Children, Chores, Humility and Health

I hope that most of you have had the opportunity to purchase your copy of Folks, This Ain’t Normal – Joel’s newest book. For the next several weeks deviating from my usual posts, I plan to lead some discussion on it – Chapter by Chapter. I hope you will join in.

If you don’t have a copy of it yet, you can purchase it in hardback, ebook or audio format here.

This is meant to be a discussion. You can agree, disagree or just lurk. All I’m asking is that you be respectful of other commentator’s opinions. You may kindly disagree, but please refrain from personal attacks and name calling, ok? We’re all adults here. πŸ™‚

Now, with that out of the way, let’s jump in!

“We need something for our young people to do”

Joel addresses chores for young people here. Do you think that he is wrong in this. What about child labor laws? How do you find a balance?

He gives an example of my son, Travis, at the age of five helping to raise and lower the front-end loader on the tractor. I remember this day as clearly as if it happened yesterday. Travis remembers this day today, three years later. Such a sense of pride and satisfaction.

Both of my boys have herded the cattle from the corral back to the field all by themselves. Is it dangerous? It could be, but so is crossing the street.Β  What things have your kids done to get involved with your family?

Do you assign chores? What are your thoughts on allowances? If you don’t have kids, what about your own childhood – what stories can you share of things that you did? Can you imagine kids doing them today?

My kids love to pick tomatoes. I planted cherry tomatoes this spring, just so that they would have the opportunity to pick and eat them at leisure. It made for some spoiled dinners, but they loved it and it gave them a sense of pride when I would send them out to pick all the “red” ones while I was finishing the dinner preparations. This was a favorite job of my 3 year old daughter.Β  It was perfect for her too since she had learned all of her colors. “Leave the green ones, pick the red ones.”

Pictures of my kids helping snap and can green beans.


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About Sheri Salatin

Sheri is married to Daniel Salatin. She is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and is enjoying working the land along side her husband. When not farming, Sheri can be found reading, writing, sewing, baking and serving in her church family.
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22 Responses to Children, Chores, Humility and Health

  1. Marci says:

    I think it helps a child to feel like they are really a helper for the family. It will increase their desire to help more. A child without chores gets lazy and spoiled. They have time on their hands that can lead to trouble. They need to learn there is a time to play, but also a time to work. I think it is great you let your boys move the cows. I am sure if you thought they could be seriously hurt you would not do it.

    Many people I know have children with not enough to do. They spend hours in front of the TV, movies and video games. This is not a healthy life style for them.

  2. Grace says:

    I look forward to reading this book. But in the meantime I must tell you the photos of you children are heartwarming. They are so beautiful! I can attest that Lauren insisted on helping us with cleaning the eggs last time she was out Buxton. She was very determined to make them as clean as possible. Very impressive for a 3 year old!

  3. shar miller says:

    As a child I was responsible for supper dishes. As I became a teenager the chores got bigger, cooking, cleaning, yard work. I did get $5.00 a week. I did not make my kids do chores and I see now where I blew it. My first 4 are grown and teenagers now and they just don’t have the work ethics I had. My daughter does, She’s 23, but I was harder on her because she was a girl. Now my 5 year old, I make her take part everyday in something to do with the housekeeping and checking for eggs. Enough to know that it takes everyone to run a family. I know with my first 4 I am so guilty of trying to give them everything, and what I ended up doing, was giving them nothing.

  4. Kelly Albright says:

    I completely agree with children helping with family chores for all the reasons stated above…it helps with self-esteem to know that mom and dad think I am big enough to do real work, etc. But, it also really helps! I know most people that do not involve their children in family and household chores think I am crazy because they end up doing more work when the children “help” but I am convinced it is because they did not properly train the children on how to execute the task. My 2 and 4 yr olds love to help me clean the house, we have fun, play music, get great interaction time, and then they know mom has more time to play after we are finished!

    Kids really want to be able to help, we just have to be patient enough to show them how!

  5. simplyme says:

    I totally agree that kids should be helping. I repeatedly tell my kids that they live in a home–not a hotel, and I am not the housekeeping staff! They have chores that they’re expected to do and then their allowance is based on some extras that they can do every week.

    We own a small automotive repair business and I have been remiss in not having them both down there in the summers working. There’s plenty to do and the 12 year old will DEFINITELY be helping Dad come June!

  6. EllaJac says:

    Joel is my hero. It was by pure accident I heard of him, and he was my FIRST introduction into the differences between factory farming and traditional methods. I long to ‘be a farmer’ but I’m also a homeschooling mom to four young girls, so semi-homesteading is about the most we’ve managed so far.

    I have been listening to this book on my ipod, and I LOVE what he has to say about children and work. I believe he is spot-on discussing the child labor laws and the rising rates of delinquency. WHAT do we expect those high-energy, creative years to produce, if not something of value?? My girls certainly have room for improvement, but when I compare their knowledge base and work expectations to what I had (or didn’t have) at their age, we’ve come a long way in one generation. My own mother was handicapped (so couldn’t model or teach me how to work), my dad lived a day’s drive away, and I was a ‘gifted’ chid, so all my value and expectations were centered in academics. Years ago I ran across a ‘summer’ journal I wrote from when I was 14. I was so grieved to read it… Every day some notation of whatever fun, or idleness or entertainment we’d found. There was NOTHING there.

