My Daughter Is Cruel to Animals & I'm Okay With That

For my daughter's 4th birthday, my dad presented her with a wild salamander he'd found under a rock and stuck in a terrarium. He thought it would provide my daughter with some amusement, and it sure did. First she pulled off its tail (salamanders can grow them back, but still!). She then poked and prodded the poor thing so much, I thought it would die of fear. When I finally insisted we set it free in the woods, she decided to chuck it into the middle of a lake. Can salamanders swim? Hope so.

Many kids are cruel to animals -- or so I've heard. This does not make it right, but it does give me some assurance that I probably don't have a budding psychopath on my hands. Of course, I do try to curb this habit of hers. For instance, my daughter is also a serial ant killer: She squishes them with her fingers, stomps on the sidewalk. I've tried to drive home that ants feel pain and really don't want to die, to cultivate a sense of empathy by asking, "How would you like it if someone stepped on you?" This just makes her laugh and stomp more.

I remind myself that I was just like her as a kid: that I, too, held wild salamanders captive in a terrarium. And mine actually died -- not from manhandling or drowning, but from starvation, since I wasn't sure what to feed them, but still wasn't willing to set them free. Was that any less cruel?

More from The Stir: Does Your Dog Get Along With Your Baby?

And besides, torturing ants and salamanders isn't as egregious as, say, accosting cats and dogs -- that's real animal cruelty, right? Then, of course, the day arrived recently when my daughter took her tea party tray, removed the cups and teapot, and used it to smack our rat terrier Toby on his rump. She loves that dog ... so what was going on? I grabbed my daughter immediately, took away the tray, and said, "We DON'T. HIT. DOGS."

My daughter hasn't hit him since. Still, though, the fact that she would if I hadn't yelled at her makes me worry. First ants, then salamanders, now dogs. Are her torturous ways slowly inching up the food chain? Will she lash out at her friends next or me?

My husband, as a kid, killed ants by frying them with a magnifying glass. He then moved onto birds, shooting at them with a BB gun. Then one day, at the age of 14, he watched a bird he'd shot die ... and suddenly a light bulb went on. He was filled with remorse, hung up his BB gun, and vowed to never hurt another animal again.

Maybe that's what my daughter needs to do too: Figure out for herself that what she's doing is wrong. I can scold 'til the cows come home, and while she might alter her behavior (in front of me, at least), perhaps she'll have to come to her own realization that causing pain in living creatures just isn't cool. In the meantime, I let her stomp down the sidewalk and pray that if reincarnation is real, she doesn't come back in her next life as an ant.

Is your kid cruel to animals?

Image © Heide Benser/Corbis

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peanu... peanutsmommy1

I have nothing positive to say about your attitude towards your daughter's behavior

Lovin... LovinJerseyMama

No. Just no. My kids were taught from an early age to never agitate or purposely hurt any animal unless they were defending themselves against an attack. It's not funny and it's definitely not cute to see a child deliberately hurt any creature. There's no excuse for trying to justify it either. 

Runmu... RunmumRun

as an animal lover, i may have killed ants growing up. but now if we are in their home we leave them alone, if they are in our home.... squish... yes spiders too... but there has to be some sense of respect for living creatures. didn't CM just post something of 2 girls torturing a turtle? I think Id spank her and teach her before it gets to that. My kids love animalsand take care of them because I taught them to. kids have to be taught, some more than others...

Prett... PrettyWings29

You need to get that child into therapy ASAP. It sounds as though it wouldn't kill you to make an appointment for yourself, either. 

nonmember avatar Alee

This is wrong on so many levels and shame on The Stir for allowing confession to be posted! There is nothing cute or acceptble about torturing animals for fun and you are a bad parent for encouraging it.

nonmember avatar Lilianne

Your daughter needs to learn its wrong to hurt animals BEFORE she does it, not after she maims or kills one. I hope this post was just written to stir up trouble, otherwise you are just being really irresponsible.

Mark Cox

with a mom like this..kid had no chance

lizfnf lizfnf

My daughter has always been kind and loving to all animals and insects. The fact that you let your child rip a salamanders tail off says a lot about your parenting style. And none of it is positive. She's going to hurt your poor dog one day, the dog will bite and you'll be that idiot that blames the dog and puts it down. All the while Elmyra got what she deserved.

nonmember avatar kalena

Aw you must be so proud of Indiana Indy for short - she's probably pissed that she has a dumb name and takes it out on poor animals

nonmember avatar mommy0320

This is sick. My 16 month old knows better than to hit, hurt, pull on or do anything harmful to our pets and we have delicate animals (chameleons, cat, and turtles.) You and your kid need therapy. A four year old should KNOW right from wrong and already start to show empathy. Scary to think this kid will be in kindergarten soon interacting with other kids.

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