4 Parenting Lessons from a Cattle Ranch


On one of the legs of our journey, we stopped for the day in Elko, Nevada to visit some friends. They own a working cattle ranch, and raise grass fed beef to sell. I wanted my kids to see what working and living off the land looks like, so we asked if we could spend the day with them.

What I didn’t realize is how much I’d learn that day as well. Raising kids in suburbia, influenced by their neighborhood, schoolmates, and modern society, it’s hard sometimes to know if the values I’m trying to instill in my kids are feasible, or whether my old- fashioned goals and expectations are unrealistic for this day and age. On the ranch, I got some encouragement.

ranch 2

Lesson #1: Back to Basics Eating is Achievable.

As soon as we arrived they had lunch waiting for us. It was a feast of steak, skillet potatoes, beets, applesauce, fruit salad, and peach cobbler with real cream- an authentic ranch life meal. All homemade dishes. All food produced on the ranch. They consume no sugar, and only use honey to sweeten their food.

And the most amazing part? No one seemed to mind, not even our family. It was delicious, and more satisfying than some restaurant meals I’ve eaten. It reaffirmed my desire that I can raise a family on a no sugar diet that tastes great and not have open rebellion amongst my kids.


ranch 3

Lesson #2:WORK ETHIC Does, in Fact, Come from Working

 As a mother I feel like I’m constantly trying to juggle teaching my kids work ethic and responsibility, while listening to their complaints that none of their friends have to do as much as they do. I wasn’t sure if this is a universal tactic used by kids nationwide, or if I really am the last mother on earth making her kids clean toilet bowls, but today I learned that I’m not.

The children on this ranch have 10x the chores my kids do, and they seem to thrive off having responsibilities and work. Their very self –esteem is tied to it. Their parents have set an expectation that everyone works hard, and they feel a part of the collective whole by doing so. Their work clothes are ready and waiting for them, and the kids respectfully reply with “Yes, ma’am” whenever the mother makes a request.

{ MORE:  Kids and Chores: The How and Why }


For example, the 3 year old boy helps his brothers with chores in regards to their dairy cow. The oldest son is 14 and already starting his own horse breeding business. Everyone is industrious, and they feel a part of something bigger than themselves. “Work” is not something to be endured or negotiated in their home; it’s a way of life.  (Secretly I fantasized about how nice it’d be if I could drop my kids off for the summer so they can learn all this on the ranch and come home with a new attitude on work.) But alas, that’s my job, ultimately.


ranch main

Lesson #3: Creativity Happens

Take away the technology and they will find something creative to do. I know this, and practice it to some degree, but this was a radically tech-free zone.  The parents share one cell phone that only works when you drive two miles up to the main road. There is no wi-fi, and the parents are the only ones who use the one household computer. With no video games or television, the kids are encouraged to read or play outside. This is a great breeding ground for creativity and problem solving. The older boys have taken up welding and are learning how to build many useful things with their new-found skill.


Ranch 1

Lesson #4: Traditional Values Work

It might not be politically correct anymore to say this, but traditional values and lifestyle work. Spending time with a homeschooling, farm working, religious upbringing family resulted in children that were delightful. They helped their siblings, obeyed their parents, and were well mannered to us as guests.

What I Gained

I realize that ranch life is not perfect, and that their kids aren’t perfect. I’m sure their mom could tell me stories about each of them that would echo my own kids. And I’m not saying ranch life is the only way to raise great kids.

What comforted me was the inspiration and encouragement I received while experiencing a family living some of the principles I’m currently seeking to strengthen in my own home.

Motherhood is a universal struggle, and rewarding endeavor, to raise human beings that will be a positive influence in the world. My hope is that today’s lessons will bring me closer to achieving that.

How about you? What insights on raising kids have you learned? What are your current struggles in raising kids?


Please join in the conversation and leave your comments below.

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4 Parenting Lessons from a Cattle Ranch

Shannon is a mother of 3 teens, who hit 40 and decided that instead of a "mid-life crisis", she wanted an adventure of a lifetime. She convinced her wonderfully open-minded husband to pack up their house, sell most of their possessions, and travel the USA in an RV for a year or two. Besides homeschooling her kids, running their online program, Watts in the World, Shannon loves to explore new places. Nothing is more exciting than waking up in a new city everyday, and discovering what's great abou ... More

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  1. Crystal says:

    Numbers 1 and 3 don’t apply to my family, but 2 and 4 do. It is an interesting balancing act to say the least. My kids have pretty awesome work ethics on the farm, but it doesn’t always translate to other areas. It is still a daily battle to keep clothes, toys, dishes, and trash picked up around the house!

  2. sayhola says:

    Very encouraging to try to instill these values no matter where we live!

  3. Kathleen says:

    I grew up on a cattle ranch and would like nothing more than to raise my child with the same ideals. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I will strive to raise my child to be a better person and to help those around them. Setting boundaries, having chores/ structure was great. The only thing that was a bit of a shock when I came to the real world was the fact that not everyone is nice, that so many people are willing to take advantage of you/ throw you under the bus, and that the world is not as structured as you think. It’s like I’m an adult now and I have to create all of that structure for myself. Some people don’t understand it, and it isn’t for everyone, but then again, I think that’s why there are so many adult children in the world instead of adults.

  4. Phammom says:

    I think what you did is a great idea. Kids need to experience what others go threw to understand it could always be worse.


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