Teaching Children Responsibility and Work Ethic

One fact that we quickly learned after we moved to the farm is that children can do more work than what you think.  It’s amazing how helpful they can be…when required to.  Our children are full of energy.  The trick is to harness that energy and point it in the right direction.  Children left to themselves, unchallenged and without responsibility turn into lazy, me-centered “kiddults”.  I don’t know if you have noticed lately but our world is filled with them:  30 year old “kids” who haven’t grown up  and who lack vision, maturity, depth and a good work ethic. 

We believe labor and early responsibility are vitally important for our children…even our young children.  We have found that all our farm work around here captures their adventure and endless energy in positive way, all the while teaching them responsibility and a good work ethic.   It’s nothing new.  Ask most any elderly man or woman and they will tell you the stories of their youth.  You will most likely hear about good, honest, hard working days.  I remember sitting and talking with my great grandfather about his youth.  His youth was filled with responsibility and hard work.  Those are the things that grow strong young men and women. 

In a large family, sometimes the older children are counted on for most of the chores.  The middle children can easily do the chore, but we are so use to calling on the oldest ones to complete the task.  It’s habit I guess.  Around here, it has been becoming apparent that we need to enlist the younger troops.  So we have changed around our chore schedule quite a bit to accommodate the younger ones involvement.  

We have 4 baby calves.  3 of them take a bottle twice a day.  The 4th one we gave up on chasing him around the field.  Now he just watches from a distance as everyone else happily drinks down their bottles!  We had the calves on cow formula which requires mixing up 8 oz of the formula into 2 quarts of warm water.  Whisk around and pour in the bottle. We originally had our 11 year old doing this chore.  Looking around at what needed to be done and who could do it, I learned from my Managers of Their Homes  book to start enlisting the youngest child who can do the chore…not the oldest.  Wow..this changes things. 

So the 6 year old and 8 year old were pulled away from their dump trucks and enlisted to mix up cow formula, pour it into the bottle and go find the calves.  It works great!  Lately, they have been transitioning the calves off the formula and putting real milk in the bottles.  It frees up the 11 year old to focus on the milk cow and the little boys have a real chore that is vitally important on our farm.   

Teaching responsibility isn’t a one time how-to class.  Handing over chores and jobs to children can be messy. It takes lots of patience and understanding.  It takes a parent that is willing to give up perfection and ready to invest great amounts of time and energy into their children.  It’s a long term investment that repays many times over with young men and women who are hardworking, honest and responsible!


  • thelindsayclan says:

    Hey Beth! I know what you mean about those chores–it’s so easy to keep the big ones doing the “bigger ones” because you know its going to get done–it’s routine! I am such a creature of habit that I have a hard time changing routine. The kids do love it, and the little ones are so excited to do a big kid chore. Morgan, almost 6, practically BEGS to vacuum after supper. I wanted her to keep up the work mentallity by telling her I think she needed to wait. She kept asking, so I let her, but whatever big kid was in charge of dining room duties had to make sure things were covered–boy, that’s what I like–not having to go behind to make sure something is done–doling out responsibility to the bigger ones! Have a good week, and tell all the family hello!

  • life in our quiver says:

    Hi, I am new to your blog. We too have a farm and also big and little helpers. How true that it is much easier to just let the older ones do a ‘neat and tidy’ job. But how important it is to teach the little ones. One day it will be worth it! Thanks for your blog and a look into your farm life. It’s been fun to read about fellow farm folk:) http://www.maprap.blogspot.com

  • estherevan says:

    wow, I can identify. We change diligence time duties with our four every year. This week was the first week of new duties, and I kept trying to figure out why things were not getting done. Then, I realized, “Oh, I have to spend more time with them to teach them how to do this…it’s all new for them!” We have four kids and they are quite capable of doing more than I ever thought to do at their age- because I was never asked!
    I see that you use some of the same resources I use. Managers of their homes and Nourishing Traditions. The cookbook is new for me, but scheduling is a way of life now, thanks to that book!
    I wanted to contact you after I read your article in the homeschool today magazine online. My daughter (10) and I made a homemaker’s notebook and an assistant one for her. It’s been really great. I am realizing that the Lord has put a lot of vision in me for my home, and putting it on paper has helped me to bring it to fruition. Thanks!

  • BethTN says:

    howdy lindsay clan— so good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing what you all have done in this area…. you too have a great week and tell everyone hello!
    life in our quiver– good to hear from you—