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Old 03-24-2005, 04:29 PM   #1
Joanne
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Default 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.
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