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How to Discipline Children When They're Being Rough With Animals

By Sara Ipatenco ; Updated September 26, 2017
Children need to learn how to care for animals.

If you have pets in your home, you've probably reminded your child at least once how to treat that animal nicely. Even if you don't have pets, it pays to teach your child how to care for and respect animals and other people's pets. Young children are naturally curious about animals and might tug fur or pull on tails simply because they want to see what will happen. That isn't an appropriate way to treat animals, however, and it pays to teach your child that lesson from a young age.

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Teach your child how to treat the family pet and other animals. Young children might not understand that their behavior is mean, and it's up to you to show your child the difference. Demonstrate how to lovingly pet the family dog or cat and teach your child not to throw items at squirrels or other animals they see in the backyard. You might also teach your child not to try to interact with a dog or cat that's eating or sleeping, HealthyChildren.org suggests.

Establish a consequence for the mistreatment of an animal and use it consistently. For example, if you choose to revoke petting or playing rights if your child mistreats the family pet, stick to it. When your child gets the message that you take the treatment of animals seriously, he's more likely to play nice.

Remove your child from the area with the animals. If it's a family pet, you might put it outside or send your child to another area to play. For instances such as petting zoos, tell your child that he's no longer allowed to participate because he wasn't being kind to the animals.

Model appropriate behavior toward animals. When you talk nicely to your pet or stroke his fur gently, your child is learning how to care for animals. Most children tend to imitate their parents, so use that to your advantage when teaching your child how to treat animals nicely.


If your child continues to display aggressiveness or meanness toward animals, get in touch with his pediatrician. In some cases, psychological intervention or counseling is necessary to determine the underlying cause of the animal abuse, according to PsychologyToday.com.
If your child doesn't treat animals nicely, consider keeping him away from family pets. If you don't have pets, wait until your child matures a bit more before introducing one into your family.

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About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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