Your kids begged you to get a pet, telling you they would take care of it, only to abandon all their chores after about a week. Or maybe you’ve always had pets and want to start teaching your kids more about responsibility by having them care for your pet. Animals are a great way for kids to learn about responsibility, but it can be a challenge. Here are some tips for getting kids involved in pet care.
Relying solely on small children to remember to let the dog out or feed the cat right from the start might not end too well. Start with something smaller, like picking up the dog’s toys or cleaning a crate. As children get older and more accustomed to caring for the pet, you can add larger chores and responsibilities.
Not the consequences for your child, but the consequences for the pet. Let your child know that if the cat doesn’t get fed, he won’t have anything to eat and will be hungry. If no one lets the dog out, he’ll have to use the bathroom and might go inside. Framing the importance of the chores in relation to how it will affect your pet will help your child understand just how important the chores are and will instill more empathy for the pet, too.
Make Play a Chore
Animals need attention and play time. This is a fun and easy chore your children can do. Have them throw a ball in the yard with the dog or dangle some toys in front of the cat. This will help them learn that while pets require a lot of work, it can be fun and rewarding, too.
Don’t Make It a Punishment
Never use caring for your pet as a way to punish your child. For example, don’t add an extra pet chore or take away playtime with the pet if your child misbehaves. This will teach kids to associate the pet with negative things and may make him resentful and less likely to care for your family’s animal.
If you are already working on training a pet, make sure to get your children involved, too. This is beneficial for both the child and the animal. The child will get to participate and the pet will learn that your kids are masters, too, not just the adults.
If you don’t have a pet yet, try doing a trial run with your children by volunteering with animals. Spend a day caring for pets at a local shelter or rescue so kids can see just how much work having an animal really is.