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#1 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 09:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I may regret posting this question but here goes.

In all my years of caring for children, I've never heard of a girl doing this, but have come across plenty of little boys doing this kind of thing. Its not something I approve of, OR want my child doing, however it has happened three times!!
I am beyond livid.
I've always taught my children to respect animals, etc. We've talked about how frogs and birds, and even the smaller creatures work for us in small ways, etc and that its wrong to hurt or mame them. So the first time it happened, we talked to him about what he had done, tried our best to express to him that this was wrong, and that the frog was a living thing, etc. He cried and I didn't think it would happen again. This was maybe a year ago right before he turned 4. A few months ago, he smashed a frog after eyeing it for awhile. I didn't think he would kill it, nor did Jeff, he had just been watching it, but then out of no where smashed it. This time my husband handled the situation, sternly, we talked to him about it again, and then we wouldn't let him play outside anymore and sent him to his room.
Now today it happens again. This was a giant toad, and he took a Tonka truck and ran over it several times. "To flatten it like a pancake". My daughter tried to save it from being tortured, but not before it met an untimely death. I am so upset! What possessed him to do such a thing? So I am outside (he is in his room, while I cool off) and I am talking to DH about this and I say "Did you do this kind of s**t?" and he just looked at me like he wasnt going to answer. I said "Tell me now if you and your brothers did this kind of thing?" And he admitted that yes they did, and that is must be a "boy thing". Now I know other boys in the neighborhood have done this thing, but their parents dont seem nearly as appalled or upset by it, just treat it like its nothing "its not like its a cat or anything". Oy.
So am I just over reacting? And what can I do to get it through his head that we don't kill frogs just to see what will happen to them.
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#2 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 09:02 PM
 
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Geez. I don't know. I don't know how I will handle myself if that happens. I go beserk on anybody if they kill something. I'm sorry I don't have the answer for you.

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#3 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 09:14 PM
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Wow...that must be hard for you to be dealing with.

I will say, that to me, that would be a H U G E problem. It has been proven that the torturing and killing of animals...any animals...is a marker for more serious issues.

I am in no way suggesting your child is going to be some psycho or something, but I would really caution not to think, or let anyone convince you that this is a "boys will be boys" thing.

In my opinion it is something that should be considered a serious situation and should be dealt with as such...

I am sorry I can't offer any easy answers...and again, I am not here to judge you or your son... I just feel that if this were to occur in my family, it would be a very serious issue...

Please take care and I hope you figure things out.

ETA: I just asked my husband about this, and he did NOT do things like this as a child...so not all boys do this.
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#4 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 09:24 PM
 
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I just asked dh about this - he and his cousin were pretty much terrors and now that I'm having another son, these things concern me (apple doesn't fall far from the tree thing, ya know?) Unfortunately, dh has no answer for me (or you) about how to deal with this and make them understand that it's not right. I am wondering where the line is...bugs and worms to frogs to what? It's very confusing too little kids, but very confusing to me as a mama too! I want to teach respect for all living things, but there must be some genetic code that requires little boys to test the laws of nature and such. <shrug> I wish I had an answer, but I sure hope someone does so I can file it for future use!
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#5 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 09:38 PM
 
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UMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.... no you're not over reacting!?! If my ds EVER so much as kicks dirt towards a frog he'll not see the light of day for weeks!

How old is your child?

MY father has two brothers. They were brought up here on this island and were tough kids. They are meat eaters. I just phoned each of them (well, my dad is right here... but the other two) and they never killed a frog, or shot a squirrel, or the likes. I knew one kid who used to kill/mame frogs in our playground and remember it clearly. He's now in jail for like the millionth time (not for killing frogs- unfortunatly there's no jail time for that. lol.).

Anyway, nip it in the bud. Take him to a counselor or something! YIKES!

