From their crazy antics to their lovable ways, pets really can light up a home. And while us adults love our pets dearly, kids can also create especially strong bonds with pets as well. Not only because our pets offer unlimited attention, affection and love, but also because they teach kids a wide range of skills and life lessons. So what are the key things that pets teach our kids and why is it so important to have someone furry, scaly or feathery in your home.
When you have a pet in your home, your children begin to learn that they are more than simply cute companions, but that they also need to be cared for. Pets require daily feeding, grooming, cleaning, attention and exercise. It is really important for children to witness adults providing all these things for their pets. And when your kids are old enough and can get involved in their daily care, their contributions can teach lessons of responsibility as well.
Pets are incredible teachers when it comes to patience. They take a while to train, they require constant care and they don’t always take no for an answer. Your child will be watching you deal with these frustrations and may even wonder how you will treat them in similar circumstances. Further to this they will then learn by example about persistence, perseverance and patience. As well as the great reward that comes with sticking with such challenging attributes.
There is something really incredible about an animal’s unconditional love. Isn’t this a wonderful experience for children too: They know that no matter what, their pets will love them, show excitement when they come home, or give endless cuddles with no strings attached. This sends a powerful message that they are loved no matter what, which has a lasting impact on their self esteem and how they view themselves in the world.
Consequences of behaviour
An important life lesson is that behaviour has consequences. So if your child is pulling the cat’s tail, the cat may start to avoid them or worse, may scratch to defend itself. This then becomes a teachable moment that your child’s rough behaviour hurts the cat’s feelings and will affect how much love the cat offers in return. Similarly, when your child is calm and caring towards your cat, you can point out that your child’s compassionate behaviour is making the cat feel so happy and calm. In this way, interactions with your pet can be a powerful way to teach important interpersonal skills in the home.
In line with the point above, pets teach respect too. In order to really earn a pet’s love, they need to be treated well and respected. Your child will quickly learn how to respect their pet and that personal space has limitations. Of course this can be applied to human relationships too and pets are a good place to practice this skill.
Coping with loss
Sadly, we know that pets don’t live forever and that at some point in your animal’s comparatively short life, your child will have to cope with losing their furry companion. While this is incredibly heartbreaking, it will provide your child with an early experience of managing all their difficult feelings around that loss and you can use this as an opportunity to show your child that all their feelings are valid, ok and necessary. This will hold them in better stead later in life when greater loss inevitably occurs.
When you have a pet in your home you need to put boundaries in place, enforce rules and implement consequences for unwelcome behaviour. This type of leadership shows your pet who is in charge and how to live appropriately in your home. While your child won’t necessarily enforce all of these rules themselves, they will learn passively from seeing you do it and this will start to lay the groundwork for leadership skills later in life.
The bottom line
Pets are wonderful teachers in life and offer our kids so much more than basic companionship. When you understand the breadth of insight and opportunity that you are bringing into your home through daily interactions with your pet, you can actually start to highlight these lessons to your kids and make them even more aware of what they are learning from their pets and their daily interactions with their furry little friends.