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Youth crave meaningfulness. Provide them with opportunity to experience it.

Updated: Feb 23

Life on a farm imbues meaning, responsibility, consequence, and tangible challenges into the resident humans who are in charge of land and livestock. Non-farm youth have different life perspective. Maybe they never considered it much at all. In video game you simply respawn.

In the majority of society in the USA today, weather is not something to worry about unless one goes outside. Food is a button-press away. Consequences for actions are... well... pretty small. That's a debate topic all on its own as we see tiktok videos of young adults having meltdowns in stores and sweeping the contents of shelves onto the floor in outlandish response to inconvenience du jour. These meltdowns get millions of views. In cities across the USA, there is now the ability to shoplift with impunity. Societal consequences are miniscule. And look at where society is headed. We are paying the price, and it's STEEP.

What I've discovered is that in general, farm kids are a different kind of grounded from city kids. Farm kids understand consequences because they experience them. What they do, matters. But it's more than that - their actions hold weight on the farm. That means that granting kids gradually increasing responsibility is a gesture from their parents of trust. It's status earned over time, and it's a gradual impartation of regard and respect for that kid's judgment. Meanwhile, their sense of self-worth grows in the process.

When a farm family kid knows that ignoring a livestock situation on their watch can result in an animal injury, illness, or loss, (problem, financial hardship for the family, etc) that kid takes their chores seriously. They're directly contributing to the welfare of their family. The farm kid has the opportunity to be respected because over time he can display strength and inspire trust from his parents. He gets to drive big equipment, has the real possibility of being severely injured or injuring others in machinery, and influence some big ticket sales and maybe care for expensive livestock. Big risks, big rewards. As result, bad things might happen, or that kid can keep them from happening. In the process he is establishing his own intrinsic worth based on his reliability, intelligence, aptitude, work ethic, decisionmaking, initiative, and grit. Not external validation. His own concrete track record and life experiences. All good stuff really.

Contrast this with a sub/urban kid who doesn't have chores to do. Doesn't have daily responsibilities beyond himself. He has an easy life, and often, no sense of his own intrinsic value as a person as he is hitting the age where it is natural to establish one's individual identity. If he lacks attention, connection and guidance, he might seek validation thru attention-seeking, expressing this desire as "deserving respect" from peers through social media means or even through dangerous behavior. Maybe through obtaining a firearm with intent to use it to inspire fear from others in pursuit of what he feels is "respect." That kid is demanding external validation through attention seeking because he doesn't hold his own worth as sacred from inside. Maybe he aspires to be an influencer or a public persona again, as a surrogate for self worth.

The point is, we all seek validation to some degree as individuals and especially in our youth. It's part of the process. Choose wisely when raising a kid in today's world.

I remember the first time that my son accidentally killed a chicken. That LANDED on his heart. In that instant, he understood the importance of his actions and his physical strength. It changed him. It made him careful and measured. Restrained. Thoughtful. He grew a lot that day.

Contrast that to a kid I knew growing up in suburbia who was so dead inside that he killed animals for the rush of power that he felt from it.

My son is growing up to be a sheepdog. That other kid grew into a wolf and had a miserable life that ended early.

Every day is an opportunity, a choice. So I ask: what kind of day do we want to provide for our kids? One with real consequences where our kids are battling the weather, tangible problems, animal predators and adversaries that we can tackle together and be proud of vanquishing? (Coyotes? Sub zero temps and freezing weather, tornado winds and a loose roof? Floods? Polar vortices? Droughts? Black Vultures? )

Or should we leave youth to focus on things as mundane and meaningless what someone says about footwear, social media scandal, or other perceived issues?

I say let's focus kids on concrete things and challenges that they have the ability to definitively solve, where they can gain skills in the process and have experiences to talk about and reflect on later. Bring them back to earth. Root them in faith and intrinsic value and strong, centered self worth. Let's return them to things that really matter. Let's let them shine and achieve and earn that for themselves. If we don't live on farms, let's find other ways to achieve the same effect. Get them outside, active, and engaged in analog activities and different challenges and missions. Primitive camping. Fishing. Hunting. Endurance activities. Travel to natural wonders. Confidence courses. Mud runs. Mountaineering. Bushcrafting. Show them we love them by spending time with them and SEEING them as they are and for all they can become. Give them roots (strong home) and wings (freedom to become their own people) based on their own achievement and aspirations. Get them away from video games, social media, screens and cameras. Love them. Make sure they're experiencing life through their own eyes and not filming it for 'likes'. When they're truly participating in life, it doesn't matter how many likes they get because they are grounded and strong from within.

If you're ready to make a leap to a farm life, even though your kids will complain about the chores, they'll thank you later. Choose wisely. They grow up so fast.

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