Adding a dog or cat to your family is a great way to teach your children how to be responsible for another living creature and learn to appreciate the work and dedication involved in caring for that pet. By including them in the care of the pet, children not only learn how to nurture it but they learn that loving another creature is much more than just playing with it on occasion. A pet depends on its people to provide food, shelter and full care.
When you adopt a dog or cat, kids may not always do the care work consistently, even with guidance or prodding, so be prepared and willing to do it, too. The ultimate responsibility is yours, but having a pet can be a good way to help a child learn how to care for and empathize with another living being and be responsible for something important. They will learn that their care matters to the pet.
Don’t get a pet just to teach your child responsibility. You should get a dog or cat because you want to love it, enjoy its company, care for it, and be a companion and family for each other. The responsibility lesson is just an added bonus.
Feeding a pet is something concrete that all children can understand. They know what it feels like to get hungry and they understand that food is the way hunger goes away. They will understand the pet needing food. Teaching them to be responsible for feeding the family pet is one of the easier lessons in pet care for them to learn.
When a dog or cat really loves its CANIDAE pet food, and gobbles it up the moment the child fills the bowl, the child will see that what they did is important. Learning responsibility and really understanding that helping the pet matters – to the pet as well as the family – will reinforce your child’s desire to want to be involved.
Children sometimes view a pet as a plaything. They may tire of it the same way they do a toy, but learning the importance of caring for a living being teaches your child the value of that animal as a real creature, not a toy. The commitment is for the life of the pet. Even a very small child can empathize and learn to understand the importance of good pet care.
Actually helping and spending time with the pet helps them understand that responsibility includes taking time each day to pay attention and give love to their dog or cat. Children need that time and attention from their parents. Your child can learn that their pet needs the same thing and they can be a source of fulfilling that need.
Helping to bathe or brush a furry pet can help to reinforce a child’s own personal care skills. If the doggy or kitty needs to have these things done, and they help do it, that helps them understand that it is a need many living creatures have, including themselves.
Although any medical pet home treatment, (wound, injury or illness), needs to be supervised by an adult, having your child with you while that treatment is taking place helps the child understand that pet care also involves attending to the kitty or doggy when it is ill or injured. It also teaches empathy. Most kids understand what feeling sick or getting an injury feels like. Sometimes responsibility involves a not-so-pleasant situation, and kids need to learn that as well.
Like children, pets require around-the-clock care at one level or another. A child can learn that having a pet means caring for it even when it is inconvenient or conflicting with something else they want to do. That lesson helps them learn that prioritizing needs and wants is an important part of responsibility. Don’t be hesitant to include them in something as simple as having to let the dog out in the middle of the night in the backyard for a potty break, or have them help change the kitty litter.
Don’t limit the help requests to older children. Even young children can begin to learn responsibility with simple tasks that they can manage or help you with. Praising their positive involvement will encourage your child to want to be more involved with the care of the pet.
Being a responsible pet owner means being a model for your children to follow to learn how to be responsible for your pet. Kids learn by example and will follow your lead. With guidance, a child can learn to be responsible for the care of a loved family dog or cat. Learning that their involvement matters in the care of your dog or cat will teach your child that responsibility is important and that they can contribute and make a difference.
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch