Since young children naturally identify with animals, and because animals are living beings like us, we can use our interactions with animals to teach children how to behave toward other people.
Teaching kids to have compassion and empathy for their furry, feathered, and finned friends is vital for preventing cruelty to animals as well as in raising them to respect and treat those who are different from them with kindness.
According to the National PTA Congress, “Children trained to extend justice, kindness, and mercy to animals become more just, kind, and considerate in their relations to each other. Character training along these lines will result in men and women of broader sympathies; more humane, more law abiding, in every respect more valuable citizens.”
Teaching our kids to respect and protect even the smallest and most despised among us is one of the most important life lessons that we can pass along to them. It helps them learn to value one another—and it prevents violence.
According to FBI profilers, psychiatric professionals, law-enforcement officials, and child advocacy organizations, people who hurt animals may eventually direct violence toward humans.
People who are capable of such acts have a severely underdeveloped sense of empathy—they lack the ability to comprehend or care about the distress or agony that they are causing. Without empathy, it is easy to think of others as unfeeling machines. Teaching kindness and respect for animals is the first step in teaching children empathy.
NEVER HIT or SCREAM AT ANIMALS
Screaming and yelling at your pet is a form of abuse, and your pet will learn to be afraid… of you.
“Do unto others as you would have them
Show your kids that it’s cool to care by regularly engaging them in these and other fun empathy-building activities:
- Show that you value animals’ lives by being patient with them, making sure that they all wear an ID tag, spaying and neutering them to prevent unwanted litters, giving them plenty of clean water, feeding them nutritious foods and just plain loving them.
- Include your animals in your life. Allow your dog to live inside with the family, and spend time with your animal companions daily, brushing them, playing with them, and walking them.
- Sometimes tiny creatures wander into our homes—help them find their way out nonviolently.
- Avoid statements that demean animals—even those made in jest—such as “I hate cats” or “Chickens are stupid.”
- Remember that toys influence children. Don’t buy toys that even hint at animal exploitation, such as video games that allow children to kill animals or model zoos or circus trains.
Recommended Reading : How Kids Should NOT Interact With Dogs
- Go to your local animal shelter and volunteer with your child to help care for homeless animals.
- Plant flowers and shrubbery for butterflies, bees, and other wildlife in your back yard.
- During a walk at the beach, in the woods, or by a stream, pick up plastic rings, bottles, and other trash that can kill birds, turtles, dolphins, and other animals.
- Watch animal-friendly movies, such as Chicken Run, Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, Shiloh, Free Willy, Babe, My Dog Skip, Finding Nemo, and Shark Tale.
- Read your children books that show animals as feeling individuals, such as Lassie Come Home, Black Beauty, Charlotte’s Web, Frederick, Blueberries for Sal, The Forgotten
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