A Boy and His Dog
As kids are growing up, they learn their attitudes towards different subjects by watching people in their circle of influence. This includes parents, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, anyone that could potentially influence a child. One interaction they may observe is the interaction between humans and animals. Pets and children have several similarities. They both rely on someone to take care of them. They can both be quite a learning experience, especially when you put them together. Thinking about getting your child a pet? Here are some things to consider.
Having a pet teaches a child responsibility. Depending on the child’s age, there are different tasks he can do to help with the pet. Even a simple pet to maintain, such as a fish, needs to be fed, and that is an easy job, even for a younger child. As the child shows initiative in one chore, he can move up to something a little harder. In letting the child take a prominent role in meeting the pet’s needs, parents give that child a sense of pride when he realizes he is doing something helpful. Carly Thorne, of Northeast Mississippi, said “When we got our family dog, my two sons acted like it was the best day ever. We’ve had him almost a year, and the two of them take turns feeding him and walking him in the neighborhood.”
Experience Unconditional Love
Another thing a family pet provides is a chance for a child to experience unconditional love aside from the family. Though children should feel unconditional love from parents and siblings, having a family pet is another opportunity for a child to form one of those relationships where she loves and is loved no matter what. Many children that grow up with pets never forget those pets, even after outliving them. The bond formed is good for a child’s self-esteem and well-being.
Learn About Animals
While the idea of a family pet is to introduce children to domestic animals, it also opens the door to teaching children about all other animals. Having a friendly dog might make younger children think all dogs, or even all animals are friendly. Parents can take advantage of that child-pet relationship to teach children that not all dogs are friendly like theirs, especially if they come across one that doesn’t seem to be a pet. It is also a good time to start conversations about animals in the wild. Make a game of seeing how many animals your child can spot in a day–squirrels, birds, rabbits, whatever animals frequent your neighborhood.
Even if you don’t have a family pet, you can still teach children about animals. If friends or other family have a pet, take your children over for occasional visits to get to know the animals. Take trips to a local park, pet store, animal sanctuary, or even the zoo. Read books about animals with your children. Learning to respect, love, and care for animals gives children necessary life skills that will help them become more productive adults.
Rhonda Pate lives in Saltillo with husband Jeremy, and daughter, Rain, 13. They have two cats, Oreo and Moondrop. Rain’s chores concerning the cats are to make sure their food and water stays replenished. She also takes time to do the fun chore of playing with the cats to see that they get their needed exercise.