If you want to ensure your kids learn all the most important life lessons as soon as possible, and in a practical rather than theoretical way, get them a pet, especially a dog or a cat. While the two animals have very different worldviews – dogs tend to focus on making their owners happy while cats are more independent creatures – the care requirements, along with the way the two animals conduct themselves, mean wisdom can be gained from both. Animals like ponies might be a step too far for a first pet as this requires adult supervision at all times (when the kids are younger)
Anyone who spends time with dogs and cats will soon come to learn the importance of living in the moment and the importance of connecting with nature on a regular basis, but there are many other equally valuable lessons to be learned.
Both cats and dogs require daily feeling, regular grooming and regular clean up. They also demand attention and affection. In addition, dogs require daily exercise. If the request to bring a pet into a family home was made by the children, they should be made aware of exactly what this entails and be willing to take responsibility for their share of the caring duties.
This responsibility also extends to their being times when a child may not be able to participate in an activity because the dog needs to be cared for. This can help teach a lesson about the difference between needs and wants and the fact that sometimes you have to put the needs of others before your own desires. It also reinforces the concept of being loyal.
Ensuring your pet is fed and watered properly is a key area of responsibility that all but the youngest children are capable of dealing with. It helps that feelings of hunger are something children themselves experience, so it’s much easier for them to grasp the need to ensure meals are provided in a timely fashion, as well as being tasty and satisfying.
If your children are in the habit of giving your pet treats at every opportunity, you can use this to illustrate the dangers of eating between meals, especially if your pet starts to put on weight and you need to cut back on other food as a result.
When it comes to money skills, many children struggle to grasp the concepts as they often seem too theoretical. By using concrete examples relating to your pets, you can teach the essentials of budgeting and equip your child with skills that will be of great benefit in years to come. By providing your child with the opportunity to set a budget for pet food and other essential items and then see whether they are able to stick to it, especially when unexpected expenses crop up, can be hugely valuable.
Having a positive relationship with a pet can significantly boost a child’s self-esteem and make it easier for them to develop other trusting relationships. Many children use their pets as sounding boards, telling them their secrets and private thoughts the way they might do with stuffed animals or imaginary friends.
Pets can also help develop skills associated with non-verbal communication, along with compassion and empathy, not just with animals but with the world at large. A child who knows how to care for a pet will have a stronger connection to nature and a powerful sense of respect for all living things.
New pets may not bond with your children immediately, and this can help reinforce the concept of patience and delayed gratification.
Helping to groom a furry friend can help to develop a child’s own personal care skills. From keeping their own hair clean to brushing their teeth, children can easily see the importance of such regimes and feel more inspired to carry out these activities in a methodical way themselves.
While playing with a pet, children should be taught to look out for any sign of illness or injury. In the case of an infestation of fleas or lice, valuable lessons can be learned about the lifecycles of insects and their place in the world.
Children will then be able to understand the importance of not only using a product such as PetAction cat flea treatment, but also treating the rest of the house so that any eggs that have been laid throughout the property do not go on to hatch.
Life and death
Pets follow their natural instincts which mean children will often witness behaviour they may be too young to understand. Having pets in your home, therefore, provides the perfect opportunity to discuss and create a sense of understanding around issues such as reproduction and birth in a way that is age-appropriate.
If a pet becomes unwell, children can learn about the importance of empathy. As with the feeling of being hungry, most children will understand what it is like to be unwell and know that their pet requires additional love, care and attention during such times.
Almost all pets have a much shorter lifespan than their owners, meaning your children are likely to be confronted with the loss of someone they consider to be a family member. Learning the reality of loss and going through the stages of bereavement can be another valuable lesson and one that can then be used as a form of comparison when elderly relatives pass away.
Both dogs and cats love to play, and understanding the importance of this is yet another great lesson children can learn through pet ownership. Dogs, in particular, may assist in keeping children active in early life to prevent them developing health problems later on. Studies show that thanks to going for walks, playing fetch or tug-of-war, children in families that own dogs spend significantly more time being physically active.
The determination dogs show in going after the things that they want is a valuable lesson in how to pursue your dreams. There are also other, deeper, life lessons that can be learned from cats in particular: the importance of being independent, the importance of having respect for others and, of course, the fact that every now and then we may stumble or fall during our journey through life but ultimately, we will always land on our feet.