Rethinking Yard Work and Kids

On a sunny and warm Spring day, it’s the perfect time for handling the Spring clean-up yardwork.  Trimming bushes, clearing underbrush, setting up the patio table and chairs and cleaning the pond.

And it’s a day on which I kicked myself as I did it with the wife and kids.  Now that I have three kids, I wish that I had done some things differently with the older two.  Clearly, the kids need(ed) to help in order to learn what has to be done to keep a household going; but I could have handled it both differently and better.

With multiple small children and a working wife, I felt pressed to get the job done as expediently as possible so that we could move on with the other activities that make weekends fun.  And being a former operations guy, I figured that the best way to make that work was to divide the work so that the kids who were old enough could do something productive while I tackled the power engine applications – mowing grass, weed whacking and such.  The one who was less than about seven years of age wasn’t expected to do much and could run and play so long as they stayed within sight.  Once a child turned seven, then there was an expectation that he or she could do something to assist. 

But my goof was believing that just giving an easy task was sufficient while I took care of the other jobs.  Yes, a first or second grader can do some minimal sweeping.  But what looks manageable to a 40-something guy isn’t the same for a kid, even if it really isn’t much.  So the kids would complain about how much they had to do and the situation would deteriorate.  And today, I heard one of the older kids channeling my years-ago grousing to Youngest who complained about the work.  And when I went over to help Youngest pick up yard waste, the complaints ceased.  It wasn’t the work that created the issue, but rather the sense of being alone in a job that looks unmanageable to a kid.

So how would I do it differently?

  • Scale back my expectations of work to be done and the appropriate time-frame in which to do it.
  • Understand that the complaints might be laziness, but entertain the real notion that perhaps the child just wants to do the job with his/her dad.
  • Recognize that I need to do a better job of multi-tasking as I shuttle between the power-equipment work and the childrens’ tasks.

Kids need to see the work necessary to keep the daily life running.  And they need to have some jobs to teach responsibility.  But making it an unpleasant situation through crankiness only defeats the purpose and does a disservice.

And I have to think about I’m going to have a conversation with the grousing child and re-visit some old issues.

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