Finishing the Project – Kids and Incentives

When we purchased our present home in 2007, we found that the yard  was a high-maintenance affair with a do-it-yourself pond already installed.  After a fish-killing algae bloom in 2009, we began a major yard renovation project to both refurbish the pond and tear out almost 800 square feet of out-of-control periwinkle.  Since we’d had a quote of over $5000 to redo the pond, we thought that we could do it cheaper (a win) and instill some entrepreneurial drive in the older kids (For the Win!).  Since beginning the project in 2010, its end is now within sight and I’ve had to look back to see what I’d do differently.

  • First, don’t let the kids determine the pace of the project.  I’ll grant that it’s been a long – loooong – project tearing out hundreds of square feet of overgrown myrtle, landscaping the first half, installing a two-tier vegetable garden and mucking with a dying fish pond.  The intent was to do the work and let the kids do a large amount of the grunt labor within the context of the usual summer activities, prompted by good old greed.  But I miscalculated on the variety and time constraints of the activities and things lagged.
  • Second, I simply didn’t realize that the bulk of this is pure stoop, grunt labor and that the kids aren’t interested in hours and hours of grunt labor.  They’d do some work but with the interspersal of activities, it was never enough to gain critical mass.  While I’d become concerned that there was laziness that didn’t bode well for the future, especially on Eldest’s part, her subsequent part-time job has reassured me that she’s got a decent work ethic.
  • Third, the kids aren’t just going to go outside and work unless I prompt and actually join in, and set the example.  When I was there, it went better than when it didn’t.
  • Fourth, I discounted Youngest, who’s now old enough to put in the physical work and has actually proven to be more reliable and motivated than his older siblings. 
  • Finally, there’s something to be said for simply saying let’s get this done and be finished with it and making it a priority ahead of other work.  It’s something that I should have done last summer.

But had I done that, Youngest wouldn’t have made the money that he’s made thus far.

So for now, the last segment of the new waterfall awaits and then – then – we can actually enjoy the backyard.

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