"But mom… I want a pet!"

“But mom… I want a pet!”

Is this a question your child has asked?

While the main parental concern for any child having a pet is that it will end up being your responsibility.  There are ways to circumvent this, and the results can be very worthwhile.

   Before you buy that pet, your child must prove he/she can take care of his/her basic chores and responsibilities.  No exceptions!  This can be a motivator to help them begin to manage themselves and do the jobs they need to do, without complaint and even without reminding.  The pet then becomes the reward for achievement and perfectly timed to help them in their next area of growth.  This is a lot of responsibility for a young child, but it’s a timeless and extremely worthwhile lesson.
If you already have a family pet, start teaching your child how to care for it.  This is also a great opportunity to teach them basic life-skills by becoming familiar with the costs of pet food, medicines, vet bills, pet equipment, and the feeding, bathing/grooming rituals.  Encourage them to manage these areas before they are given more to manage, or else…you KNOW who will end up being the one to do it, right?  And that will teach exactly the wrong thing.

Friendship: Have you had a pet before? Did it become your best friend and part of the family?  This connection can be a catalyst of growth for children.  Nurturing another creature dependent on them, helps to learn caring and compassion that readily translates to friendships.

Leadership: It’s important to convey to your child that this animal needs them and is dependent on them for its survival.  Children can learn to be kind but firm leaders… or the animal will lead them, and its safe to assume that you don’t want any animal running–and ruining–the house!  Learning to teach, train, and maintain a pet teaches skills readily transferred to other friendships and areas of life, while providing valuable hands-on education and life-skills.

To avoid disaster and the tragedy of another homeless pet, or destroyed property, and an overall bad experience for everyone, when they’re ready through consistent demonstration of responsibility for at least a month, involve your child in the research involved in picking a pet.  They may think they want a Dalmatian because of the movies or because they just like the looks, or the cute Chihuahua , but they need to know the temperament and what’s involved in each breed, from the amount of exercise, the ease of training, how good it is with children, in families, and with other pets.  Even if it is “theirs” the whole family will be living with it, so involve everyone!

Did you have a pet when you were little?  What important lessons did it teach you?