My youngest son has PDD-NOS (pervasive disorder, not otherwise specified) on the autism scale. Throughout his life, I’ve had to go through different things with him that I’ve had to try to get him to do differently because he doesn’t always have the understanding like a non-PDD-NOS child does. My son can be very sweet but sometimes he just doesn’t quite grasp that you have to be more careful, especially with animals. We have two dogs and one cat. He didn’t go up and hit them or anything like that but he wasn’t gentle when he touched them or moved them out of the way if they were in front of him. Over time, I showed him how to be more gentle and considerate when it came to our beloved family pets. He forgets sometimes but for the most part he does pretty well. This article will go over a few suggestions on how you can teach your child to be nice to your pets.
#1: Lead by Example
Life can be so busy sometimes that you may be a little stern with your pets without even realizing it. Kids in general like to repeat what their caregivers do and this is true with some PDD-NOS children. If you come across your pet and your path and say “Move Fido!” and nudge him out of the way with your foot, your child may try to do the same thing but not as gentle as you may have done it. Show your child how to treat an animal by treating them nicely yourself.
#2: Take their Hand
One thing that really helped with my son was to take his hand and gently pet one of our animals with my hand leading his. I told him soothingly “Do it softly” or “Pet them gently” so he wouldn’t come up to our dog or cat and accidentally hit/pet them. Sometimes I’ll come across him petting one of our animals and moving his hand very lightly and slowly. Since he was a little to rough in the beginning, it always makes me smile to see him doing it that way and once in a while he’ll say “Do it gently…” while he does it.
#3: Don’t Overreact
If your child is accidentally too rough with your pet, don’t overreact, especially if your pet was just startled. We want to protect our animals and you certainly don’t want your child to hurt your pet but if you overreact in a case where you didn’t really need to, you could set your child’s process back with your pet. My son startles easily so I knew not to raise my voice really loud if he moved our pet suddenly out of his way or patted them too roughly. Instead I spoke sternly and promptly showed him the right way to do it.
#4: Contact a Local Help Group
In my town, we have KRC (Kern Regional Center) which is an organization that helps families who have kids/family members with disabilities (such as PDD-NOS, Autism). There is a good chance that you have an organization similar to that in their town. Our organization has lots of different programs so check with your case worker if they have any classes or connections that will help kids learn how to be kind to animals.
#5: No Pets
Some kids just don’t mesh with pets. If your child doesn’t seem to be willing to learn to treat your pet nicely and keeps hurting them…it might be time to find your pet a new home. It is a really hard thing to do and should only be done as a last resort. Your pet deserves to live in a home where they will not be hurt. Unfortunately some children will never get along with an animal and that is when it is time to let go, no matter how painful it is.
Every case will vary. Luckily our pets didn’t really get hurt by my son and we were able to avoid them getting hurt by teaching him the right way to treat animals. My son will forget on occasion but because I keep reminding him when he does slip, he more often then not treats our family pets the way they should be treated.