When it comes to raising children, parents have quite a job cut out for them. They may find that every choice they make in regards to their children, including how they interact with them, how they discipline them, where they go to school and much more, can effectively impact who their children grow up to be. Obviously, parents try hard to raise their children “right” so that they can become healthy, confident, self-sufficient and independent adults. Apparently, part of the “magic formula” for raising children to be better people includes ensuring they have pets in their lives.
How Pets Help Children
According to Mary Renck Jalongo, PhD, education professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, educators are well aware of the fact that therapy animals can help developmentally challenged kids learn. Now they are discovering that animals can provide children with much-needed, calming, non-judgmental support throughout any time in their life. One study had children read aloud first in front of a peer, then in front of an adult, and finally in front of a dog as researchers monitored their stress levels. Unsurprisingly, the children routinely were most relaxed while reading to the dog. Part of this comfort could very well come from the fact that dogs will not ever correct or make demands of the child, and the child himself is well aware of this.
Other studies performed around the world have confirmed that the presence of pets seems to help children generally do better. A study in Australia found that attendance was better and vandalism less like frequent in classrooms that had some sort of animal mascot. A study in Austria found that attentiveness, behavior, and cooperation were better in classrooms that had therapy dogs. Programs in the United States where children read to dogs have routinely demonstrated an improvement in reading ability as a result. Some studies have even suggested that there may be a relationship between a family’s dog ownership and their child’s better academic success and respect for his parents.
In addition to improving a child’s ability to focus on academic pursuits, pets help them to develop a sense of nurturing and concern for others as they learn to take care of another living thing. These are immensely helpful abilities the child will benefit from as they grow into adulthood, and which are far easier to pick up in childhood than attempt to develop later in life.