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Joanne 03-24-2005 04:29 PM

Pets, Kids and Families
Children and pets often seem like a natural. At least in theory. We think they will be great friends. We think it's a good way to build care skills and responsibility. They are cuddly, fun and great companions.

But children and pets are often a very challenging mix. Introducing a young, needy pet to a young, needy family is often unfair to everyone involved. There are many cases where even the best and most consistently applied Grace Based Discipline techniques fail to adequately address pet issues. This is not a failure of GBD; punitive parenting also fails to address pet issues.

It's a situation of lack of maturity, combined with lack of impulse control. At the same time, animals create a wild, intense interest and children often cannot stop themselves even though they cognitively know better. And, played with roughly, animals will be animals.

I don't want to be entirely discouraging. Some children do not hyperfocus on animals and intuitvely treat them with kindness and respect. But some do not and those that do not, I've not found a remedy for except for time and maturity. If I had to put an age on it, I would not recommend introducing a pet until children are school age.

If you already have a pet or feel strongly about getting one, there are some ideas.

Role play. Teach the child about animal care, respect and boundaries using stuffed animals and have the child practice.

Make respectfully interacting with the pet a condition of the pet being in your company. Remove the pet from the area as soon as those conditions are violated.

Remind, practice and remind again.

Structure your lives so that the pet gets protected while your child builds the impulse control.

If you don't have a pet, but plan on getting one, chose carefully. Choose a family friendly pet that works for the ages of your children and lifestyle.

Remember that puppies take time and energy and your children may develop a love/hate relationship in response to that.

Pets can be a wonderful addition to your family. Or an incredible challenge.

mummy2boys 03-30-2005 11:50 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
I agree...We have a golden retriever which the boys adore...He is great and he doesn't even bark!!! But I still have to remind the boys to be gentle with the dog (the youngest would kill him with kindness if he could..sometimes the dog goes under the house to get a bit of peace and quiet :laughtears) I also get them to help feed him and change his water to teach them about responsilibity as well

Sanveann 03-31-2005 06:01 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
One of my concerns when we have kids is how they will behave with our small dog. Macy is 7 pounds, and kids just LOVE her ... I think they think she is a stuffed toy or something ... and they are always trying to grab her or squeeze her or cart her around.

SillyMommy 04-07-2005 04:13 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
Thanks Joanne! We've been praying about getting a dog. We've done research and decided on adopting a retired Greyhound if we do. Ryland is VERY good with animals so I don't think we'll have too many issues but I know I can't handle a puppy!

reneandbaby 04-08-2005 05:57 AM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
Yeah, we are just getting into the "Stop tormenting the dog" stage with Elijah.

Poor Roscoe! He's GREAT with children-- he's fourteen and was my grandparents dog and lived through eleven grandchildren in their toddler years, but he's soooooooo old now all he wants to do is lay around and sleep.....and nothing attracts Elijah more than trying to poke a sleeping dog! :poke :rolleyes

Ali 04-12-2005 01:10 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
A fantastic book on this is called "Childproofing Your Dog" by Brian Killcommons. I believe in the book he doesn't recommend pets with kids under age 5 (or around there). Of couse many people have pets before kids and his book is a fantastic help here. I don't know how I'd categorize his dog discipline techniques, but he's more positive than not. Anyway, I recommend the book, but check it out for yourself. Hope it's ok for me to add my 2 cents here!

asher 05-09-2005 01:28 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
Wow, this comes at a great time when we're working on ds & one of our cats.

I must remember this:

It's a situation of lack of maturity, combined with lack of impulse control


Titus2:5Catholic 05-30-2005 08:23 AM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
We just got rid of our puppy after only a week and a half, in part because he was making my asthma worse, but it was just too much with the kids. :hissyfit Someone would have ended up sleeping in the dog house- either the dog or the kids, and I hadn't decided who yet. :)

Lois 06-10-2005 12:01 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
yes, getting a pet is just about the same responsability as adopting a kid!!! So many people don't realize that but it's true especially with young animals.

Hopeful 07-20-2005 03:40 AM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
My ILs are amazed because we have a cat and they thought all cats scratched and bit and tore up furniture and suffocated sleeping babies. Ours (and our previous) have never done this.

Some cats do. But I think you have to be sensible when it comes to choosing pets. A lot of people choose a kitten because it's cute (and yes, they are cute!!!) BUT having a young animal is always a gamble. You only find out the hard way what type of personailty it has. Nurture is partly responsible for the animal's attitude but they are still born with tendencies.

We adopted a cat when I was 4 months pregnant. I refused to have a kitten for the reason outlined above. I also made sure I went to a trusted cattery and I had thought long and hard about the personality type of the animal: gentle, not aggressive, not wild, placid, etc... We were shown several animals that met these criteria. We spent time with each animal. With some, it became quickly apparent that they would not match our lifestyle and future family. In the end, we did find one that fitted us.

