Pets can influence your child’s behavior
By Vera Marie Reed
Special to the Washington Family Engagement Trust
Pets can become a child’s closest confidant. Many children naturally bond with their pet and view the animal as part of their family. Kids often include their pets in drawings, school journal assignments and other special mementos, assigning an integral importance to the furry family member’s role and relationship with the child.
An animal has numerous benefits for a child growing up. A pet teaches a child rules and lessons in life that they might not learn until much later. A pet teaches about love and life. Sometimes that lesson incites laughter, other times tears.
One thing is certain: a pet changes a child’s perceptions on the world and on life. And growing up with a pet strongly influences a child’s behaviors and outlook.
The Quiet Friend
A pet is a nurturing and devoted friend to a child. Whether they are furry, fluffy, feathery or scaly, a pet is another friend in which a child may confide. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, many children tell their pets secrets. Children understand that everything they say to their pet is kept quietly under wraps, and this allows children to feel safe in sharing. When stress or even sadness plagues a child, being able to share these emotions with anyone—even a pet—is positive.
Some children might take to pet ownership easily and even use the experience to become more involved and take on more responsibilities. Owning a pet and caring for their furry friend teaches children how to learn to help care for another life. While parents should always supervise feeding to ensure proper cleanliness and portions, children often take great joy and pride in helping care for a pet. Caring for an animal also teaches children that others depend on them.
Care & Compassion
Dogs, cats and other animals feel fear, joy and other emotions. Caring for and having an animal in the home helps kids develop a sense of compassion and empathy for others. Their relationship with a pet teaches them how to nurture and how their behavior affects others. The AACAP also regards pet ownership as a way for kids to gain a “respect for other living things.” Living with a smaller dog breed, cat or any smaller animal teach kids boundary rules like not hugging too tight and treating those who are smaller with care. And all animals help teach kids how to play well with others (puppies are great teachers of this rule!). When a child presents a treat to a kitty or a dog and tells the animal “good girl (or boy)” and then watches the animals positive reaction, the child understands the effect of words.
The Circle of Life
Everyone who has loved a pet knows the pain of losing that animal. Many of us remember losing a pet when we were children and how painful that loss felt to our hearts. While loss is terrible, it is a lesson that we all learn. Pets help teach children about life and love. And, unfortunately, loss. However, children also can witness the miracle of a dog having puppies, and the growth of babies. Pets teach children the many miracles of life, and children grow tremendously from the experiences.
Pets are part of our family. They are companions, best friends, and fuzzy siblings. For children, pets can help mold their youth. A child who grows up with a pet will learn responsibility, compassion and witness the cycle of life. A pet will bring joy…and tears. But through it all, a child will always know that a pet will always listen, never judge and be a source of uncompromising and steadfast loyalty.
Vera Marie Reed is freelance writer living in Glendale, California. This mother of two specializes in education and parenting content. When she’s not delivering expert advice, you can find her reading, writing, arts, going to museums and doing craft projects with her children.