We were trying to encourage our five year old son to let go of toys that he no longer plays with. My husband placed a bin in front of him and told him that any toys he sold at our garage sale, the proceeds would be his to put toward a pet of his choice.
Just a few weeks ago we had been in a pet store and our little guy had practically lost his mind in glee over this overzealous hamster that ran from wheel to wheel like a maniac rodent; we thought surely he was going to say hamster. Instead he let it be known that he wanted to save for a Bearded Dragon…..a big ole lizard….great. We told him he’d have to sell a lot of toys as Bearded Dragons are not cheap, like a lot, a lot of toys. No problem, he was up for the challenge.
This led me to do some research on whether or not these lizards were actually a safe or wise choice as a young child pet and this inevitably led me to the idea that there really are some basic tips, bits of advice on choosing pets and keeping pets when you have small children.
If the child is the one pushing for the pet, find a way for them to contribute to its purchase. Even if this is getting them to do chores or help with the recycling, assign them a task that helps them feel like they have earned the pet. It will help them feel like they are responsible for the animal if they know that they worked toward it.
Do your research and make sure you know if the pet is appropriate for your child’s age, your circumstances, your schedule, your home and also if you rent or are in a condo, what the pet restrictions are. Shelters are filled with animals that parents hastily adopted or purchased only to find out that they couldn’t take care of the animal, the child was too rough with it, it was too rough with the child or the animal was too costly and time consuming to take care of. When you bring an animal into your home you are making a commitment for it to become part of your family. To the best of your ability think long and hard about all of the details surrounding the pet and make sure you are prepared.
Assign your child appropriate tasks to help take care of the pet. While you may have decided it was time to get a family dog, your children may not be able to do all of the necessary “pet chores” involved with it’s care. They can however, regardless of their age, be assigned the responsibility of feeding, walking or yes, poop scooping. Don’t be unrealistic and dump the entire responsibility on your kids, that’s not fair for anybody. The pet should be a family commitment and thus its care should be shared among the family accordingly.
Try to adopt before you shop. As mentioned earlier there are so many animals in need of good homes and don’t limit your thinking to dogs and cats. There are reptile shelters filled with abandoned and rescued pets because their owners didn’t think through their care etc. Your local SPCA would be a great place to start your search and you can find everything from snakes to birds to horses. Somebody out there needs a good home and often adoption is much cheaper (you’re usually just covering vet fees) than overpriced shop pets.
Remember that animals are animals and that no matter how well trained they are you have to prepared and aware that they could at any moment act on instinct. This is not meant to scare anybody but it is painfully true. Children are often very rough with animals, pulling their tales, flopping on them, grabbing at their food, etc. etc. While some may never care, other animals may, at some point, defend themselves as a basic instinctual reaction. This could be a quick scratch or bite and given the size and type of animal this could be extremely harmful. 1) Teach your kids about how to behave around your pets and how to treat them, 2) Never leave children alone with pets you don’t know well, and never leave very young children unattended with pets even if you do know them well, better safe than sorry.
There are a lot more tips on how to smooth over the pet assimilation situation so again, do your research, know what you’re getting into; it’s what’s best for your family and for the animals you are considering bringing into your home.
We’re having our garage sale this weekend and our son is planning his lemonade stand/toy stand/drawing sale……I’ll let you know if he ever gets his dragon!