    I want so much more for my kids. πŸ™‚

  7. Annie Carlson says:

    Kelly is completely right! I have three children: 3, 2 and 9 months. The 3 and 2 year olds help harvest vegetables for our CSA, they help with chicken chores, and housework…as much as they can (which is often more than I think they can). They love to help!

    We have done summer care for my niece and nephew (city kids) who don’t have to contribute to their family and it is a struggle the first two weeks they are here. They don’t want to work, they just want to “have fun”. Then it occurs to them that this is the way it is here and they usually fall in line and pitch in.

    Yes, kids should work and be rewarded for that work in the same way their parents are: taking a swim in the lake, resting in the shade enjoying a cool drink of water, satisfaction in a job well done, and monetarily.

  8. Autumn says:

    I’m 16, and I have only a few chores, but ones that are important. I take care of the animals, babysit, do the dishes for breakfast-lunch-dinner, and do whatever anyone needs me to do. Already I have more than 75% more chores than any of my friends. Of course, if they aren’t done, or aren’t done *right* there are consequences, just like in the real world.

    What I see in my peers are people who don’t understand the value of work and a good work ethic. I do not always enjoy doing chores, but I love the “done” feeling at the end. Sadly, little to none of my peers like or have the same feeling. They simply don’t care.

    In the far-off future, I can picture myself having hard-working kids. I abhor being around children/peers that are lazy and simply don’t care. For them, whatever is easiest works best, and I am fairly certain *we* all know that isn’t true.

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      Autumn, what a blessing you must be to your family. You will go far with the attitude that you have. Let no man look down on your youth. πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for sharing!!

  9. Amy says:

    It is definitely important for children to have chores. It instills a sense of responsibility and maturity that they won’t get any other way. My husband began driving the tractor as soon as he could reach the pedals and he always had animals to feed and take care of on the farm, as well as the seasonal “chores” of helping with planting and harvest and maintenance. I grew up a “city girl” and had my own non-farm-type chores but I’m glad I had them as well. I think kids have it far too easy these days and parents let them be lazy. It’s not going to be a good future I fear.

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      “It’s not going to be a good future I fear.”

      Maybe not, but have you noticed how easy it is to hold a job or get promoted when you have a good work ethic? It takes less and less to impress bosses these days. Don’t ya think?

  10. Becky J. says:

    I just got this book on Wednesday and am halfway done. I loved the chapter on children and chores. My oldest son is 4, my youngest is 20 months, and we have a third boy due in January. My oldest, having just recently turned 4 and coming out of the difficult 2-3 yr stage, seems very receptive to helping now, and he gets such a sense of pride in doing things! It’s wonderful to see him smile when he knows he’s been useful to Mama. Yesterday I had him help me make dinner and set the table, and he did wonderfully. I think it’s easy in our culture to push the kids into the background..”let the grown-ups get this done…just stay out of our hair!” and I see so much more family connectedness when my son can help his Dad with the yardwork or help me with mixing, etc. Over the next year, I plan to implement chores for Kyan to do that need to be done consistently, to help maintain this framework we’ve developed of late. My fantasy is to have a small farm with chickens and goats, and my children will have a hand in the day to day management. We’ve laid the foundation as best we can so far by keeping a garden since Kyan was a baby (not allowed to own chickens if you own less than 5 acres in our county)….he has a hand in helping me pick the tomatoes, marvel at how tall the kale is getting, and rejoice in watching the pumpkins grow, then harvesting them. But Joel’s book has given me the push I needed to integrate him even more into the work of our everyday life….and appreciate it πŸ™‚

  11. I am really enjoying this book. I found myself wishing for a woodlot after reading chapter one because I’m convinced that my son is missing out on some very meaningful work. Luckily we have two friends who heat with wood as much as possible during the winter and I think I will have my son serve those families by helping with their wood work load. I was really impressed with Joel’s knowledge of the different types of wood and just the general knowledge about harvesting and burning.

    We intend on getting a mini-flock of chickens and a rabbit this spring for all the children to help with and hopefully with some experience they will have a small business. We have a large family garden each year and the children are required to work in it. I still hear the comment, “Why can’t we just go buy our food at the store like everyone else.” My standard reply is, “Someday you will thank me for this knowledge and experience.”

    I am saddened by the government regulations preventing work by young people. My oldest is turning 15 and would love to go get a part time job. But no one wants to hire someone that age. There are just too many government hoops. Why wouldn’t you want the young people of the nation to learn a work ethic at an early age? But I suppose it is a blessing in disguise as it will force my oldest to think like an entreprenuer. My oldest and her younger sister did sell handcrafted soap at the farmer’s market this summer and had a great time and good feedback. People like to see children and teens with initive.

