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flowermama 04-13-2005 02:19 AM

Pets, Kids and Families (X-Post from GD forum)
Pets, Kids and Families
by Joanne

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.

Sanveann 04-14-2005 07:54 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families (X-Post from GD forum)
Good article!

And I'd like to add, "If you don't have kids yet but plan to, choose your pets carefully!"

Three years ago, when my DH and I chose a kitten from a litter we were fostering, we decided that one was just too shy for a household with kids. When we decided to get a dog, I decided against getting an Italian greyhound -- which I would LOVE to have -- because they are just too delicate for children's pets. But soooo many people show up at my group's adoptions and ask us to take their pets because they're having a baby and their pet is bad with kids. I want to say, "Well, why did you GET it, then?!" (Of course, I know there are some unexpected pregnancies, but still ...)

shilohmm 04-22-2005 11:07 AM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families (X-Post from GD forum)

Originally Posted by flowermama
Structure your lives so that the pet gets protected while your child builds the impulse control.

I think it's really important to have a place the pet can "escape" to, a place the kids are not allowed in. We have a cat door in the door to the basement, where the kids were not allowed. We had three cats before having our first child; one of them adored the kids and was terrific with them, one of them would whack the kids (claws sheathed) when she thought the kids were getting too pushy but otherwise tolerated them just fine, and one of them completely avoided the kids. I suspect if the third cat ever got cornered by a toddler she would have scratched or bit, but since she had a way to completely avoid the kids she did so. Now that the kids are older she'll hang out with them just fine, but I think things would have gone badly if she hadn't been able to avoid little ones.

Even our most patient kitty would sometimes get tired of being mauled (eldest son would get too rough when excited - would pet the cat in the right direction, but press too hard I think), and would dissappear for a while. I've known people who would go drag their dogs or cats out so the kids could "play" with them - I wouldn't do that. Even if the animal is "good with kids," sometimes they need time alone.


AttachedMamma 11-30-2006 01:08 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families (X-Post from GD forum)
I have to say that I am a a little :O for not noticing this sticky and reading it before we got our beloved bunny. We had cats a few years ago and they were able to escape from my DD easily. I read some parenting articles that suggest what age is optimum for a certain pet and I thought I made a good decision. But, I couldn't really see until our bunny was home and truly interacting with DD for some days. (DD did get to interact and hold the bunny at the store and all went well.) But, she can be relentless in pursuing the little guy. Bless his heart he is so tolerant of her and I do think he really loves her. Plus she's starting to help clean his cage. :tu All will work out fine in the end, but I was a little unprepared for how hard it would be for DD to obey the rules about handling him, speaking nicely to him, etc.


duckwithoneleg 12-12-2009 11:35 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families (X-Post from GD forum)
we want kids in a few years, but i'm the sort who doesn't feel like a house is ever really a home without a furball or two... we chose our cats carefully - we got purebreds so that we might know a little better what to expect (though i felt a little bad for not getting shelter kitties - but ours came from craigslist hahaha so ... they were allegedly shelter-bound) - they are a ragdoll and a pixiebob, both known for being pretty relaxed (esp. the ragdoll haha)

i was babysitting for a friend a few weeks ago, and her little one (just under a year old at the time) was curious about our cats. i watched closely so i could intervene if need be, but (because my friend has cats too, she's been working with her baby - teaching gentle touches, how to hold her little hand flat and not grab the fur and how not to press too hard) little one did so well with them, and they responded beautifully to her! it was so encouraging, and i really hope they respond the same way to my future kids! and... also that my future kids might learn without too much trouble to be as gentle as my friend's little one!

LovinBeingMommy 12-14-2010 08:49 PM

Re: Pets, Kids and Families (X-Post from GD forum)
Thomas, one of my cats, has always shown great dislike for men and anyone under five. (We adopted him when he spent months living by out steps...) Our guess with his issues with men is former abuse. I was really concerned with Monkey on the way, but decided if need be, Thomas would spend a lot of time locked in a bedroom 'til he figured out anywhere high was safe. Literally from the day Monkey came home, Thomas has loved him! On the rare occasions Monkey naps in his crib, I have to watch and make sure Thomas doesn't join him! He'll tolerate just about anything and when he's done he just walks away. In the past, he's always had a breaking point. I can only name 3 times ge's bitten, but the victims really deserved it!

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