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Many parents bring a pet into the home to teach their children responsibility or to give their only child a playmate. However, kids usually learn something more important themselves: they learn how to identify with others, and to view the world from a more diverse perspective.
Things Pets Can Teach Children
1. Empathy. Kids commonly become intrigued by the various emotions their pet feels. This curiosity can spread itself to include other people. Through the animals, children get to explore an interest in others’ feelings, and for a kid, this curiosity may lead to a better involvement with the complex world they live in.
2. Communication. Kids quickly learn to understand the indirect cues animals give them to express their feelings. They can then apply this knowledge when interacting with people as they are more skilled at observing body language.
3. Confidence. Kids, especially middle-schoolers, generally experience life as if they are under a microscope. They are constantly evaluated not only by their behavior but with their academic grades and other performances as well. This burden, in so many ways, challenges their self-reliance. But with pets, they feel accepted. Animals don’t have that kind of expectation, they simply love and accept unconditionally. Further, the sense of accomplishment gained from raising and training a dog gives kids the confidence needed to try new things and set goals.
4. Nurturing skills. With proper adult supervision, kids can learn how to properly care for an animal and experience joy in keeping another living being content and healthy.
5. Resilience. We all know having a dog isn’t always bliss, 100% of the time. They need to be trained, they sometimes make mistakes, have accidents, cause messes. For a child, being able to deal with stress and quickly recover from it will be an important life skill.
What You Should Know
A research study published in 2000 by a Child Psychologist in New Mexico named Robert E. Bierer, Ph.D, investigated the relationship that exists between children and pets. To be specific, the study explored the effects of dog ownership on children between ages 10 and 12 years.
Bierer was astounded at the significant difference in self-esteem and empathy between pre-adolescent children who owned a dog and those kids who did not. His conclusions support the increasing body of scientific evidence that reveals how dog ownership causes a substantial impact on a child’s sensitivity to others as well as his self-esteem. The researcher noted that parents, teachers, and other kids have various expectations for a child to live up to. A pet, however, has neither measure of success nor failure. With animals, acceptance is total and unconditional; thus, providing a sense of self-worth.
Nevertheless, the findings do not necessarily mean that all kids are prepared to own a pet. Parents need to first ensure their child wants a pet (and the responsibility of one) and that the child is physically and emotionally prepared for the job.