Boyhood Work

At the end of a long day, my 11 year old announced, “I just had the best Monday of my life…”
What, you may ask, was so great about Monday?
He, his brothers and dad worked out in the hot sun all day and plowed a 60X20 garden plot. In addition they also laid some water line from the overflow tank at the spring and shoveled out mud in the pond to hopefully prepare it to be a gravity fed spring pond that they can stock with fish.

During supper, our 9 year old commented that “it seems like working and playing are the same thing!”
I have made many interesting observations about boys over the years, but one striking observation is that boys need lots of work and productive outlets to focus their mind and energy on. Not only do bored, unchallenged boys end up in trouble, but they develop a lazy attitude about everything.  Besides, work doesn’t have to be drudgery all the time. 
In our home, at 6 years old, a boy graduates from being a playminded little-responsibility momma’s boy to a worker boy. It isn’t a magical immediate switch from toddlerhood to worker-boy-hood.  The change is gradual and we have many ups and downs in our training progress.  However, we have noticed that not only do they desperately need to be given more responsibility, but they need to be given work and chores that challenge them to step up to the plate and encourage them to be a worker boy.
Here are a few things that we have identified as important aspects of boyhood work:
Physical Work — Boys need to use that energy God gave them to physically work hard. Depending on where you live and the opportunities available, a boy’s work will greatly vary from place to place.  The important thing is that boys need to work. The day my boys plowed the field, it was hot, sweaty, smelly work! But they loved it. I love making them a big glass of ice water with lemons or sweet tea and taking it out to them while they are working hard. It makes them feel like a man.

Responsibility — Young boys need to be given responsibilities. Whether it is taking care of a animal or a section of space or a specific chore, boys thrive on having something to be responsible for. Recently, we handed over the pig feeding assignment to our 6 year old. Every day he is responsible for getting the food bucket off the kitchen counter and walking it down to the barn and dumping it over the fence to the pig. He then gathers eggs and brings the bucket and eggs back home. He has thrived with his new job and we have seen a big maturity growth in this boy. Everyday, he gives us a report on how the pig is doing. He knows what the pig likes and what he doesn’t like and reminds me not to put orange peels into the pig bucket because he doesn’t like them. Of course, as the boys grow, the responsibility increases.
Accountability — As parents, part of our job is training our children how to work. We first teach them to do all their work heartily as unto the Lord. We strive to cultivate a heart of humbleness, diligence, excellence and thoroughness in their work. They know that we are there to help them, but also are there to guide, correct and train them in how to work. We also have a deep desire to teach them how to work with their siblings. 
Rewards and job well done incentives — Many times we hire our children to do a job. I recently hired my 4 year old and 6 year old to move dirt from a dirt pile, to the garden. I paid them .10 cents a load. They worked hard and received payment for their work. The older children work different jobs around here and are paid accordingly, however, not everything is a paid chore or job. Some things you have to do just because you live here. We do not promote “free-ride or free-parking” living around here.
Vision for future work — At 4 years old, don’t be discouraged if they are still whining a lot and attempts to work become flustered because they are prone to distraction. Training during these early years will eventually pay off. Starting out early and starting small may not seem important but it is vital to begin at 2 if you want a worker boy at 10. We want to lay out a vision for the future and give our boys goals of things they can achieve in regards to work. We have been encouraging our boys in entrepreneurship. This type of work excites them very much. They have made plans for selling things they make and grow. Our oldest son has several invention ideas that he is planning on experimenting with, with the hopes of marketing a solar / hydro gardening device that will grow pre-flood sized plants. Even if his overenthusiastic idea is a flop — the point is that experimenting and dreaming up ideas is always better than being cemented to conform to a pre-determined mindset of normality. As bad as I hate to see some of the boys “experiments” or “contraptions” laying around the yard, I have to tell myself that “It’s really not junk…It just looks that way…”
Another interesting observation I have made about raising boys is that when we promote healthy physical work, responsibility, accountability and a vision for future work, a boy’s mind is stimulated to think, solve problems, invent, and lead.  He begins to think beyond himself and starts to see the world through the perspective of the creature God created him to be.  A creature with a dominion mandate. 
Many wonder about how this applies to girls.  I will elaborate on young girls and work next. 


  • sarah says:

    That is a cute picture of them on the tractor! I am glad your boys are enjoying their farm time. I look forward to reading your post on girls.

  • Bethany,
    What an awesome article! I really needed to hear that now.

  • Hey Bethany,
    I needed to read this. It’s not that I didn’t know it – but this past year we’ve been so busy that a lot of things have gone to the wayside and boy…am I eating the bread of idleness in my boys lately! They are good boys…just not enough for them to do. I think I’m going to teach them how to dig up the weeds in the backyard and then give them the task of completing it. The backyard is almost 100% weeds – crab grass I think – and it has to be dug up, can’t kill it with any kind of chemical – so this will be a good chore for them!
    I’ve also noticed that my hyper kid does much better all around when he’s worn down, physically. He just has SO MUCH energy. I know he would do well on a farm b/c there’d be REAL work for him to do with a real, concrete sense of accomplishment vs. cleaning his room every day… LOL!!

  • Sally says:

    Very cool – I have to say, even at 2, I’m already seeing that abundance of energy! lol
    But you’re right. For instance – if I let him pull a stool up in the kitchen to throw away the ends of veggies while I cut them up, he lets me cook instead of hanging on my legs and whining. And he doesn’t give us any trouble about thoroughly brushing his teeth, because he knows he gets to do it himself when we’re finished.
    P has found this to be true with outside work, too – E hands him the tools he needs and then mocks whatever he’s doing with his own little toy set of tools.
    oh!!! We have a bunny now, but since it’s technically “his bunny,” he helps clean out his cage (holding the trash can is helping, right?? 😉 ) and he carries the food to him each day after I cut it up. And in a strange way, I think it makes him like the bunny even more than our other pets.
    So very cool post – i can’t wait to see what you have to say about girls so I can start storing up that info for (hopefully) future use 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you, I just found your site and have read several posts. I needed them. I have five little ones nine and under. I usually feel so on top of things, but have felt so overwhelmed the last few months. I want to do so many things and raise my kids well, I can easily feel like I am failing. I love to read the experiences of women like you as it helps me to know I can do this and it gives me ideas. Some so small, but important. I have my first productive garden ever this year, but it is a mess. I had not really thought of taking all of the kids with me to work in it. I am going to tomorrow, though. I can build memories and take care of what needs to be done all together. Thanks for your words of wisdom.