Of course, if you've eaten frog legs ... then just have him save the legs for you! :LOL

**I was really not being sarcastic... it's just a vegetarians' attempt at remaining pc during this thread. :
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#6 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 09:54 PM
 
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My dh spent a lot of time on a river growing up and I had to make him stop telling me stories of the things they did to critters. He's grown into a perfecty normal (well... ) kind and gentle man. I wish I had some advice or something wise to say but my ds was picking up ants yesterday and eating them so I'm really no help at all.
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#7 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 09:54 PM
 
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My dh never hurt animals for entertainment, and he grew up in a farming family that hunted and thought of animals as "useful;" he couldn't help his cousin kill their meat rabbits either and he never had a desire to join his dad on hunting trips (and never did). He may have fished once or twice, but wasn't into it.

That said, I do remember my otherwise very kind, sensitive brother running over ants with his tricycle when he was 5 or so. I told my mom and she made him stop. But then my dad, while never agreeing to that kind of senseless killing, did do things with my brother like feeding catapillers to spiders. (umm, I just remembered smashing a firefly with my hands once and my dad telling me about his firefly children who would wait all night for their dad who would never came home - not a pleasant lesson, but it took)

The messages ARE confusing.

But this isn't really about boys vs girls, it is about empathy (something girls develop earlier than boys most likely because they are bombarded with social modles of empathetic girls/women - we can do our best, but we can't artificially provide boys with the sheer volume of those models).

I would be worried. Not freaking out, but worried. If it was bugs he was killing, less so (the empathy needed to identify with a bug's pain is more abstract since they don't look like people). Maybe he just isn't ready to make that metal connection yet, even with a cute toad/frog? I don't know what you can do to help him begin making thsoe connections, but I agree it is unacceptable. Maybe have your husband model sweet behavior to frogs and bugs outside. Have your husband coo at a sweet frog and talk about the frog's family/children etc.
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#8 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 09:57 PM
 
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It's NOT a "boy question" (unless we are only talking about frilly girls here).

As a daycare provider, I had spider and beetle stompers of both genders (would've had lizard stompers but they're too fast), and as someone who has a lot of country cousins, there were plenty of times when some of the girls got overexcited and a little animal got hurt (after all, these are the same kiddos that saw mama scream bloody murder if a snake got into the house, ect, so...).

I will grant you that most girls are socialized to fear toads, snakes, et al. So probably more boys than girls will approach them. But I would say that with a kid who is intensely curious (or has been taught to regard little creepy crawlies as something to be dealt with with lethal force) and who has not developed that much cross-species empathy, that is a concern.

Please do not shove this off on boys, because A) it's not appropriate, and B) you also feed into harmful stereotypes about girls-- and when a girl does the same thing she is penalized even worse than all the horrible things that are thought of when boys do it because it is seen as "unnatural". It's very natural for humans to want to (or unintentionally) exert control and force over creatures that can't fight back.

Anyway, how to deal with it--you must make clear in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable to you. I would say it's also appropriate to show your sorrow that a defenseless creature was killed (I cried when one of the kids I was nannying got hold of a baby garter snake, and threw it on the ground, killing it--they never did anything like that again). Until your son learns more empathy, you are going to have to shadow him, and take more direct action to save or prevent harm to the other creature. You can also explain to him that animals, even toads, have a life and can feel sad just like people do, and that it isn't okay to hurt animals. You can try to show him more appropriate ways to channel his aggression (I don't know if he's going to preschool, but maybe he is responding to some bullying behavior or acting out what some others that he knows do). But you are going to have to keep talking, keep explaining, and keep disciplining until he "gets it".

I think it's a natural inclination of most toddlers and esp. preschoolers, regardless of gender, to push, shove, hit, pinch, and throw until they are taught differently. It's bad enough when it happens with their friends or sibs, but most of those times it's not going to be lethal force. With a creature that's significantly smaller or more delicate, it can be lethal unintentionally. If your kiddo's at a stage where they're imitating things, you will have to be esp. vigilant about TV shows and cartoons where there is non-consequential violence until they're at a point where they realize that when a character is "squished" flat, they don't roll around, pop back out, and scamper off to the next adventure.

