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Are you pulling your hair out trying to teach your child responsibility, and still feel like it’s a losing battle? Maybe it’s time to get a dog!
Having a pet is not a magic potent to having a responsible child, but it is a wonderful way to help your happy-go-lucky child start thinking about others and realizing they matter in someone’s life. There are three keys to successfully using a pet to teach responsibility:
- Gradually (Bit by Bit)
- Encouragingly (No Nagging)
Let’s look at those three areas briefly.
Gradually: Giving a five year old child who has never been able to remember to brush his teeth without being reminded the full care of a dog or hamster will only result in failure. Instead, have the child choose one task to do consistently every day. This might be filling the water bowl throughout the day, shaking out and airing a cat’s bedding once a day, or letting the dog out for a run in the yard at a certain time. After a few months, you may be give more responsibility and a new task.
Consistently: You’ll need to help your child to do his task consistently. If you remind him once and then, for the next three days, figure it’s easier to just do it yourself, your child won’t learn anything. Take the extra time to remind your child when he needs reminding and help him create responsible habits.
No nagging; try encouraging instead. These pet-related chores are a new thing for your child, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are often forgotten. Remind your child of his tasks and have him do them, but don’t nag, and don’t make him feel bad for forgetting. Instead, praise him lavishly whenever he manages to remember without being told. Even when he’s needed a reminder, you’ll want to make encouraging remarks as he does his job. “Look at how happy you’re making Xena by giving her water!” is one simple way to point out how his small action is making a big difference.
It’s a slow road to responsibility, but as your child cares for his pet he will learn that his actions matter and that ‘once in a while’ can never be good enough.