Children love pets. I’ve seen it time and again when children come to my home who don’t have pets of their own. They want to pet the pooch, they want to hold the kitty. When animals and kids bond, it creates an environment of unconditional love for both of them. Caring for pets is also a fabulous way to teach responsibility and compassion to our young charges. They can start quite young learning to care for a living creature other than themselves.
To tap the training potential of having a household pet, get one that fits with your family’s lifestyle. Consider how much space and time you have, and what will be required to give adequate care to the animal you bring home. If you choose to bring home some goldfish, for example, your child can learn discipline and responsibility by being in charge of daily feeding and weekly cleaning of the bowl. A furry friend in the home may require care from both you and your child, but even a young child can be responsible for keeping the water dish full of fresh water. Depending on your child’s maturity level, they can also take over feeding duties. Take time to talk to your kids about what happens when an animal doesn’t get enough to eat or drink, or eats too much. Other job lists might include washing the feeding bowls or grooming the pet, and participating in walks where they hold the leash.
Pet ownership can also build compassion in a child. Teach them early the proper way to play with and pet an animal. Taking them to veterinarian visits can build an understanding that their pet is a living creature, not a toy. They learn that their pet feels pain, and must always be treated with gentleness. Of course, although we should never leave a very young child alone with a pet, children can learn to treat animals well, and provide the necessary care for them to be happy. These are life-long skills that will serve them well. The return on this investment is huge when you see your child snuggled up with his four-legged friend, and each is gazing into the other’s eyes with adoration.