• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

Do Amsterdam Pets Teach Soft Skills?

Updated: Oct 1, 2020


In her article, “Family Pets Teach Children Empathy,” Megan Worthylake claims “Teaching children #empathy is very important. Empathy is good for humans because it is the ability to #share and understand another’s perspective & feelings—to consider it before acting. Most guardians want to teach their children to abide by the #Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and what better way to teach #compassion and #responsibility than with #familypets?” Furthermore, she comments, “As kids meet an animals emotional and physical needs, a #child can grow into a caring adult.”

Amsterdam doesn’t have a lack of pet owners and pets like anywhere else although it might come as a surprise to some #foreigners to see the dogs running loose or to see the dogs running on a leash alongside a biker or “fietser” as they call them in the #Netherlands. What is more unusual, at least to this #American, is the number of children's farms around the city—2 just within a 10 and 20 minute #walk of our home. We always called them pet #farms because we found them to be just as entertaining for adults. According to the Gemeente Amsterdam, children’s farms have an important recreational and educational function. Children can discover the #nature of #animals while being shown the correct way of how to handle animals.

In Amsterdam there are about 20 children's farms. I would argue that these children’s farms also teach children how to treat other children or adults referring back to Worthylake. De Uylenburg, Nieuw-West is the children’s farm or “kinderboerderij” in the Rembrandt Park neighborhood. This farm has been around for 35 years and has big and small animals such as donkey’s, goats, pigs, chickens, birds, rabbits and geese not to mention two quite spectacular turkeys and the farm cat. With a terrace and #Rembrandtpark surrounding there, you can make a whole day of it--a day that can lead to a lifetime of personal and professional growth by nurturing the soft skill of empathy. The Arm the Animals article writes, “Studies show that children who own pets have more empathy and nurturing ability, and as they grow into adulthood, essential skills to develop meaningful relationships” Furthermore, Elizabeth Omerod, companion animal veterinary surgeon, and member of the Pet Health Council in London, England claims, "Studies demonstrate that children who interact with animals have higher levels of self esteem, greater empathy, and better social skills." However, there are mixed reviews about the effects of pets on children. Hal Herzog, PhD reports in Psychology Today that Rand researchers concluded that the health and psychological benefits of pet-keeping to children are largely attributable to differences in wealth and social class. Other researchers are not so sure. Dr. Layla Parast argues:

Perhaps if we could measure [how long the pets are in the home], we would see something different. I feel like I can see the positive effects of interactions with animals on my 2-year-old son: it helps him learn kindness and compassion, to the point where he tries to hug and feed every animal we see — including a skunk and raccoon in our backyard.

Out of all the soft skills, empathy, you could argue, is the most important in the workplace. The Training Associates quote #StephenCovey as saying, “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more #creative in solving problems.” That is when empathy becomes indispensable to personal and #professionalsuccess.

For more of Barbara's Blogs, go to www.thewaylearningworks.com/blog.

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