Getting a pet is a matter of great responsibility. Keeping a pet, requires much of our time and care. The bond between pet and a person is much stronger and is akin to the bond between family members. Before getting a pet discuss the responsibilities with the children so that they also share them.
A new addition to the family
Aditya is an only child. His parents Darshan and Sangeeta both have high-flying jobs that require them to travel more than 15 days a month. Obviously, they dote on their son but feel guilty about the fact that they spend so little time with him. So when Aditya said that he would like a puppy for his birthday, they leapt at the idea thinking that a dog would be a perfect companion for their son and that may be he wouldn't feel so lonely. A month after their Daschund Blackie became a part of the household, Sangeeta had this to say. "Blackie is adorable, but I never realized that having a pet is almost like having another baby. Aditya is delighted with the puppy. He loves playing with him, but he doesn't think that cleaning up after him or feeding him on time or taking him out for a walk is his job. The problem is that we all thought that getting a puppy is like buying a toy. Actually, it's like having another member in the family."
Getting a pet is no joke. They are definitely not like toys that you play with for a while and forget about till you feel like playing the next time. Pets, like humans, need to be fed, bathed, entertained and taken to the doctor when they are sick. They have character and distinctive personality traits that make them seem human at times. The bond that develops between a person and his pet can be likened to a relationship with a family member.
As in the case of Aditya, most children who have pets feel that the 'dirty work' is not their department. That is the job for long-suffering parents or even servants. Inevitably, the purchase of a pet is followed by endless shouting matches and confrontations between parents and children on the issue of pet care. Most parents wonder how to make their children feel responsible for what they proudly call 'their' pets. How do parents bring home to their children the fact that having a pet is not all fun and games?
The first thing to do when deciding to get a pet is to take into consideration your child's age, your surroundings and your resources. For instance, if you live in a small apartment, and your child is very young, it makes more sense to get a tortoise or a goldfish rather than a Great Dane. Keep in mind that pet care and upbringing requires money. So make sure that you budget for that before rushing in for a handsome German Shepherd.
Tips for involving your child in pet care
- As mentioned earlier, looking after a pet is no child's play. Do not have unreasonably high expectations of your child and expect them to take on the task single-handed. It's no mean feat for an adult so it would be unfair to chastise a child if he slips us occasionally.
- Formulate a daily pet care regime. Fix the times when the pet needs to be fed and taken out (if necessary).
- Your child's involvement with pet care should increase with age. For instance, if he is very small, may be he can help put out the food and water for the pet every day. As he grows older, he will be able to take on the responsibility of feeding the pet himself.
- Remember that your pet is not a tool for disciplining your child. So if your child has forgotten to feed the puppy, for example, do not punish the puppy by making him stay hungry to bring home the consequences of his forgetfulness to your child.
- Make pet care a team effort. Every day a different member of the family can do different pet duties.
- Teach your child how to look after his pet. A good idea would be to take him along to the vet so he can hear from an expert what needs to be done to look after his pet.
- Do not allow your child to treat the pet roughly or in a cruel manner. If he does, tell him that you will restrict his access to the pet till he learns how to treat him.
- A pet can be used as a tool to teach your child how to behave with people. You can point out to your child how a dog yelps when he kicks it and ask him how he would feel if you did that to him.