As a parent, you probably went through enough sobby letters to Santa from your kids asking for pets. They may have even cornered or emotionally blackmailed you to say “yes” and adopt a new member of the family. However, most children don’t fully understand the huge responsibility of looking after a pet, and this is why they might get bored easily or frustrated when it comes to their “parental” duties.
If you want to improve your relationship with your kids and help them build a strong and responsible character, you can start by teaching them to look after their precious dogs, cats, hamsters or fish. Here are some ways to achieve that.
Make sure your children are emotionally and physically prepared for a pet
As a father, you are responsible for your children’s wellbeing, and this means knowing their limits and their abilities. Although pets can improve a child’s behavior and make him or her more sociable and trustworthy, not all animals are a good choice.
If your child has recently undergone surgery, has kidney problems, asthma or other respiratory problems, welcoming a furry pet is not a smart move. No matter how clean they are, pets carry germs and dangerous bacteria that might trigger allergies or more severe health problems for your children. Therefore, we strongly suggest you talk to a vet and a pediatrician about the risks and benefits of adopting a pet.
You might also want to reconsider your choice if you are raising toddlers. Although most animals and children develop strong friendship bonds, some dog and cat breeds might be too aggressive or have too much energy to be around little children.
For instance, Golden Retrievers and Labs are great dog breeds for families with children but adopting them as pups is not a good choice because they are hard to train and easily get into trouble. Once they reach adulthood, these dog breeds would have wasted almost 90% of their energy, meaning they will be calmer and more patient around children.
Explain to your kids the importance of looking after pets
If your children want to adopt a new member of the family, they must understand that there will be some sacrifices. Although they will still be privileged, they will need to understand to be more responsible.
Explain to your kids that animals, just like humans, need to eat, drink, rest, and exercise regularly to live a long, healthy, and active life. And, even when all these criteria are met, sometimes they will still get sick, and they will require special treatment.
One idea for your kids to easily understand that pets are just like humans is to have your daughter or son write a list with all the things they consider indispensable in life.
Compare their answers to the actual needs of a human being (food, water, shelter, fresh air) and make them understand that, besides physiological needs, animals also need love, protection, kindness, and your constant attention.
Show your child what to do, when to do, and how to do it
Before asking for your child to properly look after their pet, you must teach them exactly how to do it. If your kid’s job is to feed your pet, tell them all about the best betta food, dog food brands, and others. The first rule for your kid to learn is that humans and animals have different diets, and not all the food your little one might like will be good for the pet.
Generally speaking, dogs are omnivorous creatures, meaning they can pretty much eat anything, including human food, with some restrictions. The food should be mainly cooked to avoid parasites and bacteria and shouldn’t be seasoned or spicy. Dogs shouldn’t eat sweets, including chocolate or cakes, and shouldn’t be given alcoholic beverages or certain fruits and veggies that are toxic.
Cats, on the other hand, are mainly carnivorous, meaning 90% of their diet should be based on meat. Fish, poultry, turkey, and beef are the most nutritious choices, whether they are offered from canes, in the shape of kibbles or cooked by you.
Giving your pet water, changing the bedding or taking it out for a walk are mainly chores designed for bigger children and teenagers as they involve a higher sense of responsibility. No matter the case, make sure to explain in detail every task your child has to do. And repeat the process every day for at least two-three weeks.
Understand that there will be mistakes
Children can get easily sidetracked and forget about their chores and responsibilities unless they are reminded every 10 minutes. That being said, you must understand that they will make mistakes in looking after their pets. Sometimes, they will forget to feed the animals, take them out for a walk or change the water in the tank.
You should be prepared and accept these mistakes without punishing your children too harshly. Everyone makes mistakes and, as long as they learn from them, everything will be good.
However, if your children constantly forget to feed the animals, give them water or change their bedding, you can try teaching them a lesson they will remember from now on.
The easiest way for children to understand and realize they are responsible for the life and wellbeing of their pets is to lead by example. For instance, if they forget to change the rodent’s bedding or clean after their dogs or cats, you can also “forget” doing laundry for a couple of days or just enough for them to wear their favorite t-shirt or sports equipment without being previously washed.
If they forget to feed the animal, you can deny them a snack until they feed the animal. You need to be firm enough in your behavior to prevent future errors but also gentle enough so that your children don’t see your actions as punishment. Being constantly punished by not looking after their pets can lead to violent behavior toward the animal from your child.
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