We often get the question, “How can I help my child be gentle with our family pet?” in Primary Chat. It’s a great question, and one that we thought we’d address with three tips to lay the groundwork for a healthy child / pet dynamic in your home. Of course, we’d love to hear your tips as well! Join in the discussion, and let us know what you think of these three ideas:
1. Start by Modeling
You are your child’s first teacher, and this includes how you act around your family pets. Model slow, gentle movements when playing with your pet! That way, you can remind your child, “Do you see how I pet the cat? Look how gentle my hand is when I pet her head!” Exaggerate your movements so your child can observe you and mimic your behavior.
2. Practice Empathy
Having a family pet is a great way to practice empathy. For a very young child, don’t expect immediate results but continue to try to relate to how the animal might feel. “Oh noooo, it hurts the dog when you pull on it’s tail. I know you don’t like to have your hair pulled, and that’s what it feels like for the dog too.”
3. Read Pet Body Language
Children learn through observation, and observing animal postures will help a child know how to interact with their own pets and animals that are strangers to them. Observe with your child to help them understand what a wagging tail or laid-back ears mean, then encourage them to make their own observations. For example, “Wow, I see that the dog’s tail is between it’s legs, that means it’s scared of the thunder right now.” Perhaps you see an animal behind a fence and it’s growling. “I hear that dog growling, that means it doesn’t like us so close, let’s cross to the other side of the street.”
These are just three ways to help your child and your pet get along! What have you found helpful for your family? Share your thoughts and ideas with the Guidepost Parent community in the comments below.
About the Author
Bill Anderson is a father of 4 who shares his experiences about parenting and life with Guidepost Parent.
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