We’ve rolled diced. We’ve drawn straws. We’ve picked numbers. It’s never easy (or fair, if you ask my kids) to determine who should get which job or which privilege.
When my twin cousins passed their driver’s tests and got their much-anticipated farmer’s permits, they were left with one small problem. They had only one car between them.
To prevent them from bickering over who got the car each day, their father devised a solution: The first twin out to the parlor for morning milking got to drive the car that day.
Even though that was years ago, I still remember the solution as one of the best examples of crafty parenting.
I need to find a similar solution for the problem of who gets to sit in the front seat of the van. Dan has been sitting in the front seat since this summer. Monika recently reached a safe height for the front seat and has been challenging Dan’s assumed rights to the front seat.
With school and activity schedules the way they are, it’s not often both Dan and Monika are in the van at the same time. But now that 4-H project bowl practice has started, there’s been a fight for the front seat each Sunday afternoon.
Last year, Dan competed in poultry project bowl, so his practice time was different than Monika’s. This year, after having so much fun with the other dairy kids at the state fair, he decided to try dairy project bowl.    
I tell them that whoever gets ready and into the van first gets the front seat, but that hasn’t stopped the bickering.
I tried a similar motivational approach last week, and it resulted in not just bickering but sabotage as well.
I made millionaire shortbread bars for the first time, and I wanted to surprise the kids with them. I knew they would love them. The bars are homemade caramel and chocolate ganache layered on top of a shortbread crust.
Because they were dallying around instead of getting ready to go outside for chores – which was delaying my opportunity to finish the bars in secret – I told the kids that the first one out the door gets the first bar.
The incentive worked for about three minutes. Each child accelerated the getting ready process, but then the yammering started. It wasn’t fair because Daphne was already half-dressed. Then Dan threw Monika’s boots down the basement steps, so it ended up taking her longer to get ready.
I tell you; I understand why my mother worked off the farm. It was eight less hours of each day she had to listen to us kids bicker.
I think farm kids have twice as many topics to argue about: Whose turn it is to milk, whose turn it is to feed, who gets to name the new calf, who gets to claim the new calf.
We had a special little Red and White heifer calf born two weeks ago. She has adorable markings and a lot of future show ring potential.
Daphne was the first one out to the barn after school that day, so she was the first one to see the little baby in the calf warmer. Glen told Daphne that because she was the first one to see the calf, the calf could be hers.
A winter calf might be a bit big for a Cloverbud, but I don’t think it will deter Daphne. She told Glen right away that having a really nice calf is really good, because then when she’s done being a Cloverbud, she’ll have a nice cow to show.    
Somehow I have no doubt that Daphne will be walking a Red and White 2-year-old around the ring as a third grader.
Daphne named her calf Daisy and has already commenced training her which is good, because Daisy has a lot of spunk. Every day Daphne goes into Daisy’s pen which prompts Daisy to run and buck around the pen.
“Don’t worry, Dad,” Daphne said. “I’m just getting her wiggles out.”
I’m rather glad Daphne was the first one out the barn that afternoon. Both Dan and Monika already have a number of cows and heifers they claim as their show animals. Daphne hasn’t established her own herd yet. And this way, she and Daisy will grow up together.
Do you have any examples of crafty parenting? How does your family determine which kid should get which job or privilege?
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, 11, Monika, 8, and Daphne, 5. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com