Sunday, December 18, 2011

Raising Funny Kids 4

The value of pets in children's lives is immense. Animals offer so much to their families. They are loyal and accept us as we are. They provide parents with teaching opportunities while serving as loving playmates for our children. They also make us laugh! 

Pets offer unconditional love and a good listening ear. Children often have a secret world where they can share their thoughts and feelings with their pets without worry that they'll ever be betrayed. At Purdue University Center for the Human-Animals Bond, Dr. Alan Beck found that nearly 70% of children confide in their pets. These children gave their animals high scores for listening, reassurance, appreciation, and companionship. 

Most parents want their children to have a healthy sense of self-esteem, which means that we want our children to "feel good" about themselves.  Simple tasks such as feeding a pet, cleaning out a cage, or walking the dog can help a child feel as if they have accomplished something. A job well done, increases their sense of self-worth. Responsibility is the natural outcome of the realization that, in this world, every person is necessary and uniquely important. Helping your child train a pet teaches patience, self-control, and at the deepest level, responsibility for themselves and hopefully for the global community when they grow up. 

Brenda Bryant, a University of California-Davis Applied Behavioral Science Professor, stated that experiences with pets increase competence in children in ways that other learned tasks cannot. In addition to increasing a child's verbal skills, children naturally become more "attuned" to nonverbal communication as well. This comes from the practice of "reading" their pet's body language. This skill gives children an opportunity to also draw the correct conclusions about emotions from human expressions as well. 

Pets are a calming influence for children and adults. Their presence and delightful antics can help bridge the gap between two very different worlds, adulthood and childhood. Before buying a pet, preparation and careful consideration must be given to adding a new family member. Involving children in this preparation demonstrates responsibility at a very basic level. This "stop and think before you act" example, trickles into other purchases of inanimate objects, such as toys. It also places a high importance on the commitment for another living creature. Pets should not be seen as disposable. 

Since new puppies naturally need time to adjust to their new surroundings, teaching a child to maintain quiet voices and move slowly gives us an opportunity to demonstrate how we consider someone else's feelings. By reminding children that their new puppy might be frightened, we exemplify empathy and sensitivity. For the new puppy, a relaxed environment will better allow them to respond positively to their new family and a child's natural enthusiastic overtures. Robert Poresky, Associate Professor of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas Sate University, found that three- and four-year-olds with pets were better able to understand the feelings of others than children without pets. 

Pets have a profound effect on human physiology. Their presence slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and tempers emotions. There are many studies indicating that a few minutes of cuddling with a pet relieved more stress for children than talking with a parent or friend. A pet's presence reportedly makes unpleasant tasks, such as a finishing dreaded homework assignment, a little more palatable. 

Pets give us permission to be intuitive. In a world where following your "gut feelings" has been largely ignored or dismissed as "pseudoscience," pets teach us patience, and in turn, allow us to model it to our children. Pets convey their needs and feeling in very subtle ways. This basic communication teaches kids and parents, alike, how to communicate in a way that is easy to understand and completely in line with our own intuitive senses. 

If you're considering adding a new addition to your family this holiday season, here's some adorable Christmas puppies to help you along in your decision making process! 

(PS: If you hear something like this in the night, instead of getting frustrated, record it and post it on YouTube! Laughing with your pet (instead of scolding it) strengthens early bonds with your puppy that will last a lifetime!

A big thanks to all the Mama dogs for the beautiful puppies they so graciously share with the world... 

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