But please don't allow yourself to separate this into a "boy" problem. You are feeding into it, if you do that, even if you think that your son doesn't pick up on those cues. Treat this problem like you would biting. It's serious, totally unacceptable, but is NOT an indication that men are evil, boys will be boys, or that you have bred a sociopath.
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#9 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 10:18 PM
 
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FWIW, I have a nephew who, at about 2 y.o., had spent time during the summer stomping ants and bugs (nobody made a big deal out of that being a problem). I was present with his parents when we pointed out a cute little toad. Nephew said "awww" looking at the toad, with curiosity, and then... STOMP!!! SPLAT!!! His mom, dad, and I all were like

We thought we had a future serial killer on our hands. But so far, so good. He is a strong, empathetic, well-adjusted 19-year old now. His mom and dad were gentle in explaining to him what was wrong with killing the toad, and eventually it sunk in. I think he just didn't have any basis to understand why stomping a toad would be less acceptable than stomping a bug. I think it's tough for a young kid to know the difference, and it's speciesist to make a distinction (this is only relevant for those who think stomping bugs is OK. I think bug-stomping is OK, and toad stomping is not, but then again I am an out-of-the-closet speciesist).

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#10 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 10:22 PM
 
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I agree that maybe you'll need to stick by him a little closer for awhile and help him learn things like empathy and respect for other living things. It's tricky.....my youngest seems intrigued when he stomps on a bug. I don't think I've quite gotten the message through to him yet either.
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#11 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 10:36 PM
 
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I would be concerned if it were my son. I have two boys ages 2 and 7-months, I am already preparing myself for the day when they dismember a spider or something like that. We are very much an animal loving family, and already teach our children about being kind to animals, but unfortunately sometimes I think children do things like this out of curiosity coupled with not having a full understanding of death. None the less, I would keep hammering home the point that treating any living creature that way is unnacceptable.

That said, once when I was young I microwaved a container of ants. So I don't think it's only a boy thing, but rather an young child playing outdoors thing.
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#12 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 10:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the responses.

For the record, my son sees a psychiatrist for bipolar disorder. He is 4, about to be 5 in about 12 weeks. I've asked him about this before, and he has assured me that this single behavior is not a indication he is going to be a sociopath or has anything to do with being bipolar.(or he said a lot of men and women would be) My son does have empathy, just not for frogs and bugs it seems. As I said we have talked to him about this before. Jeff and I both agree its wrong, but my husband (who is from rural AL) doesn't see it as all that abnormal (he claims he has done worse!) I really doubt I can get my husband to coo at a frog, but thanks for the visual :LOL
I wonder if my son thinks of frogs as bugs. I mean we do kill flies in our house and other nastee bugs and maybe he doesnt "get" why we do it and he can't. He also knows that we(not us personally) kill fish, cows, pigs, etc for meat but I've explained to him we don't eat frogs. Could he be confused? Or could it be curiousity?
He's in bed now and he said to me how sorry he was he "ran over that frog" and "poked it with a stick" before he went to sleep.
I wonder if I am worrying about this too much. I don't want to over analyze it, nor make lite of it.
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#13 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 10:44 PM
 
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I just want to say that first of all you do not have a serial killer on your hands at all. My sister, who is a special ed teacher, said that this is actually typical (not all little boys do this, but it isn't a sign of pschotic behavior unless lots of other things are off also) of a 4-7 year old boy. Something to do with exerting control over other things. I would definately make it a very big no no, and explain over and over this is wrong. I think the story about the frog having a family would be a good thing to tell him. I also wanted to say that boys actually develop empathy before girls on the developemntal scale, strangely one of the few things that boys develop before girls. So perhaps it is our interpretation of what boys and girls do that effect what we see as empathy, and not what is reality. Just keep telling him it is wrong. Do you have any pets that he is close too? If you do you could use your pets as examples of how animals are creatures that share our earth also and have feelings as well.

 
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#14 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 11:22 PM
 
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I think there has already been a lot of good feedback on this, but my one additional comment is about sending him to his room.

