it clear to you. When we got a splitter for the water hose, the Cowboy was so excited I thought he was going to cry! It made his watering jobs so much easier because moving and reconnecting hoses was so hard for him. It was the best $4.50 we ever spent!
Tips for Raising Hard Workers via www.walkinginhighcotton.net

Usually my first response is that I’m not helping unless you’ve already tried to do it yourself.

  •  Help for a day or two–just come along-side and do their chores with them for a day or two. Encourage, show them an easier way, assess if there’s a technical issue, chat with them about how important their jobs are, point out how nice it is to watch the birds or look for wildflowers while the buckets fill, teach them to listen for turkeys early in the morning, remind them of scripture about hard work and the beauty of creation…just help them refresh their attitude.
  • Set a timer–I use the timer when someone’s gotten really slack. I set it for how long it should take, plus about 10 minutes, then do their chores with them. And we’re usually waaayyy below time. It both encourages them, and makes a point. We’ll use it while they do the chores alone for a few days to get them back on track.
Tips for Raising Hard Workers via www.walkinginhighcotton.net

They’re usually irritated by my response, but 9 times out of 10 it turns out they can handle it.

5. Don’t Help Too Soon

My crew always asks for help when they’re doing something new. Always. If I haven’t seen a true effort, I’ll say they need to be a problem-solver and figure it out. 9 times out of 10, they do. This is also a perfect opportunity to suggest they go ask a sibling nicely for help.

And that 1 out of 10 times when they do need help, all the effort of getting to that point means they are totally zeroed-in on how you fix things when you get there. Their minds are tuned-in to what you show them and they rarely need help twice.

Tips for Raising Hard Workers via www.walkinginhighcotton.net

And then they’re more confident next time.

6. Make Chores A Big Deal

Don’t let your children think their chores are just menial busy work–make sure they know that their chores are important, meaningful, vital, to the household and homestead. Give them full responsibility and buy in. Talk often about how things would be if they weren’t there getting their jobs done. (In our case, animals that don’t get food and water would die!) “Brag” on your munchkins to others when they can hear you. Mr. Fix-It often takes a moment during grace before dinner to thank the Lord for a particular job well done or good effort that helped the family that day.

Let them be the experts at their job and let them show visitors or family how to do a job. Let them be in charge of anyone (including you!) that might be their helper for the day. Let them help make purchasing or distribution decisions related to their chores. The Ladybug goes with us every time we buy feed for the chickens. The Cowboy will be taking over the duck pen, so he helped build it. Speedracer is responsible for feeding the dog, so he’s also responsible for telling us when we need dog food and going with us to get it.

Tips for Raising Hard Workers via www.walkinginhighcotton.net

And they love to be “the expert” when we have visitors and talk about the important jobs they do around here.

I know not everyone homesteads, but these are tips that will work with any chore area in the home. Our munchkins do household chores too and are equally vested in helping buy laundry soap and new dish towels. Two of my favorite go-to resources on getting your children fully involved in household responsibilities are Large Family Logistics and Family Friendly Farming (I’ve been re-reading this one since 2007!). These books are as much about a philosophy for a fully engaged family life as they are about their particular subject area.

What do your children do daily? Does it change significantly with the seasons?


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6 Tips for Raising Hard Workers — 19 Comments

    • Yeah, we try NOT to change the routine as much as possible because it throws everyone off so much.

      And thanks, we kinda like having her around here too! 🙂

  1. Wow you really live on a farm! That’s amazing~ I am new from southern charm. I would love for you to check out my blog and hopefully follow me back! Nicole

  2. Great post! I’ve noticed that just being outside at the same time they are makes a HUGE difference. Even though I’m not helping them, they know I’m out there working too.

    • Yes, I think it’s HUGE that they feel like what they’re doing is contributing–not just busy work while you do something else. Plus, when you’re all together you don’t miss those moments that open up in the middle of things–especially with the boys. Sometimes I’m amazed how I get into these deep conversations about life and death, salvation and grace, creation, and other HUGE topics, just because of something that came up while filling water buckets. They’ll talk while their hands are busy much easier.

    • Thanks for reading! I think it’s part of building strong character–we can have feelings, issues, emotions, that need to be talked out but we CAN’T let them derail all our responsibilities. I think it’s a key part of teaching emotional maturity and self-control. The world doesn’t–can not!–come to a screeching halt every time you have a problem.

  3. I love how you said that attitudes should be addressed after the chores are done. I found that works better for us as well!

