Growing up on a farm as a kid, I wasn’t always enthralled with all the work. I remember complaining to my dad about having to go out to work. His response was “You’re building character”. As a kid, I didn’t really understand what that meant so I tried to argue that I had enough character already. And then I had to follow him out and help with whatever needed to be done anyway because when dad comes to get you, you’re going out to work.
So what exactly is character and how does farm living shape it? Character can be thought of as the sum of qualities that defines a person. Not your hair color or ice cream preference but the sum of your intellect, judgment, motives and intentions. People don’t talk about character much these days but it was important to my parents that I become a person of good moral character and dad believed that going to work with him was adding to mine. When you speak of someone with good character, you typically use words like duty, honor, integrity, perseverance, etc. My father would probably add common sense to that list.
So how does working on a farm build character? In my opinion, any hard work will build and strengthen your moral character. When you are looking at acres of grass that need cutting (like the photo above from our farm) and it’s going to take many hours and you may have to do it twice because it has grown so tall with all the rain that kept you from cutting it last week, then you have to dig deep for the ability to stick it out and get the job done. Just like an athlete has to dig deep for the determination to complete a task that’s daunting, so too does the person that deals with sweat labor. And motivating yourself to carry on and finish a task even though it may be difficult is part of building a good moral character. I was presented with many of these opportunities to grow as a kid – laying irrigation pipe, planting acres of tobacco, picking and freezing green beans by the gallons, etc. There were many jobs that just seemed as though they would never get done. But when they were complete, I had proven to myself once more that I could climb what seemed like the tallest mountain I would ever encounter.
How can you strengthen your own children’s character? You want to give children tasks that are difficult but achievable. You need to challenge them either physically, mentally or both but make sure that they can actually accomplish what has been asked of them. Of course these tasks should change and become more difficult as they get older so you just need to be a little creative. And make sure that the task isn’t something that they would have chosen for themselves. There should be some feeling of adversity to the job at hand. After all, they won’t always get to choose what work they will do when they have a boss. This is a great opportunity to learn the skills to take instructions and to do a good job. Show them that they can take pride in their work and the effort that they put forth even if it’s something that they didn’t want to do in the first place. Trust me, you will make your child’s future employer a very happy person 😉 Here are some examples to get you started thinking:
- Picking Berries – If you don’t live on a farm, go to a U-pick berry farm. Bring a VERY large basket or maybe several and tell your children that you aren’t leaving until the basket is full.
- Cutting Firewood – If your child is trustworthy enough to handle an axe, then give them a stack of logs that need splitting for firewood and have them go to town. If your children are too young to split the wood, they could always stack the logs that have been split.
- Pulling weeds – This is an easy one for younger kids to get involved in and you don’t need a vegetable garden to do this one. A nice large flowerbed will do. Pick a large area that needs weeding and show them how to pull the weeds out, roots and all.
- Shoveling snow – This definitely isn’t at the top of anyone’s fun list. But when they finish the job, you can reward them with a lot of praise and a mug of hot chocolate with extra marshmallows because they earned it!
You will likely encounter resistance to any of my suggestions above but if you follow through and your kids complete the given task, you will have taught them some very valuable lessons. You’re teaching that life involves hard work and it is best if we all pitch in and share the work. They will likely be more confident in their abilities in the future, knowing that they were able to complete something that they thought was impossible – fortitude, patience, persistence, all of these words come to mind. These are some of the lessons that I learned by being Raised on a Farm. Post a comment if you have suggestions for other parents or your let us know what challenging tasks your parents subjected you too!
(Below is my daughter’s input on this subject)
I feel like all the animals that my parents have given me has definitely taught me some responsibility. Today I’m going to tell you about my routine with all the animals on the farm. I pretty much take care of the animals by myself. I get up with Dakota every morning at 5:30 to let her out and feed her. I’d say she’s a pretty spoiled dog. My cats demand food at 7:00 every morning. After I give them food, I have to fill up the water bowl. Then I move over to my bunny, Smokey. Most of the times he lives in a cage in the garage but when it’s really cold outside, I bring him in my room. First I give him a scoop of his normal food and sometimes I will have vegetables ready for him. After that, I make sure that his litter box is clean and his water bottle is full. Every other day, I check on my hermit crabs. I make sure their food bowl is full. They also have to fresh water and salt water. They need fresh water to drink and salt water to bathe in. Then I have to mist down their enclosure. You can get one of those fancy misting machines but I use a spray bottle and it works just fine. Then I move on to my fish. My fish are pretty simple. They take a pinch of food every day and I check the filter to make sure it’s not dirty. Finally, I give my kitten Wolfy a bowl of kitten food. I am really grateful that my parents have given me the opportunity to keep so many animals and take care of them on my own. It’s a lot of hard work but it is so worth it. Every morning I get to wake up to my cats greeting me. And when I take out Dakota, if I’m lucky, I’ll see the sun rise. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my blog post.