I'm reconsidering the practice of sending a kid away when he breaks a rule in our family. I will still suggest some down time if he's wildly angry, but if not, I think it makes a lot more sense to *connect* rather than *separate* when there's a behavior issue. There's lots more about this in my new favorite parenting book, Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld. It's a great book.
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#15 of 256 Old 05-24-2005, 11:41 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OnTheFence
I mean we do kill flies in our house and other nastee bugs and maybe he doesnt "get" why we do it and he can't. He also knows that we(not us personally) kill fish, cows, pigs, etc for meat but I've explained to him we don't eat frogs. Could he be confused? Or could it be curiousity?
He's in bed now and he said to me how sorry he was he "ran over that frog" and "poked it with a stick" before he went to sleep.
I wonder if I am worrying about this too much. I don't want to over analyze it, nor make lite of it.
YES, it sure is confusing... for us it's not so confusing... we don't eat animals. We don't support the factory farming of animals. We don't hurt animals. We don't stomp frogs... end of story. But, as more carni-folks I can sure see how confusing it is "... yes, we eat/hurt cows and chickens, etc. But, please stop stomping the frogs, becauuuuuuuuuuuuuuse?..."
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#16 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 12:28 AM
 
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Would it help if you bought a similar creature such as a turtle or lizard and taught him to care for it as a family pet? Perhaps it would teach him compassion more than with random creatures he doesn't know. If you gave it a name he might realize that it has feelings, too.

If it makes you feel any better, my SIL and I were talking once. I have no idea how we got on this topic but anyway, we both admitted to having tortured or killed insects as children. In my case I don't think I had developed empathy yet. I was simply curious about what they looked like inside. The first couple of them started out as accidents from holding them too hard in my hand and they died. I didn't do it often, and it was not out of malice or anger or cruelty. I was just curious and didn't have the empathy to realize that it was hurting another creature. I was pre-K at that time. My SIL admitted to doing the exact same thing at the same age.

I have a vivid memory of when I was in Kindergarten and there was a baby bird that somehow ended up in the middle of the playground. Some of us were curious, some tried to give it water. Then one kid went up and stomped it. Just like that. We had a burial before recess was over. Some of the kids were really upset and some were just curious about how baby birds looked. I really think empathy is a developmental stage that comes earlier for some and later for others.

So it's not necessarily a boy thing, and it might be normal for some kids. BTW both of us turned out okay. She is one of the most compassionate and kind people on earth. She is an activist for anti-child labor, animal rights, and the elderly.

My own dd is 4.5 and she is just learning about empathy but still can't resist the urge to sometimes kick or hit the dog. It's not because she's angry or a bad person. She just has this thought and she does it. Then a few minutes later she will be all over the dog hugging her and saying sorry for hitting. She will even cry and say, "I love Faye so much. I don't want her to be mad at me" and will bawl and wail from the deepest part of her heart. She's slowly learning empathy, slowly but surely.

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#17 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 12:37 AM
 
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I like what someone else suggested about not sending him off to be alone.

Hopefully it won't happen again, but if it does you could show your sadness about the frog's passing and be very empathetic about what happened.
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#18 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 02:05 AM
 
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FWIW, my sisters and I definitely did our share of killing or playing w/ dead critters as kids. When I was in 3rd grade, I took a Saturday Scholars class at the local university called "Cuttin' Up Critters" that was basically a hands-on anatomy lab. We started w/ worms, grasshoppers, then crawfish, fish, rats, and finally examined pre-prepared dissected cats. This was all in a supervised environment.

WHen my sisters were about 6th or 7th grade, they brought home a snake in a jar they'd stoned to death. I (in high school, about 16) dissected it and tanned the hide with my father's help.

They would also bring home injured animals to nurse back to health (funny story about a chipmunk that got loose in our house), and we'd catch horned toads and preying mantises to keep in jars (w/ holes!) for a few days or weeks before either we set them loose again or they died. I also had great fun in middle school catching insects for a friend's insect collection for her biology class (which I then raided for specimens when I had the same assignment the following year).

I'm a vegetarian now, but not because I think killing animals is always wrong, but because I think there is something wrong w/ the disconnect in our society between the animals in their factory farms and the meat all nicely contained in plastic packages in the grocery store. In short, if I'm not willing to be the hunter or the butcher, I won't eat the meat, and the way animals are treated while living in the modern meat industry I find disturbing.

I don't think I would be concerned if my child killed frogs that she'd turn into a psycho. I do think I'd use it as an opportunity for her to learn about life and death, and probably go out with her to catch some and interact w/ them while they're alive. Possibly, depending on the age of the child and whether it was an animal that could be eaten, I'd also keep the carcass of the critter she'd killed and we'd watch the process of decomposition, so she could fully process the whole cycle of life/death/life.

