Children are not naturally inclined to treat animals with compassion and respect so, as parents, this intricate and essential life lesson rests in your hands. A child that learns to have compassion for other creatures, is also more likely to develop empathy for their fellow human beings. Discover how to instill in your child, a genuine love and respect for all creatures, big and small…

1. Lead by Example

Children learn by observing, which means their eyes are on you, as their parents. If you model respectful behavior towards animals, your children will likely follow suit. Kindness and compassion can be demonstrated by how you talk about and to animals. Don’t use words or statements that demean animals and use a respectful, gentle tone when communicating to an animal. Never hit, kick or display any mannerisms of violence towards animals. Demonstrate to your child that you cherish your pet’s life by providing them with ID tags/microchips, frequent visits to the vet, getting them spayed or neutered, always providing access to clean water and feeding them daily. Make your pet part of your family by allowing them to live inside with you, interacting with all family members, showing them unconditional affection by cuddling, grooming, exercising and playing with them. Avoid exposing your child to toys and games that promote any form of animal cruelty or modelling zoos or circuses.

2. Respect all Creatures, not only Pets

Even if the mere thought of a spider raises your back hairs, don’t reveal this to your child. Rather remove pests and insects from your home in a peaceful manner, placing them back in their natural environment unharmed. It should be emphasized that all creatures, big and small, must be treated with kindness and respect.

3. Take your Child to Animal Shelters

Volunteering at shelters is an interactive and enlightening way for your child to learn to care for and empathise with abandoned, helpless animals.

4. Take your Child with to Vet Visits

Not only is your vet a valuable resource in educating your child about the biology of your pet’s body, but your child can also learn more about their behaviour as well as learning to listen to their needs.

5. Watch Animals in Nature Respectfully

Encourage your humanlets to quietly and respectfully observe animals in their natural habitat without disturbing them. This can be done in your garden, at a park or a camping trip in nature.

6. Lend a Helping Hand to Animals Residing in your Garden

By building a bird feeder or an owl house, for example, you can create an unobtrusive and rewarding way to assist your fellow creatures.

7. Encourage Regular Litter Runs

Taking your kids on regular visits to local parks, beaches and the like, to pick up litter is a wonderful way to educate them about their responsibility in nature as well as the harm that litter can impart on their furry, fin or feathery counterparts. Plastic bags have the potential of strangling birds and etc. xxxxxx

8. Books and Movies can be a Child’s Path to Enlightenment

There are a multitude of books and movies you can read and watch with your child about animals. Some are educational and factual, whilst some entail special relationships formed with people and animals, thereby deepening a child’s sense of empathy and respect for animals. Movies like “Chicken Run” use humour to create sympathy from people for animals.

9. Consider Getting a Pet

Only if you’re willing to commit to a pet, both emotionally and financially, bringing a pet home could be a great way to enlighten your children about the responsibilities of caring for another creature as well as giving them the love and respect they would any other family member. If you’re limited on space and a dog or a cat isn’t a viable option for you, perhaps consider a hamster or fish.

10. Assign Your Child Responsibilities Affiliated with Your Pet

This will give your child a sense of pride of ownership of your pet. They will learn to care for and love their pet on a deeper, more empathic level by understanding that they are contributing to their pet’s well-being. Simple tasks like filling water bowls up and picking up their mess can be assigned to younger children whereas feeding, walking and grooming pets can be designated for older ages.

11. Guide Children how to Pet Animals

It is not instinctive for children to know how to play with or stroke a dog or cat, therefore they require direction in this regard. Help them understand the difference between rough and gentle play so your child understands what acceptable treatment is and what is not. Explain to them that animals will get very upset if their fur or tail is yanked and, because they cannot speak in words, they show their sadness and hurt by biting or scratching.

12. Supervise your Child when Interacting with Animals

By keeping a watchful eye on the interaction between your child and an animal, you will be able to swiftly intervene if necessary and demonstrate to your humanlet, the errors of their ways.

13. Applaud your Child when they are Kind to Animals

Every time your child shows kindness towards an animal, praise them with a positive affirmation, such as “Great job!”. A star chart is a stimulating way to reward your child every time they remember to feed or take your pet for a walk.

14. Teach them to Ask Permission of Owners of Unfamiliar Animals before Petting Them

Some animals are skittish around strangers and, especially children so emphasise to your children that they must ask permission to pet an unfamiliar animal before doing so. Explain that animals require their space and not to approach a sleeping dog or a mommy dog with her puppies without supervision.

15. Play it SAFE

If a child is scared of an animal, the SAFE game will teach them all they need to do in a frightful situation. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on the SAFE game….

Learning to love and respect animals starts from a young age. If you want your child to love cats, dogs and other creatures, introduce them to animals early on. Remember to stress the importance of being kind to everyone, not just furry, feathery or scaly creatures.

Written by Taliah Williamson for Infurmation