Written by Doctor G

Tough Parenting Questions – What Do I Do if My Child is Too Rough With Animals?

Here’s a reader question from my inbox. This young woman has taken on a tough task of parenting her boyfriend’s 6-year old while he is incarcerated and is concerned about how the child is treating their dog. She isn’t the first parent to ask me this question and there could be a variety of reasons for that behavior.

Here is her letter.

Doctor G – 

I’m totally new to being a mom. My boyfriends 6 year old doesn’t seem to know how to play with the dogs. He roughs around kicking hitting them pushing them. He will start running around the house just to get the dogs hyped up so he can join in the scuffle. He really doesn’t have many friends and never talks about any of the other kids in his class. My counselor told me that showing him how to treat dogs would be a good learning exercise for him to obtain more friends. Dad is in jail till December and not that I don’t mind or want to be but I’m mom. I just need to know what to do.

Cierra, in PA

Cierra, thank you for writing. You’re taking on a big task and it sounds like your approach and attitude are great!

It’s possible that this kiddo loves dogs and is enjoying his time with them. Even if that’s true, though, he needs to learn that it’s never ok to hit or kick an animal or a person. He can scuffle with the dogs without causing them pain or risking his own safety.

It’s also possible that he’s expressing anger when he interacts with the dogs. I don’t hear you saying that he’s acting aggressively towards you, which is great. However, it’s important for him to learn better – and safer – coping mechanisms.

No matter what is happening in his mind, he needs some help. Not because he’s a bad kid  – I’m not saying that at all. This 6 year old has already faced a lot of trauma. He doesn’t have his bio mom in the picture, his dad has been (from his point of view) taken from him. He has one stable adult on whom he can depend – but he has no way of knowing if you’ll disappear too. This boy is struggling to form relationships with kids his age, and needs some interpersonal skills for sure, but more importantly he needs some help to heal from all this loss, and to manage the uncertainties that are all around him.

Kids this age believe that they cause everything. This means he thinks it’s his fault that his mom isn’t around, his fault that his dad is in jail. He’s just not wired yet to understand that he isn’t the reason for all the bad stuff in his life.

Will you look around for some help for him? You can ask his teacher, his doctor, your counselor. You could search online in your county or zip code for child behavioral services, child advocacy services, or child psychology. And if you can’t find any resources write to me again, I’ll help you look.

Thank you for taking on this little guy – he needs you.

Do you have any important parenting related questions you need answered? Type your question into the box on AskDoctorG.com. Also be sure to follow me on TwitterFacebook and subscribe to my YouTube channel where I address parenting challenges from teen dating to manners. 

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