Having a pet is a great way to teach kids responsibility, right? That depends on the kid. While some kids faithfully walk, feed, water and care for their pets, others would rather be hanging out with friends. Most kids love the idea of owning a pet. That doesn't mean they're responsible enough to have one. How can you make sure your child gets the most out of pet ownership?
Make the right pet choice for kids. What type of pet do they want? Does it suit their personality? All pets need a great deal of attention. Some need more than others. A dog, for instance, is a bigger responsibility than a cat. In turn, a hamster requires even less care. Choosing a pet that requires more care than your child is capable of providing teaches them little about responsibility.
Will the ultimate responsibility be yours? If you know your child is too young or too irresponsible to care for their pet, don't even consider it. A pet won't teach kids responsibility if you're the one caring for the pet. It might teach you a lesson, though. You'll quickly learn to think carefully next time your child asks for a pet. Will this be a life lesson for you or your child?
Is this a sympathy pet? Maybe your kids saw it in the cage at the pet store. Maybe they found the pet wandering the streets. Just because a pet is unhappy in it's current situation doesn't mean your child is ready to adopt it. Remember, a pet is a living, breathing being with needs. Having a pet is somewhat like having a child. If your kids aren't ready or your home is not pet friendly, it can be bad for the animal too. It might be better for the pet to go to a home where they will receive better care.
Some kids have no idea what it takes to care for a pet. They don't think about the responsibility. They have fallen in love with a cute, cuddly ball of fur. They want it because they can have fun playing with it. Pet ownership might all be fun and games in their eyes. It's your job to make sure they know caring for a pet correctly is serious business.
Prepare your child for pet ownership. Talk to them about everything they will be responsible for. Buy books on caring for the type of pet your child wants. You might even want to map out a preliminary pet care schedule on paper. Let kids see in black and white exactly how much time and energy pet care takes. If they seem overwhelmed or nonchalant, buying them a pet might not be good idea.
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