Some of the world's best teachers have fur, four legs and can bark or meow. Even though they don't speak our language, pets can communicate quite adeptly and with great wisdom. They have an unspoiled innocence, spontaneity and trust that helps them deeply connect with children, who also possess those qualities. Children can learn many lessons from pets – valuable lessons that aren't taught in any school.
When children learn to regularly give their pet food, fresh water, exercise , playtime and affection, they're learning responsibility. Even if a child doesn't particularly enjoy some of the tasks related to their pet, such as scooping the litter box, they're being instilled with a sense of duty toward chores in life that are less-than-enjoyable necessities. They're also learning that a living thing relies upon them for its health and wellbeing, and could get sick or even die if the child's care is inconsistent. According to the American Pet Product Association's 2011-2012 National Pet Owners' Survey, 58% of participants said that one of the primary benefits of owning a pet was that it made their children more responsible.
Respect for living things
Having a pet teaches a child respect for living creatures. If the child pulls the cat's tail, they may get angrily scratched; a tug on the dog's ears will elicit a scary warning growl. The child can learn to be gentle with their pet, and this will also teach them to refrain from hurting any animals. Parents can teach their child pleasant, kind ways to touch and hold pets so it's an enriching interaction for both the pet and the child. And children can also learn not to force their pet to do anything it doesn't want to do – such as trying to shove a resistant cat onto their lap.
Pets teach children the importance of dependability, a vital trait that can carry over to other aspects of life. Even the most seemingly independent cat is actually completely dependent upon the child caring for it. Pets will depend on the child to provide food and fresh water every day. A dog will depend upon them to be taken for walks. A cat will depend on them to scoop its litter box. Birds, mice and other small pets will depend on them to keep their cages clean. Children should know that pets are unable to do these things for themselves, and that a pet could get ill or die if their daily needs aren't met.
Children are constantly being scrutinized for grades, behavior and athletic ability. Pets , on the other hand, have absolutely no expectations or criticisms, and are just joyous that the child is with them. They completely accept the child as-is with pure, unconditional, limitless love. Even though we are a separate species, their love doesn't differentiate us from them. This unconditional affection makes a child feel special and can boost their confidence. It can also teach a child to be nonjudgmental and kind to all people, regardless of race, age, ability or appearance.
Communication and caring
A dog wagging its tail when it's happy or a cat flattening its ears when it's not are both forms of communication. Children can learn the subtle signals their pets provide, which they can later apply to interpreting human body language . When children interact with animals, they often become inquisitive about the emotions their pets feel, and the way these feelings are expressed. This curiosity can lead to the development of empathy – the ability to feel what others are feeling, perceiving when someone is uncomfortable, and caring about their discomfort. And if a pet needs extra care when old or ill, the child will learn even more about empathy.
By watching baby animals being born, children can learn firsthand about the miracle of life. Pets can teach children about how newborn animals look, and how they grow and develop. Children learn how gentle they have to be with baby animals and how patient they have to be when training a young pet. Patience can turn into a valuable life skill both in childhood and adulthood.
Conversely, pets can teach children about death . Life is short, and unfortunately, it's even shorter for most pets. Learning to understand and accept death is a life lesson, and one that children learn when a beloved pet dies. At first, young children may not comprehend the finality of death . If an adult explains the situation to them, it will help them understand that all lives end at some point. Watching a pet grow older and die can traumatize a child, but it can also help them appreciate life and live in the moment. And even though the pet is gone, a child can learn that the love they felt for it is still alive and everlasting.
Pets don't speak our language, yet they can powerfully communicate to children life lessons that aren't found in any schoolbook. And that's priceless education from which children – and adults – can immensely benefit
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