“Fatty, Jonnie, Suzie, and Daisy!”
I remember counting these four names on my fingertips as I addressed half my class in grade four.
We had four pet dogs at my granny’s and I loved each of them to bits.
Long after they’re dead, funnily enough, all dogs remind me of my childhood pets.
As I write this piece, I realise that compassion towards animals is an acquired emotion within me. I grew to love animals because of the situations around me which means; we all have the ability to do the same.
If parents want, they can raise a generation of compassionate human beings. If you’re one such parent, here are 7 ways to help you:
“Chiiiiiii! Look it’s under there.” Chiiiiiii is the Hindi counterpart for disgusting plus dirty. The one who’s speaking this grandiloquence is Rina.
There’s a tiny mouse under her sofa and she is shooing it away with her slipper while she says it.
Kids witness this dramatic scene in most Indian homes when mothers shriek at the sight of mice, lizards, or even ants. My maid shrieks at the sight of a street cat as well!
All of us find certain life forms unacceptable (at least within our homes). However, we should keep our intolerance at bay. Getting rid of unwanted pests and creating a dramatic scene for your kids to witness are two extremes. The former is required but the latter should be avoided.
As I give you a discourse about checking your behaviour, my son is running after a spider with his shoe. Charity begins at home, eh?
2) Talk! Talk! Talk!
“Talk to them about compassion.”
This is the simple response I get from my son’s school teacher as I probe her about compassion in kids. She’s right.
Talking to kids about animals, their feelings, and our behaviour towards them is the first step towards creating compassion. It’s a simple, no-fuss way of creating empathy, which works.
“He’s really a donkey!”
Harsh says so about his driver in Hindi. He has just returned from office and the driver was late for his pick-up. As Harsh tells his wife so, their son is playing within earshot.
So, you’re talking to your children about how amazing animals are and feel quite successful at doing that. However, you don’t check the many applications of animal names that you use to address other people. Does that give your talk about compassion any credence?
We all have the answers!
3) Even a maggot counts
“Naveen, come here, see this!”
Dina saw a caterpillar, called out to her three-year-old, and slowly they put the caterpillar on a leaf and left it outside their home.
Her son saw a caterpillar up close, realised that even if it’s tiny, it’s a full-fledged living being, and the compassion created by this act will be boundless!
“It’s called On Fours, aunty.”
Six-year-old Farhan is a part of the volunteer group named so. Created by a parent, the group meets every weekend.
I think they’re setting a great example. All of us can make mini service groups in our vicinity. Children can be members and parents can take turns administering it. The group can conduct drives to help street dogs, cows, birds, and other commonly seen animals.
“Today we’re going to a cowshed nearby,” explains Farhan as he rushes to join his moving gang.
I’m inspired, aren’t you?
5) A bird feeder
“All I did was hang it outside.”
My sister-in-law has hung a bird-feeder in her balcony. She fills it with seeds every morning and within minutes a flock of birds attack it.
My niece and nephew recognise every bird, have attached names to the regular visitors, and although it was not the intent for which the feeder was hung, they’ve stopped eating chicken.
“We don’t want to hurt our birds, bua,” they tell me, and I’m touched!
Since we are able to create a lot of drama around animals that we don’t like, why not use dramatics to help kids like them? Didn’t get it? Let me explain:
Dr Thakrey tells me that films can help children learn about animal love. Cinema extracts emotion, which can then be directed by parents to instil compassion in their little ones.
Certain films display characteristics of animals that are totally noteworthy and are difficult to witness in day-to-day lives.
Making children watch animal videos and movies helps them learn about these characteristics.
“Even National Geographic counts,” concludes the doctor, as I leave his clinic with my movie thoughts.
7) Role plays
“I’m a camel and I’m thirsty,” said six-year-old Kimaya as she and her mother play desert safari. When I told her that camels don’t get thirsty that often, she said, “Just because they are good at saving water does not mean they don’t need water, aunty.”
I was stumped. It was a beautiful thought. Her mother had taught her that. Alongside, she had also taught her that even lions cry and sometimes birds want to sit and not fly.
“I don’t want her to attach the same emotions to animals, which we grew up with,” explains Kimaya’s mom.
She says that ‘be scared of a lion,’ ‘love a dog,’ ‘stay away from a pig,’ etcetera are all age-old associations.
“Let them understand animals for what they actually are. Then they can decide what emotion to attach and what not!” she concluded.
Unique, don’t you agree?
What are the ways in which you teach compassion for animals to your children? Share a few snippets with us in the ‘Comments’ section below.
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