children • education • parents
relationships • marriage • the elderly


Weekend Workout: How I Got My Kids to Stop Fighting (Kinda)

July 6, 2018 by

In spite of my appearance – long skirt and head-covering – I do not have a way with animals. I have no practical experience in farming and have spent the last decade juggling a marketing and business development job, and wishing I could just unplug and herd goats. Luckily I do get a break on the weekend and clean horse stalls and curry ponies with my kids.

children feeding horses

With no school in session on Saturday and Sunday, our kids found that sibling skirmishes provide great entertainment. Our neighbors, whose kids had already left home, noticed and offered some advice. “Find weekend work projects for the whole family. You’ll have a common goal and maybe a bit of peace. If we wouldn’t have found service projects for our kids, they would have been at each other’s throats.”

We tried a bunch of things. Collecting windfall in the community apple orchard. Hauling wheelbarrow loads of fresh sand for the kindergarten sandboxes. Helping in the vegetable garden. It really did work, but coming up with a project every weekend was not sustainable until we hit on – for us – an unlikely solution. The animals in the school’s barn need care on the weekend – every weekend, even when school is out. Not surprisingly, our offer to do Sunday chores was snapped up by the teacher responsible for the agriculture and husbandry programs.

Our kids know the drill. After a long, lazy siesta, they exchange their Sunday best for old clothes, pull on their boots and head to the barn. They push in the wheelbarrows, grab shovels and muck out all the stalls. The manure is fresh, the shovels are heavy and you have to heave your load into the wheelbarrow without bumping over your little sister who is trying to do the same thing in the same stall. When the barn is clean the kids jump into a trailer full of sawdust and fill five-gallon buckets with new bedding to spread in the stalls. Before leading the horses in, they measure out the grain and re-stock the hay and feed boxes.

The corral is next. We fill up more wheelbarrows with manure and run them up the plank into the muck wagon. (Looks as terrible as it sounds, but the contents of this wagon contribute to the best tomatoes come July.) The kids replenish the hay racks, curry the pony and donkey and the toddler feeds the cats. When the weather’s good, we hitch up the donkey, load everybody into the sulky and take a ride. In bad weather, the hayloft is a marvelous place for hide-and-seek.

We’ve only been doing this for four years, and only on weekends, so here are the observations of a beginner:

  1. Girls love to take care of ponies. I’m told it develops into care for other people – maybe even their own siblings.
  2. We like to think we’re proving the hygiene hypothesis. (This hypothesis suggests that exposing children to rich environments like a barnyard may contribute to a more robust immune system and less chance of eczema and allergies.)
  3. Life is messy. Learn that lesson when you’re young.
  4. You can get used to the smell.
  5. Barn chores give the satisfying feeling of accomplishment and a robust appetite.
  6. The challenge of hard work leaves you with less energy to annoy the heck out of your big sister, but does not, by any means, eliminate it entirely.

About the author


Jordanna Bazeley

Jordanna Bazeley lives at Danthonia Bruderhof in Australia with her husband, Johann, and their four children.

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  • I wish we did that, about 30 years ago. I know the summers in particular were very hard for my wife. Today, many parents just hand their kids a tablet, and they disappear into imaginary worlds where they are stimulated or entertained, but they aren't doing or creating or even really playing. People have little or no idea of what their kids are looking at or experiencing.

    Bill Canonico
  • Delightful !

    Cynthia Mawson