Every once in awhile I discover that I’ve held some faulty belief and it’s always a shock to have to change how I think about it.
I always assumed that young children are naturally kind toward animals. I’m sure that some probably are, but I’ve been surprised at how long it has taken for our children to understand this. I’m intrigued that compassion must be taught.
Yes, I realize that being nice to animals is a developmental issue, too. None of my children really understand that animals feel pain like we do. Each week it seems they try a different way of interacting with the dog that hurts her (or is at the least uncomfortable): hitting her back, pulling her tail, biting her tail, grabbing at her skin and pulling it, pulling her legs, and so on.
We started with education: I got a children’s book from the library that showed how dogs communicate. It was excellent. I hoped that would help them understand how the dog was already communicating that she didn’t like what they occasionally do to her.
We’ve talked about Proverbs 12:10 repeatedly:” Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
I’ve not talked about Deuteronomy 25:4, where God commands the Israelites not to prevent their oxen from eating as they worked.
We’ve been explaining that God cares very much how we treat our animals. It’s very important that they learn compassion for God’s creation. We keep teaching them how to treat their dog. We’ve given consequences for mistreatment after we’ve taught them what it is. But the mistreatment keeps morphing, and so we keep teaching.
It’s taking a long time for them to learn!