My neighbors are having phase 2 of their landscaping yard done over the next few days by professionals. As you can imagine, I feel that this is cheating because everyone knows that if your children haven’t broken their little backs, toes, and fingers making your yard awesome, then you haven’t done anything worth talking about.
This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) work or die attitude has been passed down from generation to generation on both my mother’s side and father’s side of my family. It is in my blood to see my children (and the neighborhood children) slave away moving rocks from one side of the yard to the other. I compare of my efforts of creating a wonderful yard to that of the English aristocrats that keep their rose gardens all prim and proper. I often wear my big fluffy hat as I garden in the flower beds while I wait for my afternoon tea.
Nothing impresses on small children the value of hard work when they can look their hands and see the blisters forming. To get that visual of a day’s hard work in your hand is nothing short of accomplishment in my mind. And a few stones that fall onto their toes once in a while will teach them that you always need proper footwear at my house. Hobble home young underage yard worker, tomorrow is another day of back breaking labor!
One of my favorite moments of teaching is when a child starts to cry after being worked to the bone. If you can push them a little bit more, they can learn how to push themselves to success. My motto: If you ain’t crying, you ain’t trying. They need to learn their boundaries and how to push themselves past the point of self imposed limits. Success comes to those that push themselves (or are pushed by a slave driver parent).
Valuable lessons abound in making your yard an oasis for you to enjoy. One of my favorite lessons is to change the project midstream so all of the hard work my kids just did was for nothing. All of their hard work building that fence is gone once I realize I want the fence three more feet to the left. Kind of reminds you of your boss at work, doesn’t it? See! Another lesson from adult life brought home for children to learn from! Can you hear your boss now?
“Johnson, remember how I had you write that twenty page report on how we can make our workflow more efficient? Well, we are switching focus again so your goal oriented results report isn’t going to cut it now. You’ll have to do it all over. And I need it by Monday. Don’t forget the cover sheet on your TPS report too!”
So my request to move the fence three feet to the left is just preparing them for the future. Am I a great teacher or what?
To get the most out of child workers, you should also offer incentives. You don’t actually have to follow through on the incentives, but you should offer them. Tell them: If you finish that 65 foot long rock wall by tonight, I’ll take you to the lake tomorrow! As you can imagine, when they fail to finish you can tell them that you would love to take them to the lake but you can’t reward failure. That just wouldn’t be fair. By setting unrealistic goals, you know that you’ll never have to follow through with your rewards. Again, another great realistic life lesson for your kids to experience. Their future boss will do the exact same thing to them in their future job. They will hate him as much as they hated you as a child. Yet, they won’t quite make the connection until they are older and in therapy. By then it will be too late.
You should view your yard as an outdoor classroom. It is always changing; as are the lessons you are teaching your children. The neighborhood kids can be invaluable teaching tools as they are extra help for the really big projects and to show the concept of favoritism. You can treat them better than your own kids. This is to show your kids that they need to work even harder in a fruitless effort to gain your love and attention. Always tell the neighbor kid he is doing an awesome job but ignore your own kid. Then sit back and watch your kid step up their efforts. The sad look in their little faces as they wait for that one positive comment from you to justify their existence is a reward in itself.
As summer rolls on, you should always look to the future of child labor. Even if your kids are grown up, you can tap into your grandkids. What if you are young and have no children? Consider the neighbor kids or even a cousin or two. Never pay a professional when you can easily watch a half hour TV program and have kids there to assist you in your landscaping dreams!