  12. Pingback: A Cat is a Cow is a Chicken is My Aunt « Polyface Hen House

  13. Shrader Thomas says:

    As I read this chapter, and thought back on my own childhood of discipline and responsibilities, I was struck by the irony of calling these tasks “chores.” Sure, maybe I didn’t always appreciate doing them at the time, but as an adult, I am grateful for the confidence, orderliness and structure that my childhood of chores helped instill in me. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I did have daily and weekly tasks that were mine and that gave me a sense of accomplishment to complete. I don’t know, rather than “chores,” I’d almost call them “blessings.”

  14. Jenny B says:

    It’s very refreshing to hear/read what my husband & I believe to be true – kids need to learn to work at a reasonably early age or they will not know how to function properly as adults. I’m amazed at my neighbors who come home after working all day to rake or shovel or mow when they have 3 kids sitting around all day doing nothing. How are those children going to understand what a work ethic is or develop one? Our kids have been working side by side with us in whatever chores need doing -from cooking, to shopping, to laundry, to changing the oil, to gardening and all the other daily parts of life. In just a few short years they will be on their own and we would have failed our children if they didn’t know how to do a load of wash, how to scrub the tub or how to mend a shirt. I hope there’s a LOT of people reading this book! I plan to give it to several people for Christmas gifts πŸ™‚

  15. Karen Harrison says:

    I live in metro Atlanta, and I’m convinced I’m the only one home during the day in my neighborhood–with the exception of a retired couple living two doors down. I hear a bus pull up our street at 6:15 am to pick up kids for school…(the sun isn’t even up yet!!) then those same kids go from school to day care, then probably a quick fast food bite on the drive home to be ready to go to bed and start the routine all over again. Chore time–possibly Sat. –nope– that’s taken up with Rec. League or community activity…There’s no home time…Just going from one activity and entertainment form to the next… These families are missing out on a great blessing, a great teaching responsibility, and some of the best memories in the world!! So encouraging to hear families who are breaking that mold! I’m not begrudging those families who both parents work, especially in this economy, but even in a two income household there are creative ways to create more time at home–being together—being productive. Thanks for the encouragement and resources this online community provides!!

  16. Margaret P. says:

    I think working on the farm gave my kids a sense of competence and the knowledge that they were making real contributions to the family’s welfare. Their contributions were far more than what I think of as chores. At 12 & 14, they could handle milking 30 cows by themselves. Now that we no longer live on a farm, it is hard to find chores that feel as important to my younger children.

  17. LAURA FLOYD says:

    You and your family are such an inspiration, I hope you and your family are doing well! Please tell laura I said hello. I would love to bring the kids for a day on the farm when the weather gets warmer!!! Have a great new year!

    Laura Floyd

  18. Stephanie says:

    This chapter and these comments have been such a blessing to me. We have 7 kids and although we make them do chores, it is, well…a chore to get them to do them! I end up feeling like I’m asking too much of them ( even though I know logically that emptying the dishwasher, cleaning your room and watching the babies while I take a shower is NOT too much!). I am also in school online besides doing nursing 2 babies and homeschooling and doing everything a house and family require. So it is so good to hear from others that NO, in fact, I am NOT asking too much of my kids. I know that I am teaching them skills for life, but I have been guilted into thinking everything is my job because I stay home, and that they are just doing me a favor when they do anything. Not anymore. Starting today they learn how to operate a washing machine, as well as other things. My husband and I work our tails off. The kids can pitch in more.

  19. Mellisa says:

    I finally got my copy on my nook and re-read this chapter last night. It made me think back to my childhood and standing on a chair at the sink with a towel as an ‘apron’ doing dishes when I was like 5. And I want that for my girls. I believe that the early experiences I had have prepared me for the life I now lead. I also have to agree with Joel that kids having energy to burn off at 2am is a problem. The girls and I are getting chickens this spring/summer. We are also looking into a hoop house so that we can try some winter gardening like Elliot Coleman does in Maine (although on a much smaller scale). I am still considering my position on allowance/commission. I think that I am not going to have it for household chores like cleaning, etc. but I may for things like picking in the garden and helping with the chickens because as one of the other posters mentioned there isn’t a lot for kids to do in the suburban area to make money. Although the soap idea may have merrit. Also, I have a direct selling business and I may delegate some sorting tasks, etc. to the girls as they get older for which they could earn a commission. I think it is important for them to have their ‘own’ money so they learn the value of saving, earning, paying with money they made early on so they don’t end up in financial trouble later in life.

  20. Tonia says:

    I am reading this a little late But I am a FULL Supporter of Kids and chores! My girls can do all the chores inside and out if needed. I do have to make sure things are getting done but most of the time its all good. They don’t have much spare time on their hands and I try to mix a little unexpected fun in occasionally like a trip to the creek to cool off in the summer. They know if we all work together it goes faster and smoother.. We don’t have allowances but they do work for other people occasionally to make extra money. We dont pay them to take care of Their house because no one is going to pay them to take care of their house when they move out eventually. There are some things you just have to do.. They also show their animals at the local fairs and raise some to sell for extra money. We are trying to teach them to handle their money well and to be good workers.. I think its working.. They are now 14, 14, & 15 and I can trust them with a lot of responsibilities. I hear of other kids getting in trouble its usually ones that are sitting at home with nothing to do and no responsibilities!