Can Having a Pet Reduce Bullying in Children?
We all know the positive impacts that pets have on our emotions, our mental and physical health and our quality of life.
Did you know that pets can also help children fight against the effects of bullying?
Adopting a pet can help both the target of bullying and the child who bully others. Having a pet can help children to develop empathy and learn to understand the negative consequences of bullying behaviors.
Taking care of a pet helps children to better understand complicated feelings like empathy, tolerance, compassion and kindness. These emotions are often lacking in kids involved in bullying behaviors. Pets respond to emotional cues and can teach children to respond appropriately and show compassion for those who need it.
Caring for a pet (in particular, a dog) can bolster a child’s self-esteem and help them deal with the emotional and physical burdens of being bullied. Caring for a pet can also help children feel more confident, loved and understood. It can offset the depression and anxiety that bullied children often experience. Pets can ease the pain of bullying by providing understanding, love and support.
Children have a special relationship with pets. Younger children are just beginning to learn about themselves and their world and they are fascinated by the response they receive from animals. Caring for a pet gives children a sense of empowerment when they are caring for another living being. This sense of empowerment turns into compassion and children are able to manifest that compassion toward other human beings. Children who live with pets in their home seem to make that transition more easily than those children who have no interaction with animals.
Children also develop social skills from talking to and playing with pets. They learn what unconditional love feels like and they have a companion that they can talk to and tell secrets to. They are able to learn basic effective social interaction skills and what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
School programs such as Mutt-i-grees, No More Bullies and Healing Species use dogs to teach children about kindness, fairness, compassion and empathy. Classroom teachers across the country have reported improved critical thinking, decreases in violent and bullying behaviors and overall increases in morale at schools where these and other programs are being used. Some of the programs use rescue dogs and others just use dog puppets and have the same rates of success.
During the time that the children spend participating in the program, the children learn to relate to the experiences and struggles of the dogs and how they are judged by their breed or color, etc. They can relate those experiences to what they might have experienced in being bullied or even in bullying someone else.
At Bella’s Backyard Buddies, we use humane literature focused on animals to spark activities such as group discussions, arts and crafts projects, journal writing projects and volunteer experiences through service learning. These activities help children learn to speak up for themselves and for others against bullying. We help kids develop the social skills that they need to resist getting involved in bullying activities.
If you’d like more information about how we can help your child, send us a message and let’s start the conversation!