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  • Dr. Henry J. Svec

Leadership Parenting: The Garlic Garden Exercise

Raising a child with a strong work ethic and inner discipline is something you as a parent can foster and implement. If you ask any teacher working in a rural environment where children have chores on the farm they will talk of how these children are respectful, hard-working and conscientious. It’s often because they start meaningful work and an early age and are expected to do so by their parents. All children who have the opportunity to live in a home with a back yard can also have the work experience to develop these skills. I call it the Garlic Garden Exercise. Here is what you do.

  1. Using a shovel, work with your child to spade an area about twice the size of your kitchen table. Do that now.

  2. Investigate the timeline for planting garlic this fall. In my area it is sometime in October.

  3. The area that you cleared should easily be able to hold about 100 plants producing about 100 garlic bulbs of from 4-6 cloves in each.

  4. Decide on the types of garlic you will grow. Attend a farmers market or local grower to purchase the 100 cloves you will be planting-about 25 bulbs that you will be breaking up. Don’t buy garlic from the grocery store for this exercise.

  5. When it’s time to plant, your child will spade a small hole and put the clove in each hole spaced a few inches apart.

  6. Once finished meetings start of how to market the harvest if there is one. This should include keeping 25 bulbs for next years’ planting, 25 bulbs for the family to consume and 50 bulbs to sell.

  7. By telling the story you should shoot to hit a premium price on each bulb from $5-$10.

  8. In the spring when the garlic scapes emerge they are cut and marketed as well. From 100 plants some $10-$25 should be earned.

  9. In late summer the garlic is harvested by hand and placed in a dry area such as your garage to completely dry.

  10. Three weeks later the tops are clipped as are the lengthy roots and the bulbs are placed in paper bags.

  11. You now are ready to market your crop.

Depending on the age of your child you may help a great deal (6 year old) or not much at all (teenager). The goal of this exercise is to provide expectations of your child’s work effort and discipline. This is not only an important leadership exercise but one they will also proudly share as an adult in a job interview situation later in life. It will clearly be a sign to any employer of your child’s work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit.

Dr. Henry J. Svec is the author of Don’t be a Wimp Raise a Strong Leader: Parenting Strategies from Conception to Late Adulthood. He is also the author of The ADHD Fix and the online training tool both books available on He is a Clinical Psychologist in Private Practice at

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