    It also gives us time to think and pray about how we are going to respond to them, rather than react in the moment. Very wise words.

    I must say, all your pictures are fostering a desire to have a far ourselves, but I know that sort of life is not for the fainthearted or for those of us who deal with health issues!

    On the other hand, our youngest daughter would love to have some sheep and chickens someday if we get our won property. Her daddy is a city guy but she has already appealed to his practical side by informing him that sheep could help mow the lawn:D!

    This is a lovely blog. I am stopping here for the first time via June’s blog!

    • Thanks for stopping by!

      I think it’s SO important to teach our children to be stable-minded and steady when it comes to their responsibilities. Sometimes we have to learn to push through a problem and/or do things we don’t like simply because they have to be done. That’s not popular thinking these days, but we think it’s important.

      I must say, the farm is just…perfect…as a tool for us to get all these life lessons and biblical character training–except for the parts where it’s really hard, expensive, and emotionally draining. 🙂 There’s so much too it and sometimes I think folks enter into the idea of homesteading with more romance than realism. (I’m pretty sure we did!) But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it! We think it is, so we keep plugging away. I tell people thinking about it for themselves that it’s great, just start small and have an exit strategy before you start. If it works out, great! And if it doesn’t, that’s ok too.

  4. What a great post!! My sons are 2 & 4 and they already have their own responsibilities around the house – simple stuff like stocking toilet paper, helping take the recyclables out, feeding the fish, etc. It makes me sad when I meet parents that are shocked about my husband and I “making” our kids clean up after themselves, let alone giving them responsibilities around the house. It is beautiful to see other families, such as yours, who include the entire family in the upkeep of the home. Your kiddos are lucky to be learning such valuable lessons! So glad to have come across your site on The Chicken Chick. 🙂

    • Thank you for the nice compliments! Part of me sometimes feels like we expect too much, especially if we start to compare ourselves to other families, with “chore charts” for brushing teeth and putting on clean clothes. Then I think, WOW, it’s only an hour of their day. Surely they can give 30 minutes, twice a day, to be an active part of the household?!

      I think you have to constantly assess where YOUR kids are, and hold a high but reasonable standard. For our littlest one 15 concentrated minutes is a lot. Our Cowboy on the other hand gets up even before I’m out of bed and would have his and all his siblings chores done before breakfast if we let him.

  5. I came over from the Chicken Chick’s site. Our kids have always done chores, too. Sometimes they ask for some kind of “payment”. I just tell them that they get to eat, have a bed to sleep in, and have clothing. They must do chores simply because they are part of the family.

    • Yes, we say they do chores because everybody helps. I don’t just wash my own clothes and dishes. I don’t just buy my own food. We are all a family, everyone pitches in.

  6. This is such a great post and timely for me. We moved to 5 acres half a year ago and although the kids have become a bit more of the outdoor kind I find that I am the one doing the gardening, weeding and cleaning out fo the chicken coop. I don’t really mind but I think I am doing a dis-service by not asking my kids to do it along with me. I am going to pin your post. BTW the sequence of pictures illustrates your tips and philosophy rather well. Love the look on the Ladybug’s face when the wash tub falls (I probably would have gone a rescuing about then – defeating the whole purpose) – then the look of self satisfaction as she crosses back over with the problem sorted all by herself. Well done. Nice to find your blog via the Clever Chicks hop.

    • So glad you came over and enjoyed it! There’s no easy answers here–we do what we do every day, over and over, and eventually they get it and bend with it. But the hubby and I often remind ourselves that we’re TRAINING–not just teaching. Meaning we have to teach them, and then make them do it over and over again until they get it. 🙂 And a lot of times their attitude at the beginning is TOTALLY different than their attitude once they’ve pushed through to the end!

  7. This was great! My kids rotate to a new job every Sunday. Do you think its easier to keep the kids on the same job, so they are the “expert”? How do you choose because some chores are harder than others. And how do you split up your inside chores? Everyone hates having dishes week here.

    • We have developed a sort of…ladder…of chores. They start with easier, and move up as they show themselves able. All of our kiddos started with feeding the cat inside. Then the dog, because that included filling the big water bowl. Then filling cow and sheep buckets outside. Then eventually feeding and watering the chickens. Gathering eggs is another easy job, but washing them is tough (we don’t want them broken!) so we usually split that up. We’ve tried “rotations” a few times and it was just confusing to everyone. Now we usually stick with a job for at least the whole school year and make job changes over the summer–when we’re not so rushed and on autopilot in the mornings–before the next school year. Unless we have something new come along.

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