Parents, what do you do to teach your child responsibility and care at home? I added "and care" because it's a whole different question if the child is responsible for feeding a dog that would starve without it's daily food and water.
When I was a kid I had to go get the cows in, by myself, in the heat of the summer because all the adults were busy doing other farm work. I knew it was a big responsibility because my grandma would scream her head off if I wrecked up moving the gates (because I had to move the low cow gates) and I also had to navigate around two Jersey bulls and NOT let them get into the milking crowd. I was only eight years old. I also had a contingency plan in my head of what to do if I got in trouble with the bulls, which was to either hit them with my cane or jump over the gate.
I had to walk down through the entire free stall and get each cow up while herding them towards the gate. I had to be strong enough to lift and move gates around without help and know how to move the chains like a puzzle piece to lock them together and take them apart. I didn't realize how much responsibility and leadership this was as a child. I didn't realize how fortunate I was to have those spatial skills and maps in my head. It was just what you did, it was just the expectation. Someone had to move the cows and it was the "easy" job for me as the child while my family was moving heavy equipment and milking the cows.
Now when is the last time your child problem solved a task like that?
I've noticed a few trends in my students since they have transitioned to virtual school.
The first, is their reaction times. They just don't react. They can't connect a word or instruction in the ear to doing a physical action and doing it now. If they see a problem, they don't actively try to fix it. For example, a horse is slowing down and stops. In the past the kid would notice this and pay attention and start kicking. Nowadays they just stand there like they are learned helpless. Like, I can't drive the car for your kid, they have to know to react to speeding up and slowing down of horses.
The second, is their memories. They haven't been required to memorize or recall information in the last year (or maybe so, but I see a decrease in their ability to remember). We are dealing with livestock here so REMEMBERING to feed animals and care for them properly is really a big deal! They say, "I forgot" like it's no big deal. Since August I have been asking a group of my younger riders to list four countries before going "around the world". We've done this since August. It is now February. I tell them it's their responsibility to remember four countries. Do they remember? Nope. Do they care? Nope. Do they understand it's just a stepping stone to taking care of horses properly? Nope.
I also test their common recall of basic horse parts every week, and I see again lately that the kids aren't retaining the info. I always ask them what is the first step you do when you get the back to the barn. The correct answer is to "put the reins over the head". Every week I ask this question, every week they point to the reins but cannot remember the word for them. They say, "put this over the head" I say, "What's this?" and they shrug and say I don't know.
The third, depression. I'm not going to open that can of worms but I could see a big difference between my kids who were let out of the house and who were not.
The fourth, is lack of awareness of responsibility. They don't care about doing things correctly because they don't understand how much of a safety hazard it is if they don't. Sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get them to listen and carry out a task properly at the barn. Moving gates? They will lock horses out of common sense areas like that include having access to water for the night. Putting on blankets? They try to speed through the clips so that it's done faster, clueless to the fact that $250 blanket could fall off, get destroyed, or tangled up the horse's feet. I ask them to fill up a water trough and they can't problem solve the correct length of hose that would reach the trough with minimal effort.
A few weeks ago I hit my peak of Corona frustration when a horse came in with only half her blanket on in the morning after I had routinely explained "How to properly Blanket a Horse" since November. These were kids that have ridden for several years and already knew how to blanket properly. However, my brand new blanket came in wrapped around my horse's legs because someone didn't buckle the front pieces. This is after I repeated verbatim, "Ashley's rules for blankets, don't touch the buckles, only the snaps."
But the only person that cared was me. The kids didn't take any responsibility or accountability. They said, "I forgot" or parents apologized for them. That is what bothers me about the lack of responsibilities nowadays. When I vented to friends they explained "You're the only person that expects them to be responsible nowadays". No really it's a HORSE. You're child should care! They should remember to put the tack back on the correct holes, the blankets attached in the correct spots, and what horses go in what pastures. What happens if you forget to feed a pet? It starves and dies right? I'm telling you most of my kids don't get that right now.
Years ago I gave a student homework. She was five years old and didn't really get the concept of riding horses so I suggested to her mother that she help feed the dog every night. "But she's only five?" Exactly I said, she's five and she needs to understand responsibility and care for other animals. So does your kid take care of his or her pets? Do they have to make sure an animal always has food and water? I have to sit down with my students nowadays and explain that a horse does indeed need responsibility and care every single day.
So next week I will be starting all my lessons with one question, "What does a horse need to survive?" and drilling their little brains until they can theoretically remember (that's a joke, because the follow week they are going to say "I forgot") to keep their horse alive.