A peaceful home. One with happy parents and happy kids. No yelling, no begging for chores to get done. Everyone respects each other and there is no fighting. It is what we all want but achieving this homesteading utopia is a tall order. In fact, I am not sure it is entirely possible. Having a farm or a homestead is hard work. There are always a million things to do and there a lot of things that have to be done everyday whether you feel like it or not. So, how do you take kids from today’s fast food society and help them thrive in a home environment that is dedicated to self-sustainability? There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer but here are some tips to make the kids on your homestead happier:
1. Make a plan.
This is the parent’s responsibility. Figure out what a good day looks like. What has to happen? What chores have to be done everyday? Make a schedule and establish a homestead vision. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you living this lifestyle because it is closer to your values? If so, make sure your children know that.
Explain the importance of growing your own food and caring for animals. Instill a work ethic that is healthy and will benefit them later in life. Show them the fruit of their labor. It is important to communicate with your children on what you expect. Children are not mind readers and you have to be very specific when outlining their duties.
2. Assign Responsibilities.
Once you have made a plan it is time to divide and conquer. Show them everything that has to be done to make the operation work. For example, we sat down with each child and asked what they enjoyed most. Was it working with the animals? Working in the garden? Do they prefer working inside or outside? Once we got feedback from each kid (all eight of them) we made job descriptions and assigned each one a specific job. Then we sat down with them again and explained each chore they are responsible for and the consequences for not completing it in a timely manner. The most effective consequences in our experience is taking away electronic privileges. No access to computers or portable electronics if they don’t complete their chores. It starts with one day and then is increased another day with each additional infraction.
3. Hold Family Meetings.
We hold a mandatory monthly family meeting. I must admit that my experience in corporate America really helped me with this task. I prepare a power point presentation, hook my computer up to my television and go through each slide. In our last family meeting we had twenty slides. Each one was full of information about planting, animal care, chore lists, home renovation plans and anything and everything that is affecting the homestead. Communication is vital to ensuring that everyone is on the same page and understands the vital role they play in the homestead’s success.
4. Reward a Job Well Done.
Positive feedback for a job well done is essential for keeping attitudes positive. We use a chart with stickers. When someone goes above and beyond the call of duty they get a sticker. With stickers they earn special treats or privileges. I firmly believe in saying “Thank You.” When I encounter positive behavior that is motivated by the child, I make a point to say: “Thank you for doing such a great job. No one asked you to do that but you knew it had to be done and did it!” This encourages self-motivated kids and it makes everyone feel good about the contributions they are making.
5. Don’t Expect Perfection.
It may be necessary to remind yourself that these future adults you are raising are still, in fact, kids. I find myself having to do just that several times a day. Constant supervision is imperative until you know that they are performing their chore to the best of the abilities. This is especially essential when dealing with the care of animals. A child might not understand the dire consequences of not giving fresh water to the animals every day. Supervising and accompanying the children when they perform their chores is a must do on my to do list. It is also a great opportunity to spend important parent/child time.
6. Be a Good Example.
Your children will mimic your behavior. If you are a yeller, they will yell. If you are quick to anger, they will be quick to anger. On the other hand, if you are patient, they will be patient. If you are calm, they will be calm. Really evaluate your own behavior. Are you as a parent/role model doing the absolute best you can? Start listening to yourself. Instead of yelling try taking a deep breath and communicating in a calm but firm manner. Envision the family life you want and work hard to obtain it. It won’t be perfect, it might not even be half perfect but the effort you apply will have its rewards. And you will be a calmer/saner person because of it.
7. Have Fun!
On our homestead Saturday night is Family Fun Night. Last month we played charades, watched a movie, played a board game, and had a marshmallow roast.
These family fun nights need not be expensive. The only requirement is everyone having fun together. Make it a regular routine. Invest in everyone having a good time. It is so important to laugh hand have fun together and create lasting memories that everyone can look back on and smile. Raising kids on a homestead is such a rewarding experience. Homesteaders give their children a gift – A childhood full of memories and experiences that enrich their lives.
Make sure to take a moment and be proud of the home you have created and the family that you share it with.