Does your tot terrorize the family cat? Do you find yourself constantly telling your kid to put down kitty? It’s a common problem.
Sure children take an interest in pets and love having a playmate. However, if you constantly have to remind and nag your child about leaving the cat alone, it’s not the cat that is interesting to your child, it’s your attention to the matter they seek.
The child’s motivation behind this behavior is not to play with the cat, but to play with you! It’s your verbal nattering on that assures the child you’re engaged with them (albeit it negatively). After all, if the child chose to leave the cat alone, they would be ignored. Need some of mom’s attention? Simple: pull the cat’s tail. She can’t ignore that behavior. She’s sure to talk about that!
The trick to bringing about a change is to ignore all cat-attacking behaviors. If the cat antics no longer work in getting parental attention, the child will abandon the behavior. No sense getting scratched for nothing. If you are really concerned about puddy-tat being manhandled, I would calmly and swiftly take the cat and place it in the basement or travel crate without making a scene. "Looks like we need to keep kitty safe" is all you need say.
Wait - your work isn't done yet. If we fail to address their real need to feel some sense of connection or engagement with you, they’ll just find some other shenanigans to get into. Re-direct your child to a positive way to interact with you instead. "Can you help me unpack these cans onto the lazy susan?". In between attention-seeking episodes, work on building up the relationship and allowing your child time to learn to play on their own too.
About the Author:
Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine. Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”. She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.