Today’s guest post comes from Hillary Smith. Hillary Smith loves technology and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t catch her attention. After graduating from the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism, Hillary began a career as a freelance writer focusing on the telecommunications industry. She works out every day and spoils her English bulldog, Chauncey.
Maybe it will happen over Christmas time. Maybe it will happen on your child’s birthday. Maybe it will happen on some idle Sunday afternoon on your way home from church. But whenever it happens, you can rest assured that one day you will hear your child say those fatal words: “Can I get a pet?”
These words mark a crossroad for your child – and for your household. Is your little one ready to take care of another living creature? Are you ready to pick up the slack as he or she is learning the ropes? Is there even a benefit to having an animal in the house?
While the answer to those first two questions will vary from house to house, the answer to the third question is unequivocally YES. Not only are pets better for your health (a 2011 study proved that pet owners were 34 percent more likely to get regular exercise), pets help instill important values in young children. With an animal to care for, your child is more likely to understand virtues like these:
Nearly every child has heard these words after adopting a pet: “I’m not taking care of him, you know. He’s all yours.” Though we all know that a doting parent will refill a food dish or clean a litter box occasionally, a pet can be a great way to teach a child responsibility. As your child feeds, walks, grooms, and cares for his pet, he will begin to develop a positive relationship to hard work that will serve him as he grows.
I’m sure you know this, but let’s reiterate: training a pet is hard work. Whether you want your dog to sit, your parrot to speak, or your cat to use the litter box, working with any animal requires enormous amounts of patience. When a child has a new pet, he quickly learns that his new best friend doesn’t always listen to what he says. Of course, it’s hard to stay mad at a cute little animal’s face, and so your child will have to learn to be patient and enduring with his new pet.
Admit it: whenever you look at a little puppy or kitten, your heart melts just a little. That’s true of just about any pet (except for maybe snakes and tarantulas – ick), and spending quality time with an animal friend of your very own can open up any heart and make it more compassionate. Your child will come to know his pet’s quirks and personalities, which will in turn make him more receptive to the personalities of others. In fact, a 2009 study found that having pets made people more open and caring toward living creatures across the species!
Nearly 68 percent of households in North America have pets, so it may seem odd that a pet can boost one’s self-esteem. After all, it doesn’t make you different from anyone else! However, studies have found that pets do boost self-esteem in children, largely due to the other virtues we’ve discussed today.
They develop a sense of satisfaction from the responsibility of caring for their pet. They become more compassionate and loving towards their friends and family, which earns them kindness and affection in return. Ultimately, a pet – be it hamster, cat, or adorable little dog – will help your child become a more caring and well-rounded person, which will serve him for years to come.
Looks like it’s time to swing by your local shelter!