by Martine Bacci-Siegel
A great way to teach our children about respect for creation is through animals. Scott Huntington is a writer for the Oxford University Press as well as a middle school Sunday school teacher. He offers these tips when teaching through animals.
- Acquaint them with animals. More specifically, get them used to being around pets. It’s easy to fear things that are unfamiliar, and children who are not exposed to common pets (dogs, cats, etc.) from a young age often develop irrational, hard-to-shake fears of all animals. It’s hard to respect something you fear. Moreover, fear often prompts us to behave in harmful, sinful ways in the guise of self-protection. If owning your own pet doesn’t work for you, try scheduling regular visits with a family member, friend or neighbor who owns friendly pets. Children can learn a lot of respect for animals simply by becoming accustomed to their presence.
- Teach them about animals. Pets are only a small portion of the animal kingdom. Try taking your children to a local zoo (or if you can, a large zoo or aquarium) to introduce them to the diverse creatures God created. Respect improves with understanding. Have your children observe what animals live in your area, and then do research together to discover more about the unique biology and place in the ecosystem that God gave to them.
- Encourage them to volunteer. Find ways to volunteer with animals. Get in contact with local shelters and animal rescues to learn more about their volunteer requirements and opportunities. Shelters are a great way to learn firsthand not only about the cruelty and abuse animals suffer, but also to see the healing power found in loving, playful interactions. These experiences won’t just teach a greater compassion for animals. That compassion for animals can help improve kids’ empathy for anything suffering abuse, animal or human. If there are no opportunities at a shelter, try something simple like pet sitting for a neighbor or family friend.
- Model kindness and compassion. Children imitate their parents. It’s almost impossible to teach a child to respect animal life if we, as parents, do not first set an example. Model the behavior you want to see. If you have pets, model how to care for, train and play with them. Set an example of how to be respectful toward other people’s pets. Be compassionate and merciful towards wildlife whenever possible.
- Teach them about biblical stewardship. Make it clear that the earth and everything in it is part of God’s creation (plants, animals, people) and that we show love and obedience to our Creator by treating His creation with love and respect. God’s command in Genesis was for humans to “rule” over the earth as God’s stewards, so take time to teach them what it means to be a steward. Explain how creation ultimately belongs to God and that He has trusted us to care for it, just like a king would trust a steward to help with some of his duties.
October is Respect Life Month. Remember, compassion starts at home and is the beginning of empathy. Teach our children young so God’s creation is well cared for.