Basically, I think what's wrong is our disconnect from the natural world and from death, and behavior like your son's is investigating those links. Seeking to help him explore those connections in a way you might percieve as more acceptable is, to me, a more desirable goal than cutting him off from the living world and furthering the disconnect.

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#19 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 05:49 AM
 
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I've had to deal with this- not frogs, but insects. For me, I brought it back to a faith/spirituality perspective- offset against a kids natural "if I do this, what happens" curiosity you need to get them to understand that your family has basic moral precepts- so if you want "do not kill" to be one of them, you need to make it very clear where this boundary lies (it may mean getting rid of the fly spray.) and why. FWIW, this is the child who has refused to eat meat since the age of 2, and thinks dairy farming is cruel. He is not, in any sense, a sociopath (and hasn't done it again, either.) It's fair to show your disappointment, and to tell him of your disappointment in him, though, if that's what feels right.

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#20 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 08:35 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USAmma
My own dd is 4.5 and she is just learning about empathy but still can't resist the urge to sometimes kick or hit the dog. It's not because she's angry or a bad person. She just has this thought and she does it. Then a few minutes later she will be all over the dog hugging her and saying sorry for hitting. She will even cry and say, "I love Faye so much. I don't want her to be mad at me" and will bawl and wail from the deepest part of her heart. She's slowly learning empathy, slowly but surely.
:
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#21 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 09:50 AM
 
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edamommy, try to be understanding...I see from your sig. that your little one is still very small, so I can see how this may be shocking to you. Those with older children aren't as shocked perhaps because we've experienced something similar with one of our children or a friend's child.

Peace
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#22 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 10:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Itlbokay
edamommy, try to be understanding...I see from your sig. that your little one is still very small, so I can see how this may be shocking to you. Those with older children aren't as shocked perhaps because we've experienced something similar with one of our children or a friend's child.

Peace
My son isn't the only male child I've ever known! lol! I was a nanny for 2 boys (starting when they were ages 1 and 4) for 5 years! I polled my dad and his two brothers. I've grown up w/ many many boys! And, like I said, only one was a "animal abuser"! It SHOULD be shocking to everyone!
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#23 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 10:17 AM
 
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I understand, it does sadden me as well. Forgive me for making assumptions.


But empathy is something that needs to be taught with patience
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#24 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 10:19 AM
 
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well....i agree with edamommy...it is shocking to me to hear this-although, not the 4yo hitting the dog because both my kids have hit the dogs before. now, it's not like i sit there and watch and let them, but it's happened. i think the dogs have a sense of knowing they are just babies because they know to just move away..

anyways, i asked dh. nope, never hurt/killed a small animal as a child. i find the whole thing really upsetting, but i'm way oversensitive. :
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#25 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 10:49 AM
 
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I will totally be beside myself if my dd kills small animals, because I'm a bleeding heart, but ...

4 is young. Not all 4 year olds "get it." It is very sad the frogs have gotten sent to the Great Swamp in the Sky, and definately someone thing to be prevented, but I wouldn't freak out about it. In an 8 yr old, I'd be more concerned. But 4 and 5? Upsetting, but not "Hit the panic button" upsetting.
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#26 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 03:19 PM
 
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LOL at the "Great Swamp in the Sky"

Edamommy, I think you just have to accept that different people here have different definitions of what is ok to kill and what is not. Not up for debate (atleast not with me ) but, its a fact and posters here have a LOT of opportunity to learn about vegan-ness and the like, (except I still haven't found out why its okay to eat plants! They are living tooooo!) so don't assume b/c they think/feel differently they haven't done their research...Just a gentle, loving, reminder. (It is good to be passionate about some things though!!!)

Anyone wanna hear the worse animal abuse story I have ever heard??

My BIL (DH bro) who is a MAJOR alcoholic psycho abusive drunk had as a teenager:

Tied two cats tails together and swung them over a telephone wire so they would face each other and fight to death. Did this numerous times
Buried a cat up to its neck in dirt and then ran over it with a lawn mower
and fed acid to a puppy (the dog ate rocks the rest of its life)

I'm sure there was more, but I probably blocked it out. As a child did he kill animals? No, he barely even ate meat (too poor for meat!). Yet, he grew in his teenage and adult years to be an animal killer, decorated marine to a falling down psychotic drunk.

