1. Kids Will Have a Sense of Responsibility
Responsibility is certainly one of the most important human traits. Consequently, it is one of the most demanding when it comes to your child and even harder to learn at an older age. So, when teaching your kids responsibility, there is a question of age appropriateness and the proper agent. As for the appropriate age, you can start as soon as your child has learned the basics (around the age of four). As for the agent, there’s no better teacher than a pet. The first thing you should teach your child is that a pet is not a toy. Secondly, according to your toddler’s age, you should assign them a chore or chores they are able to perform (without hurting themselves) and encourage them to do them regularly. For instance, your four-year-old won’t be able to walk the dog, but they can fill their water bowl. Repetitiveness is the nourishment for responsibility.
2. Kids Can Build Their Self Esteem Through New Relationships
“No man is an island”, claims John Donn. We all have this innate urge to belong to something bigger – a family, a tribe, a club… There is no difference when it comes to children. But often, making new friends tends to carry with itself an element of uncertainty and therefore can be pretty stressful for your young one. Pets can prove to be helpful in this case as well. Apart from forming an unintrusive connection with your child, thus providing them with the tool for establishing further, more complicated connections, a pet is a sort of a “gateway” friend – one strong step towards real human interaction. Just make sure these different types of bonds never compete with each other, but rather be complementary.
3. Kids Become Generous and Compassionate
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…” – this verse from the legendary “Mary Poppins” movie is one of the most beautiful lessons in compassion and kindness towards people and animals alike. For those of you who missed this wonderful piece of cinema art, a babysitter, Mrs. Poppins, takes the children to a park where a homeless elderly woman is selling breadcrumbs to the passers-by who wish to feed the hungry little critters. So, the children decide to spend the little money they had to do just that – at the same time feeding the hungry birds, and providing sustenance for the old lady. Back to reality – it is a scientific fact that, if treated properly, animals will show their affection without holding back. This unconditional love in turn incites a similar response in your young one and with love comes compassion, generosity, and most importantly – empathy. These traits will prove to be of paramount importance in your child’s life.
4. Kids Learn Behavioral Awareness in New Situations
Yet another valuable lesson your children can learn from your pets is that their actions have consequences, which can be perceived through their interactions with their animal friends. Tugging on a cat’s tail will surely create discomfort to the poor animal and it will most likely react. Mistreating a family dog will most likely lead to some form of resentment. The reaction can vary from simply running away to displaying open hostility to the little tormentor. In any way, your child will become aware that their act is not contained to themselves only. Furthermore, this kind of practice actually helps children become more aware of their surroundings.
5. Kids Learn to Be Tough When Coping With Loss
The fleeting nature of life is probably one of the most terrifying things we have to learn to cope with. When compared to humans, most pets have very short lifespans. This means that your child will most probably have to experience the pain of loss at an early age. You have to be ready to handle the upcoming emotional storm because this first contact with death and the way it has been handled will imprint on your child and act as a pattern for future trauma of that kind. First, you have to explain to them what death is in such a way they will understand (for example, the circle of life concept), giving them some meaning to the loss and teaching them how to control their emotions. Give them some space to grieve and let them know that it is completely normal to express their emotions. Finally, making a burial ceremony for the lost pet will give them a sense of closure.
6. Kids Are Being Aware of Boundaries and Respect Them
When it comes to boundaries, they work both ways. For instance, if you have a dog and your family introduces a little bundle of joy, your pet might feel neglected and consequently aggressive towards your baby. You have to make sure that this change in the dynamic of the relationship is not too invasive for your pet and make sure they get lots of love from you to be encouraged to show the same love to their new human. This relationship goes both ways, so it is very important that your child creates a positive relationship dynamic with their new pet. The hardest part of the process of establishing boundaries is playtime. Even though it might seem a bit cruel, creating and respecting a playtime schedule will not only teach your kid the importance of boundaries but the playtime itself will be that much sweeter.
7. Kids Become Firm and Possess Leadership Skills
In most cases, people buy or adopt pets when they are still babies, be it puppies, kittens, chicks, etc. Having a pet at such a young age means no training and no training means chewed-up slippers, scratched couches, not to mention the numerous unsanitary “minefields”. For all of these reasons, you are obliged to establish the rules, but enforcing them is best left to your child (with your supervision, of course). Rewarding the desired behavior and sanctioning the unfavorable one will form proper behavioral patterns in your pet. Not only that, this relational dynamic will aid in the development of confidence in your child’s talents and will give them a sense of authority, both of which are necessary qualities for an effective leader.