Having a pet at home is an effective way to teach kids of any age about responsibility and empathy. Children learn about providing for the different needs of pets, including feeding, grooming and cleaning after them. When kids take care of family pets, they also learn to be kind towards animals and other people.
For families with pets, it’s easier to educate the children because they’re already familiar with the pet and the pet care routine that they see their parents doing. Parents can also be confident about knowing how their pet behaves and if a child is able to handle various tasks. For instance, some dogs can get very excited when it comes to feeding time and they might jump on a child holding their pet food. If you have a large dog, they can be too heavy for small children and hurt your kids so save that task for when the children are bigger.
While it’s important to teach your kids about taking care of your pets, you must also ensure your kids’ interaction with your family pet is safe and enjoyable. To help make that happen, here are some tips you can follow when teaching your kids to become responsible pet owners.
Educate Your Children About Animal Well-Being
Before giving your kids a pet-related chore, you must teach them why it’s important to take care of your pets as well as what the consequences are if the task is neglected or not done properly. It will help children understand the value of the task you assign them.
You can begin with simple tasks such as feeding the dog. Discuss how giving pets enough food and water is important for keeping them healthy. Then, you can move on to other responsibilities that pet parents have. For example, you can discuss why it’s important to use customizable dog car seat belts each time you bring your dog on car rides. Just as you teach your kids to buckle up when they’re in the car, explain that their furry pal also needs to stay safe in their seat in case of sudden stops or vehicular accidents. Seat belts also prevent an excited dog from jumping onto the driver’s lap, which can be distracting and unsafe.
Choose Tasks That Your Kids Will Enjoy
Once you’ve discussed the importance of caring for your family pet together, you also need to talk to your kids about their assigned task and if it’s something they can handle on their own. When choosing a task for your kid, make sure it’s within the child’s capabilities or they may feel frustrated if they fail to accomplish the task. Remember to select tasks that will also help improve the relationship between your child and your pet. You want the interactions between them to be a source of joy rather than frustration. If your child becomes frustrated because they can’t fulfill a task, they might resent the pet.
There are different ways to let your kids get involved in taking care of your pet. For instance, if your kid is around five years old, you can assign them to put away the pet bowls after eating or return their four-legged friend’s toys to a basket. As they get older and become more capable, your child can do more tasks like sweeping up pet hair or washing the pet dishes. Just take note that tasks like bathing or walking the dog will need your supervision to ensure both pet and kid are safe.
Reward Your Kids for Their Efforts
Positive reinforcement is an effective motivator, no matter your kid’s age. When your child performs a pet-related chore without being asked to, make sure you praise them for the act immediately. You can also reward your kid in a small way, like letting them have a fun activity with the pet. This won’t just improve the connection between them, but will also encourage your child to continue doing their duties.
As your child becomes used to taking care of the family pet, you can ease off the constant praises. But remember to affirm them every once in a while on becoming a caring and responsible pet owner.
Provide Gentle Reminders and Constant Support
Often, children under the age of 12 will need constant reminders to perform their pet-related duties. It’s understandable as they’re still learning to be responsible for themselves and others. While it might be frustrating to regularly remind kids, avoid making them feel guilty about being inconsistent with their assigned pet chores. It might instill anger in themselves or towards the pet, which is unhealthy for both and won’t help resolve the issue.
If your child is struggling with their pet responsibilities, ask them about the challenges they may be facing and are causing them to be neglectful. They might be too tired or overwhelmed by a lot of school work. Whatever the reason may be, offer support and work together to find solutions that will help your kids to be more responsible. It can be making signs and putting them in the child’s room to serve as a reminder or deferring their weekday duties until the weekend when they’re more available.
Pets are wonderful companions for all members of the family. They also help teach kids to be responsible and compassionate. When assigning pet tasks to your children, make sure they’re capable and ready to handle the chore. Supervise young children and give them more independence as they get older. It’s also helpful to set a good example by being consistent with your own pet responsibilities, even when you’re having a busy day. This will instill good habits in your kids and inspire them to be responsible pet owners as they grow up.