Somehow, despite our different languages, we have found ways to teach our animal companions to simplify our lives. You’ll often see a golden retriever loyally guiding his human parent without comprehending the concept of blindness, or a rescue pooch diligently searching for the lost hiker in the woods.
In addition to what we have taught them, our four-legged comrades amplify the value of our existence by teaching us lessons that go beyond practicality. But one primal aspect of our lives in particular is profoundly affected by the bond we nurture with our animal companions – parenthood.
They teach us loving leadership
Perhaps the greatest challenge of parenthood lies in discovering the balance between being your child’s friend and an authority figure. Either extreme can lead to an authoritarian relationship based on fear rather than respect and understanding, or to an indulgent one, with little to no discipline.
As a pet parent, you have an opportunity to master the skills of kind, but firm leadership. Animals will respond to consistency in training, and once they understand the dos and don’ts of your home, they will not be terrified into obedience, but simply taught good behaviour. Similarly, kids tend to grow up into well-formed individuals with the help of parents who are continuously making an effort to maintain that crucial balance between parenthood and friendship.
They nurture our patience
If anything can test your nerves, it’s parrot poop on your precious artwork, your puppy pooch squealing in the middle of the night, or your cat whose sole life mission seems to be leaving your home toilet paper-less. And yet, despite your disciplinary measures, there is always a learning curve to expect in both realms of parenthood.
Once you learn to cope with these mishaps, you will naturally build up your tolerance towards similar wonderful moments with your little bundle of joy. In fact, embracing these nuisances with a smile instead of a frown helps us cherish every aspect of parenthood and find a more suitable way to overcome its lovely setbacks and challenges.
They bring out our inner caregiver
The sleepless nights, smelly diapers, and tough homework assignments – they all require a sturdy parent that will lovingly devote time and experience to resolving a problem or providing their little nestlings will all that they need. However, not everyone is a born caregiver, and those who need an extra nudge to reveal their giving self, they might benefit the most from becoming a pet parent first.
However, not all pets are created equal – unlike a tarantula which requires no affection and can go without food for a full year, caring for a dog or a cat will teach you some serious parenting skills. Feed them a healthy meal, treat them with proper vaccines, find a pet boarding service when you travel, provide them with plenty of physical activity and of course, tons of cuddles, and you will be well on your way to learn the basic parenting responsibilities.
They inspire empathy
While it’s well-known that kids will grow up to become more compassionate individuals if they have a pet, parents too can benefit from their bond with an animal companion, and in more than one way. Communicating with our four-legged fuzzballs is a form of art, and it takes plenty of practice and fine-tuning our own perception before we can understand their needs, feelings and intricate personalities.
We become better listeners, more attuned to the subtle cues our pets and children express when they have a need or an emotion they cannot verbalise. We step out of our shoes and try to understand them better, and we become better connected with our own inner child. They nurture our playful spirit, and open up our minds towards understanding and accepting their authenticity, all the while allowing us to shape them into loving individuals with the help of our growing insight.
However, the greatest parenting lesson our animal companions can possibly teach us is that of selfless gratitude they continuously express through love and affection for every ounce of our attention and care. Somehow, they always find strength for kindness and forgiveness even in a world shaped by cruelty, and thus teach us the value of appreciating our family bonds for better or for worse.
Olivia Williams Jones is psychologist and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs, Teo and Mia. She is passionate about writing and always inspiring her readers to be clever in their lives. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”.She is regular contributor to highstylife.com.