Anyways Kim, I like the pp idea of teaching him about a daddy frog and all the baby frogs that will be missing him tonight ):

Katie
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#27 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 03:49 PM
 
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BACK OT....

Given your son's other issues, I would just work with him on this. I don't think he is old enough to understand why he does this. But you can work on asking him if he thinks of the frog's family, what about the baby froggies, etc. Maybe this will help him understand more about the living thing?

I also like the idea of a turtle or lizard as a family pet... maybe that will help him learn to care for animals....
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#28 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 03:58 PM
 
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Kimberly,
I was being serious about the plant thing..Really. I was just trying to be cutesy at the same time. No harm meant, promise.
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#29 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks again for all the feedback.

I feel somewhat better and not nearly as horrified. I spoke with my son's preschool director and teacher today, both who have nearly 20 years experience between them and they assured me that while horrifying, it is pretty normal behavior in kids this age. She said most kids are 1)not going to understand the whole death thing 2) they are curious about cause and effect and 3) with lizzards and frogs -- they are viewed more like bugs.

Edamommy -- I just want to say I appreciate your input here, however I want to say that your child is young and I can totally understand where you are coming from in your beliefs. (I once had very similar ones) As my children have gotten older, the more parents I interact with, the more I have come to realize how diverse people are and how they see things, and how our children can surprise us in ways that totally knock us off our rockers. Just kind of keep that in mind.

I have done research into veganism and vegetarian lifestyle. We have friends that are. However I would never be a vegan (not willing to debate why here or anywhere else in this forum). And I don't see myself going to not eating meat. I like meat. However I do agree with one posters thoughts and opinions about how the farming/meat industry is doing the animals and the consumers a disservice. I know first hand actually because I worked in a chicken processing plant at 19 for 6 months and my husbands family has worked in the "chicken" business for over 30 years. I've also visited dairy farms, and farms where people get veal from. While I can't always get meat in the most ethical way, we have fed out our own cows, pigs, and chickens with other family/friends for meat. They were happy critters and healthy (not full of hormones and drugs). Even though I live in a city, it is considered quite a rural area and killing animals for food is a way of life, and its something my children are aware of. I know not all people agree with it, and that's okay, I do understand that.

I just want to say that I DONT want my child killing frogs, even out of curiousity. I think that maybe I have overreacted in some ways, and should have handled the situation differently based on some of the responses here. Hopefully there will not be a next time, but in case there is, I will remember the advice that was given.

I also think its a good idea about getting something like a frog as a pet. Maybe one of those grow your own tadpole things.
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#30 of 256 Old 05-25-2005, 04:22 PM
 
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Wow. I am surprised at the surprise you all seem to have because in my life as a daycare provider/afterschool program supervisor this is a VERY COMMON occurance. One year I was a counselor for about 12 kids ages 9-12, mostly boys. They kept trying to KILL BIRDS! I was shocked. The male counselor laughed. Their dads laughed (they were mostly hunters themselves). Maybe one kid was upset by this. They kept throwing rocks at seagulls. I 'd say, what are you going to do if you actually hit the bird and it is hurt or killed? It's just a bird, they'd say. Once that summer (under the other counselor's watch) they managed to kill a seagull and once they took apart a bird that was already dead. I made them bury both birds and talked and talked about respect for living things-- but, I don't know how much sunk in. I'd say there was only one kid that had "issues" the rest, just being stupid, following the crowd. For the record, I personally have a lot of memories of boys doing this and so far none are sociopaths.
I think younger kids are still learning and don't understand the limits. Is it ok to kill a bug? A snail? A ladybug? A frog? Mice in the house? My cat leaves us dead things all the time.
My older son has always had empathy, but the younger one is a snail squisher so far. He loves them, but then squishes them and is sad that they are "broken." I pretend to be sad for the snail. We name the snails. It is a process. It is just that those things are fragile. He can pinch me, and the cat, he can run us over with a truck and we're ok, it is almost that he doesn't understand the physics of it.
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