Character development: Learning respect through 4-H livestock projects

Michigan 4-H teaches youth character attributes to help them learn to show respect to others while showing their livestock projects.

Young people want to be treated with respect, with dignity and to have a voice as they make use of their decision-making skills. Being respectful is a feeling towards others; it involves showing regard for someone or something. By watching others’ actions and how they demonstrate their opinions of a person or object, we can learn how to be respectful. This is the fourth in the series of Michigan State University Extension news articles that explore the character development gained by participating in Michigan 4-H livestock projects.

In addition to participating in other projects, Michigan 4-H allows and encourages young people who are showing livestock to show respect to exhibitors, judges, buyers and their animals. According to the 4-H series “Showing Character,” livestock exhibitors communicate respect in what they do and say. Being respectful is like the Golden rule – treat others as you’d like to be treated, whether it the “others” are fellow exhibitors or judges at livestock shows. Being polite and appreciative is another way to show respect to both adults and other exhibitors.

Another way to look at respect in the context of livestock exhibiting is in how you treat others’ property in the show ring, in the barn and with individual show equipment. How one handles their animals tells a great deal about a person. Does the person keep the pens clean? Are her animals fed properly? Does he provide them with fresh water?

Parents also can show respect towards their children by letting them do the work, teaching them how to take care of their animals and not do the work themselves. Parents should focus on the experience the child is having. They should also treat others with respect and follow the Golden Rule.  

Some ways to teach respect in the livestock area could be to make a list of respectful behaviors and disrespectful behaviors. Mix them up and have each participant read their individual strip, then discuss if it is respectful or disrespectful.

In a small group, have each group member list ways that they show respect. This would be a good reminder to all of those who participate in this activity.

Experienced showmen can share what they have learned with the young exhibitors on how they show respect to stakeholders in the community.

As long as you are in a 4-H club and show animals, showing respect is showing courtesy and proper treatment of people and things.

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