My wife and I are huge animal lovers, and I have found that modeling interaction with animals is a very good way to teach your children compassion and responsibility. Animals have their own little personalities, and children that live with animals will have to learn to cope and compromise. My children learned from day one that animals should never be hit or handled with aggression. Animals can sense bad intentions, and will sometimes strike even when merely approached with aggression or anger. I find that this is a good teaching tool for helping my girls to be aware of and control their emotions.
Animals are very in tune to emotions, and the cats and dog will comfort the girls if they are sad, but will disappear when they are angry. The twins have learned this already, and they are not yet a year and half old. When either one of the twins is crying, our one cat (Willa) will go to her and just sit so she can snuggle. They know that this same cat will not hesitate to smack their hand (sans claws) if they pet her aggressively or try to do something that she doesn’t like.
Teaching Animal Care
We have taught our oldest daughter, Emma, how to do almost everything that we do for the animals. At ten, she can: clean litter, change a litter box, feed cats and dogs, take the dog out, brush all of them, and help with washing the dog. She loves animals, too, and plans on always caring for some of her own.
Interacting with animals is great in and of itself, but it also teaches children how to interact with people. Animals are simple and non-judgmental, so it is great practice before sending them out into the big world to interact with others. Understanding the kind of energy that they are exhibiting through their emotions is something that animals can help with, and it will help them in developing relationships with people when they start school or other functions.