Teach Your Children Responsibility Through Pet Care

A pet can be a loving, fun, and a cherished addition to any household. In addition, a pet can also help a child learn how to be a more responsible member of the household and of the community at large. More specifically, a pet can help your child learn.

Simple daily chores.
Importance of regular exercise.
Teaching skills.
Organizational skills.
Time management.
Caring for a loved one.
Picking the right pet for your child

While it is true that a pet can help almost any child learn important life lessons like responsibility, not every pet is right for every child (and vice versa). Getting a Saint Bernard for your toddler may be setting everyone up for failure, while getting a goldfish for your 17-year-old may not end with a deep, inseparable bond between teen and fish.

Age is likely the biggest consideration when choosing a pet for your child. While a very young child may learn from assisting you with pet chores, toddlers are not physically, mentally, or emotionally mature enough to take full responsibility for an animal. Slightly older children may benefit greatly from a small caged pet, such as a gerbil, fish, lizard, rabbit, bird or turtle. Depending on your child’s interest and maturity, a dog or cat may be a wonderful addition to your family for your older children.

Other considerations include:

Your child’s personality and maturity.
How long the pet will live (turtles can hang around for decades!)
Your budget.
Your time.
Your home and yard.
Your climate.
Your willingness to care for the pet in extenuating circumstances.
Your child’s wishes.
Also know that even if your child takes great care of the animal, you will still have responsibilities for the animal as the parent and adult. Your child will need assistance when the animal needs to see the vet or if the animal becomes sick or hurt. In addition, your child may need help with more difficult regular chores, such as cleaning the animal’s cage or clipping the animal’s nails.

When deciding what kind of a pet to purchase, it is also recommended to have plan for what happens if your child loses interest in the pet or if the pet is too much of a responsibility for your child. Can you easily re-home the animal? Do you mind taking care of the animal’s daily needs?

Remember: you teach the lessons, not the pet!

It isn’t as easy as buying a puppy and watching as your child becomes more responsible and mature. The pet that you give your child is a tool for you to teach the lessons. Understand that not everything about having a pet is easy (even if your child cares for it). Mistakes will be made and unexpected events will take place – just be sure to turn those issues into teachable moments.