How Pet Care Can Help Your Kids Learn Responsibility

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Pet care can be a great way for you to help your kids learn responsibility. Read how our all boy family discovered what it takes to be a pet owner-and all the joys that come with it! Also, get your FREE printable Pet Care For Kids Checklist!



I wanted to pull my hair out.

I opened my mouth to scream but no words would come.

Tears of anger and frustration filled my eyes, threatening to spill over onto my cheeks.

Whoa! What got her so wound up about? Must have been a serious threat to her family or very disturbing news!

Nope! Not a danger or upset. This homeschool momma had just had it. I was sick and tired of fighting my oldest on completing chores and homeschool work.

In my mommy reasoning, I felt that I had every right to be frustrated. The boy was 13 ½. Perfectly capable of finishing some simple tasks around our home and the school work that I planned for him. Those darn teenage hormones and inherited stubborn streak (no idea where he got that!) rose up to rally my attempts at getting him to chip in and help our family.

Unfortunately, Captain's negative attitude and memory somehow oozed over to his four younger brothers. Soon, I was facing an army of naysayers that I had created!

Fortunately, I have an open relationship with my boys where communication is key. In a moment of sheer exhaustion, I sat them all down and talked about what in the world was happening.

Aha! More Not Less Was Needed To Help My Kids Learn Responsibility

During our conversation, I shared how I was beyond frustrated with their lack of attention and work ethic. To help them better understand my thoughts and feelings, I gave specific examples of times where they failed to do what was asked or required of them. (All of this was said in positive terms to make sure they did not shut down.)  I explained how important it is that every single family member chips in and helps our family.

Overall, the boys grasped my message. They recognized where they dropped the ball (using sports analogies always seems to work with my crew!) and said they would do better. We decided to use a chore checklist, as well as homeschool weekly checklist from The Ultimate Homeschool Organization Course, to help my boys have a visual reminder (and great way for me to stay on top of it all!)

Captain, however, remained quiet. Not normal behavior at all from my chatty son. I asked what was wrong. Quietly, he whispered, "I really want to get a dog."

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Oh boy! I was not expecting that one! As much as I love dogs, I developed horrible allergies over the years. We had a lot to discuss-especially about pet care responsibility.

I challenged him. Questions flying left and right, I wanted to make sure that he knew all that was involved in taking proper care of a dog. Finally, Captain looked me in the eye and said, "Mom, I need this. I've been reading about it and I really want to take care of a dog."

And so our research into adopting a dog began!

Early Stages Of Pet Care To Help Kids Learn Responsibility

Coach and I agreed that we needed to see Captain actively take measures to learn all that he could about selecting and caring for a dog. He checked books out of our local library. He googled all sorts of keywords for pet care like breed selection, pet personalities, diet & exercise, and breeds for families with allergies.

Captain totally threw himself into research for pet care. His excitement was contagious and soon his younger brothers were reading books and chatting about canine care. Coach and I were pleasantly surprised when they gave us an oral presentation on why our family needed a dog and what they would do to make it happen.

We agreed upon ground rules, daily tasks that would need to be accomplished to keep our home as clean as possible. Also, the boys arranged who did what, when, where, and how.

After a few weeks of prayers and searching, Captain found a relatively local shelter with a litter of puppies. I took the boys over and we met the sweetest pup ever! Cooper, our lab mix, stole our hearts and it has been love every since.

Taking care of a pet can be a great way to help your kids learn responsibility.
Our first day with Cooper:)

New Pet Is Fun-But Hard Work!

Bringing Cooper home was almost as thrilling as bringing home a new baby! The air was thick with excitement. We all had silly grins on our faces as we watched him frolic about our yard and slather us in puppy kisses.

Captain learned that puppy magic only lasts so long. Cooper had his first accident and guess who got to clean it up? Wonder who got to feed, brush, and bathe our pup? Who got up to comfort puppy whimpers and deal with late-night potty breaks?

Yup, Captain and his brothers got to do it all. And they sure have learned some valuable lessons along the way...

Pet care is a great way for your kids to learn responsibility.
Smiley & Captain teaching Cooper how to nap.

Why Pet Care Is A Fabulous Way To Help Kids Learn Responsibility

Kids learn a variety of life skills when taking care of pets. Here are a few:

1. Empathy:  

Captain and the crew have learned that Cooper's needs (especially potty time!) come before their own. They have cried beside Cooper as he got shots. The boys feel for him when we must put him in his dog crate ("Mommy, he looks so sad!") and sobbed as we dropped Cooper off at the kennel when we were away for a weekend.

A pet can be a great way for your kids to step outside of their own little worlds.  Kids are given the opportunity to connect and relate to another living being. It also provides a chance to figure out the needs of another when communication skills are lacking.


2. Financial:

Part of our conditions for getting a dog was that the boys work and give a portion of their own money to his care. When Cooper needs treats or a bone, Captain pays for it out of his soccer refereeing money. All of the boys do chores to contribute to our family and maintain our home.

Captain has learned how to budget his money to make sure he has enough to cover Cooper's extras. (Coach and I cover medical and dog food.)  Saving for his dog has been the first time that Captain has consistently been able to wisely use his money.


3. Schedule/Structure:

Many pets require consistent care. Dogs and cats must be fed and watered daily. Dogs have the extra task of being taken on walks and outside for potty time.

Daily or monthly medications must be given on regular schedule. Captain puts reminders in his phone calendar to make sure that Cooper doesn't miss his monthly heartworm and flea & tick medication.

One of the hardest yet most important parts of routine that Captain and the boys struggled with was house breaking Cooper. They kept forgetting to take him out to do his business-and, consequently, had quite a few accidents to clean up. The boys learned to read the signs that a trip outside for Cooper was necessary. Again, learning to tune in to the needs of others is such a great skill to have!

Pet care can be a wonderful way for kids to learn responsibility.
Professor & Captain on boat with Cooper

Have your kids been begging you for a family pet? If so, maybe I will be their superhero? Allowing your kids to have the opportunity to learn and grow as a pet owner will help them obtain essential life skills.


To help my boys and your kids learn responsibility with pet care, I created this free printable. We use a color-coding system to help identify which boy is in charge of each task. Also, we divide up specific areas into appropriate spaces to account for more than one task a day (for example, food).

There are two versions of We Love Our Pets checklist-one for furry friends and one blank.  Click below to download and print your FREE Pet Care Checklist! (includes 2 pages-one with tasks and one blank)


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You can find even more wonderful resources on helping kids learn responsibility at iHomeschool Network. This group of experienced homeschoolers shares their hard-earned advice and encouragement on a variety of ways on helping kids learn responsibility. It's all about lifting each other up during our homeschool adventures and beyond, right? (Click on image below to check out these awesome resources!)


Get some great practical advice from experienced homeschoolers on teaching responsibility to kids over at iHomeschool Network.

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