My point is that often people choose animals irresponsibly, for the wrong reasons. I know folk who have very aggressive dogs or what can only be described as psychotic cats. In one case, people avoid going to this lady's house because her cat is so aggressive. I am a cat-lover but I would not go anywhere near that animal.

On the flip side, it makes me very angry when I see kids taunting animals. The other day I saw 6 kids ganging up on a pigeon. I HATE pigeons but it mad me furious to see that kids (and parents) thought they could do this to a defenseless animal.

Well, I'm no expert but that's my 2cts worth. :O

FWIW, we always had animals at home (ever since we were newborns). None of us hurt the animals or were attacked/scratched/bitten by them (and 2 of my siblings were very difficult children). I think it's more difficult to explain to a child how to respect an animal if that child has never had contact with one before. For that reason, I am happy to see how our cat and our baby get along. You might find me here in a few months' time if they don't fit in with each other!! :giggle

Sanveann 07-20-2005 03:53 AM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
There are still people who think cats suffocate babies????

I agree that if you have small kids, it's best to get an adult pet. Not only are puppies and kittens a LOT of work, but they are small and can easily be injured by affectionate, overenthusiastic young children. And with an adult, you miss the "super-cute" stage, but you gain a LOT in the way of bypassing the naughtiness and knowing what their temperament will be like.

hollybells 07-20-2005 06:38 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families

Originally Posted by Sanveann
There are still people who think cats suffocate babies????

Yep - my mil would be one of them ... something about the cat smelling the milk on the baby's breath etc. :shrug I guess it was easier to take though, knowing that she was just concerned for her grandchildren.


AKCristyMJ 08-08-2005 12:02 AM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
Joanne this is so very well put!!

Thankfully all of Lidia's life we have lived in apts only, that do not allow anything more than fish.....and so we got alotta fish! :giggle lol

Lidia is 5 and we have always modeld the genuine TLC all animals deserve.
I even make sure she and us respect bugs, plants, trees, wild animals and others pets. I try hard to even gently free a spider in my house back outside, which in not easy for me ! *shudder*
I can say this has payed off well!

I think owning fish is a great start.
Through that she has learned daily chores of feeding and monthly chores of helping mommy clean the cage. She now knows these chores are messy and not fun but vital.
Fish die, so she too has seen a life cycle. She can see how one fish may die, but others are born (we have bred fish before).
It even requires TLC, she learned not to bump/tap the glass and such.

In 2yrs or more we will move to a pet Hamster or such.

I do not know which to get first eventually, cat or dog, but we will likely wait untill she-our oldest-is 10 or so.

I do not know if it is who she is or what we've taught, but I often see kids as old as 14 be awfully mean to animals, trees, whatever.
They amaze me.
I have sat stunned when I came out and saw an about 7ft tall trying to grow tree torn to pieces. I nearly cryed in front of the 10yr old girls who calmly admitted it was them, they "wanted wood to build a fort".
I had to stop neighbor kids from playfully teasing a stray dog with food one day.

Anyways, great topic!

Sanveann 08-08-2005 07:51 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
I doubt any of the mamas here would do this, but I do want to add a word of caution about one thing ... when I'm working at pet adoptions, we sometimes get parents who come in and say that their kid will get a pet but will be 100 percent responsible for it. I personally do not believe in leaving a pet's well-being entirely in the hands of a child. Even the best-intentioned child can forget and neglect a pet.

I am positive that one of my goldfish died when I was little because I forgot to feed her. And I have a co-worker who's in her 40s who, to this day, has never forgiven herself for how she didn't bother to shovel out a path to her rabbit's hutch one winter so she could feed it. (The poor thing died.) Not only does the pet suffer in these cases, but these sad memories and the guilt can live with a person their whole life.

AKCristyMJ 08-08-2005 08:35 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families
Excellent point!
My parents gave me 2 pet mice when I was 12.....don't worry...they were furry black/white adorable pet mice. And I LOVED them, but apparently they were male and female which somehow the store goofed up on and we found out when one mouse starting swelling at the waistline :laughtears
A few weeks later 10 baby mice were born.
Well the big glass cage had a lousy lid and my cat figured it out, while I was in school she jumped in and killed some of the babies.
:cry :cry :cry :cry :cry

Worst than that in their mouse family tree they'd been lab mice and injected with Ovarian cancer. One by one all my females died horrible slow deaths from it.

At age 12 I just wasn't ready for the grief and guilt with all of that.
My parents didn't care, I was left to bury the babies and the ones dead of cancer an all.

I STILL suffer from nightmares bout it to this day!! :neutral

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