Yes, our kids do chores
Recently, an acquaintance stopped by our house to pick up some of the farm fresh eggs that we sell. It was a busy morning just before the Fourth of July and we were preparing to be gone the following two days to spend some family time together away from the farm. The visitor commented to my husband, “it’s so good to see your kids doing chores”. From the tone of the visitor’s expression and the ensuing conversation, it was apparent that in that home, children doing chores is not a regular activity. I will note, this is not the first time we have received such a response in regard to our children doing chores, it is actually a fairly common experience for us.
Yes, our kids do chores. And, they probably do more chores then they would like or than many other children their age do, but that is what works for our family and what Jason and I believe in. Don’t get me wrong, they have plenty of fun too and they don’t do chores all day. However, they will tell you they do chores every day; some days there are more chores than others.
Why do we believe in a chore culture? Grit. That is the best way to put it. That is Jason’s word for it, and I am beginning to like that term. We believe in teaching the kids about working hard for what you want and to persevere to get the results you want and/or need. When we moved to our farm four years ago, part of our desire to move was to take a step back from the busyness going on around us and have our children learn what it means to work hard together as a family. Four years ago, we never dreamed we would have a non-profit operating on our property, let alone have four different types of animals in addition to our family dog and cats. But here we are, and we did not get here without grit!
The definition of grit is: /noun/ Courage or resolve; strength of character. Grit can also be defined as encompassing the following five characteristics: courage, conscientiousness, perseverance, resilience and passion.
Wow! These are exactly the qualities Jason and I want to teach our children through the “chore culture” that we believe in. I think most parents want to build these characteristics in their child(ren) but for many, it is hard to find a way to cultivate these qualities into their daily lives.
Many people have asked how we do it. They ask this question on several levels. How do we get our children to do chores? How do we get them to help on the farm? How do we keep up with everything? How do we balance our professional lives with our family life and non-profit? The answer is grit! And a way of life.
Our kids, obviously, have grown up in a large family and have always known that being a part of a family also means helping out. Our kids do not receive allowance for their chores; for us, doing chores is part of being a member of the family. Everyone helps, whether they like the chore they are asked to do our not. This is not the way it has always been, but rather something that has evolved in the past 10 years or so for two reasons: 1) our belief and 2) quite frankly, we could not afford to keep up with paying seven allowances as our kids got older.
Chore charts. Yes, we have a good old-fashioned chore chart. Each child has a daily chore and a weekend chore, in addition to their regular Saturday chore. Weekend chores are more of a “deep clean” item and these are normally done on Saturday mornings. All chores are done before other activities, including technology. Chore charts are adjusted about four times each year and the kids are given the opportunity to pick their weekend chores if they choose. To my amazement, our 11-year-old son has chosen the bathroom as his chore for the past year! He knows how to do it well and no one else wants to do it! This has been a way of life for our kids since they were very young, so no one questions it. If someone is going to be gone on Saturday, they do their chore on Friday. If they are gone for an extended period, say to a camp, someone pitches in and does it for them. The kids have just come to know life in our home this way.
Family meetings. Years ago, maybe 10, we implemented family meetings. Again, this has evolved and changed around our growing family. In the beginning, family meetings were held almost every Sunday and focused on things going on in the home and schedules. Now these meetings occur about once a month or when our 5-year-old, Ava, requests one! Yes, any member of the family can request the meeting. Each meeting begins with prayer and with everyone saying something kind about another family member, with mom and dad making sure everyone gets a compliment. Dad generally starts the meeting with anything mom and dad have decided needs to be covered and then the kids have their turns to bring up items for discussion. Yes, Ava has something to discuss at every meeting! I encourage anyone who feels out of touch with their kids to start holding family meetings. It will get you on the same page and many times brings about amazing discussions. Building grit happens through sharing a passion, asking questions, learning from each other and staying focused as a family.
Farm chores. Let’s not forget about the extra chores that go along with having Harvest Hope Farm. These are not a part of our “chore chart” mentioned above. The “chore chart” revolves around the house, not the farm. Farm chores are entirely separate and require more grit! Thanks to our “head shepherd” Jason, most of our morning barn chores are done by him. Jason enjoys this time to himself before he starts his school day (For our new followers, Jason is a full-time elementary school principal!). It is time for him to be alone with the Lord under the stars to give thanks for our many blessings and to ask for God’s guidance in our lives. Daytime and evening chores, especially in the summer, are a family affair. Our four oldest kids, ranging in age from 10-15, all help with feeding and watering the animals. When it’s hot, they haul up to 500 gallons of water a day in our lawn tractor. Often, we go into “all hands-on deck” mode to get the gardens weeded and corn buckets filled. This is truly where the grit comes in for all of us. We are learning to persevere for our passion, which is to bring hope to others through Harvest Hope Farm.
No, we don’t have all the answers for raising children with grit. We know we have made parenting mistakes and I’m sure we will make more. We have learned from others and we have learned from our children. We seek out those who can be impactful in the lives of our children and who can teach them things that we are not able to. We will continue to persevere in our mission to raise our children to be children with grit. Parenting is always a work in progress.
Before I close, I will share with you a family story that exemplifies the grit that we are trying to teach our children. It was the end of February, we were lambing, and it was cold, very cold! Our barn is not heated and it was at least -10 at night. We had some unexpected early lambs as we normally do not lamb until April/May. We were having some friends over. Jason and Joseph went out to the barn to close up for the night and found 2 very new lambs, cold and struggling. Joseph came running to the house and we went into “all hands-on deck mode”. Without question, everyone took up their role and moved into action. Jason, myself, Autumn, Hannah, Shawn and Joseph were in the barn caring for the lambs and momma. Warm sheets to wrap the lambs in, heat lamps, and straw beds to get them off the cold floor. Olivia watched her little sisters in the house and picked up before our friends arrived. Soon, the lambs were warm and nursing from momma. Our friends arrived to meet the lambs and join us for the evening. Our kids asked no questions, just did what they needed to do. They know that their work, and sometimes sacrifice, is for a higher purpose, for a passion, for a cause greater than themselves or any of us.
I encourage you, as parents, as adults who influence children, to find a way to build grit in the children around you!