Looking for parenting tips on how to handle it when your real baby bullies your fur baby. Let me help you with that!
So here’s the situation: you have this great kid who, in your opinion, is the most awesome little creature in the universe. The problem? He’s not exactly nice to your other favorite creatures: your fur babies! What do you do? To make matters worse, you’ve watched one too many episodes of Criminal Minds, and now you’re scared little Johnny’s attitude towards the pets is an indication that he’s going to become a serial killer when he grows up!
Want the good news? Just because Johnny sits on the cat for fun when he’s two doesn’t mean he’s going to be demanding that women moisturize their skin while holding them in a dark, dank hole in the ground. Still, you do need to curb this behavior before your poor kitty or pooch gets severely injured. That’s where these lovely parenting tips come in.
Parenting Tips for Pet Bullying During the Early Years
Before we can get into parenting tips about stopping your kids from bullying your pets, we have to think about why they do it. When my son was about three, we caught him holding down the cat in a very rough manner. Was he trying to hurt her? Not really. In his mind, he was trying to pet her, but she was so terrified of this bundle of energy that she wouldn’t come near him. Holding her down made her more scared of him!
During the toddler and preschool years, kids often bully pets inadvertently. They don’t quite understand that kitties and puppies aren’t toys. To them, they’re very much like stuffed animals, except squirmier and noisier. Kids in these age groups are also experimenters. They want to know how things work. They want to understand cause and effect. They are testing boundaries. Any parent who’s had her hair yanked by her toddler knows this.
So what parenting tips can you follow to prevent your sweet baby from hurting your fur baby? Here’s what worked for me:
- First, rescue your pet! The first thing you need to do when you see pet bullying in action is rescue your poor fur baby! Separate your child from your pet immediately while telling your child “no” in your sternest mommy voice.
- Let your child see you soothing your pet. This is important, because it sends a signal to your child that he has done something to hurt another being.
- Give an explanation. Once the situation is diffused, explain to your child that your pets have feelings too, that they’re not toys and that actions like holding them down or pulling their tail hurts them.
- Model good behavior. This is probably the most important of the parenting tips when it comes to anything, including stopping your child from bullying your pet. If you hit your dog when he does something you don’t like, your child will think that’s an appropriate response. Don’t hit your pets. Ever. Unless, of course, you want to raise both a vicious dog and a vicious child.
- Use stuffed animals to teach proper care. Jacob had a plethora of stuffed animals, including a puppy that he took everywhere he went (he still sleeps with Puppy!). We used that puppy to demonstrate the right way to pet our real pups and kitties. I’ve always been one to anthropomorphize stuffed animals (give them human characteristics), so this was an easy way for me to teach Jacob how to treat the pets.
- Read books with animal characters. Our sister site, My Kids Guide, has a great list of books for kids who love puppies. Reading books with animals as the main characters helps kids visualize their pets as actual, emotional beings. Follow up with age-appropriate discussion, like “how to do you think puppy felt when this happened?”
In our case, my son quickly learned that pets are to be respected. He’s now very close to them. In fact, my one cat, Willow, pretty much ONLY likes Jacob! She tolerates me when I have treats, but she really loves that boy!
Parenting tips for pet bullying beyond the early years
Once your child reaches about six, she should understand the difference between a pet and a toy. If the bullying continues beyond this age, it’s important to seek counseling. Reasons for pet bullying in the later years often involve emotional issues. For example, a teen may lash out at a pet when she feels like the rest of her life is out of control. Peer pressure, substance abuse and other issues can also cause pet bullying in older children.
Our pets deserve to feel safe in their own homes, so nipping pet bullying in the bud is incredibly important. If worse comes to worse and you can’t keep your pet safe from your child, please do the humane thing and find a new safe home for your fur baby.
What parenting tips do you have to stop your kids from bullying your pets?