Giving Kids Responsibility Through Livestock

Who says showing livestock teaches responsibility?

Well, most everyone does. Moms, dads, grandparents and ag teachers all share the sentiment that taking care of animals and exhibiting them in the ring is an exceptionally educational experience. What follows, either selling the animal for harvest or breeding them to produce another champion, is also a tremendous learning experience.

But there are many expert opinions and research studies that prove the value of showing livestock. Here are several to glean from.

The Benefit of Chores
Feeding, rinsing, brushing and exercising/walking are essential parts of show life. This work at home can make or break a young person’s experience in the actual show ring. And though it is not glamorous or always fun, doing chores can make a young person a strong contributor to their family and increase his or her sense of self-worth. A study cited by the Center for Parenting Education1 says children who have chores are more responsible, have higher self-esteem and are better able to work through frustrations and handle delayed gratification.

It is believed that when parents do too much for their children and don’t require them to master skills of everyday living, those children are more likely to not function at appropriate age levels. Spending the extra time to blow hair dry on a goat so it won’t get cold and sick or going to the barn at dusk to turn on heat lamps and check pigs are tasks that teach kids to function independently in the outside world. The Center continues to cite a study that says parents need to help kids decide how to spend time and prioritize what is important. They must have skills and competencies to fall back on outside of athletics and academics. By completing routine chores, children who may not always be the star student or athlete will know they can contribute to the family, take care of themselves and learn skills that they will need as an adult.

Creating Sense of Self Discipline
Being able to build on life skills and realize a need to succeed in life is an extremely important part of growing up. Working with livestock means there is not always praise and approval for the tasks and chores that must be completed. Sometimes the best sense of pride comes when a kid knows they put all they could into the project. Perhaps they took home a purple ribbon – but maybe they didn’t.

An article from TheExaminer.com2 says giving children lessons in self-discipline is what they need in order to succeed in life. And regardless of what age children are, they crave attention and acceptance from parents and authority figures. The article adds that starting a child off on the right foot is important when building his or her self-esteem and inner discipline. With  responsibility comes independence. Giving kids even simple tasks like sweeping the barn, filling water tanks or cleaning feed troughs are ways of preparing them to function on their own, as they grow older. Though some parents pay an allowance for chores, those livestock show parents can reward children for a job well done by showing them how to earn premium money – or at least win back their entry fees.

Developing Judgment and Thoughtfulness
There is no doubt that being ethical in the show ring is important. It is also a choice kids learn as they develop their capacity for judging what is a responsible action. Showing livestock helps teach kids lessons in ethics and responsibility through practice. When children are young, it is especially important to teach them morals and help kids develop good judgement by talking through difficult situations.

An article on kidsource.com3 says a child’s ability to reason about various issues, including ethical ones, will improve as a child matures. Just like teaching a new 4-H’er not to whip their pig, or how to appropriately brace their lamb, these actions are also teaching thoughtfulness and positive judgement. Outside of the show ring, a livestock enthusiast could be recognized for making ethical decisions at sports or academics. This is a sign of leadership and understanding what actions to take in complicated situations.

Showmanship competition is also a big factor in teaching a young person to consider the welfare of others. Showmanship also develops a sense of pride, honesty, courage and admiration for worthy accomplishments, providing your child a solid foundation on which to build.

At the end of each day, a young person who shows livestock is learning major life skills not only by caring for a live animal but by maintaining a sense of routine, discipline and project completion that is not found in any other kind of competition. Parents, grandparents and ag teachers were right all along. Showing livestock certainly does teach responsibility.


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