A Happy Earth: Teaching Older Kids to Care

There are times when I wish I had the knowledge I have now, back when I was starting my family. It seems that parents are so much more informed environmentally than they were even 13 years ago when I had my first child. There was no internet when I had my son. What I learned was from books I read or people I talked to. There was no emphasis on cloth diapers or BPA issues. It’s wonderful to see parents of young children and babies making the conscious effort to teach their kids from the start how to live “green”. These children will grow up understanding that our earth is precious and worth saving from the beginning. For those of us who have older children, even teenagers, and are just starting this journey, it can feel like an uphill battle to teach them how to change their ways along with us. I believe it’s not too late, nor an impossible task. Better late than never.

My children are 12, 10 and 7. Two years ago, my husband and I made the conscious choice to begin living our lives in a way that impacted our world less, we changed our eating behaviors because we wanted to treat our bodies with respect, and we took our kids with us on this new lifestyle path. It was hard at first. My kids resisted the usual things like not having as many sugary snacks. Learning to like new foods was hard. They didn’t like being reminded 20,000 times to turn the lights off, to shut the water off, to put certain trash items in the recycle bins we had set out and so forth. At times, it felt like they would never learn.

Patience and persistence. These are the two words I live by. Laying down the law about our new lifestyle wasn’t going to work. Showing by example, gently reminding, reducing my words so the youngest could understand better, reinforcing the good things and explaining why we do things the way we do them rather than “do it because I said so”. I believe the greatest way you can teach an older child new tricks is to just keep on doing them yourself. If you have someone watching you, you’re going to want them to see something good and right. Incorporate them in the daily things you do that are different than what they were used to. For example, when my 10 year old daughter asked me for the Swiffer, I told her we didn’t use it anymore and why, then I gave her an alternative that was safer for our home. Now she asks for it instead when she wants to help clean the floors.

As time has gone by, it’s become easier for our kids to accept the changes we make. They have finally gotten excited about the garden they weren’t too sure they liked. Recycling is second nature where once it was foreign. They ask me before they throw anything away if it can be recycled. They are better at conserving water and electricity. They like to ride their bikes places when we go. They’ve learned to like the healthier food we serve and are willing to give things a try at least once. Plus, they are super excited to raise chickens this next spring!

When we introduce something new into our lives that will better help the environment, or keep us healthy, my 7 year old always asks me “Mommy, will this make our earth happy or sad?” Her simple words make me very proud. She understands that everything we do can either make our world happy or sad. Her concern for that is reassurance that my patience and persistence is indeed paying off. Our world has 3 more children in it that care and I think that definitely makes our earth happy!!

For more about Beth and her journey into green living and urban homesteading, visit her blog Coming Up For Air.

This is an original 5 Minutes for Going Green Post!

5 Responses to A Happy Earth: Teaching Older Kids to Care
  1. Natalie
    July 23, 2008 | 9:03 am

    Patience and Persistence! That is what I need! I have been very persistent in making changes to reduce my and my husband’s impact on the environment, but perhaps not as patient with him as I should be. I am going to have to remind myself of this post when I tell him for the thousandth time to close the poorly insulated closet door.

  2. Jennifer, Snapshot
    July 23, 2008 | 9:51 am

    What an encouragement! Thanks.

  3. Beth (Coming Up For Air)
    July 23, 2008 | 10:37 am

    Natalie – this even works on “big” kids! ((GRIN))

  4. Jennifer (Little Green Secrets)
    July 23, 2008 | 12:21 pm

    Patience, persistence, and consistency create a great foundation for making changes. As you said, it works for people of all ages and it sounds like it is making a difference in your home. Children are definitely influenced by what they see others do and the impact is stronger when they see the actions of their parents. You think “the planet (you are) is smiling,” just give them a few more years as they continue on this journey w/you and your husband. You won’t be able to contain yourself.

  5. joan
    July 23, 2008 | 8:31 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement. Our 11 year old daughter is embracing our changes. Our 15 year old son is fighting them.