DEAR PAW’S CORNER: My 6-year-old son, after a class trip to the circus, has informed me that he wants to be an elephant trainer when he grows up. I’m personally against keeping any animal in captivity, particularly endangered elephants, and certainly against training them to perform. When I told my son “no way,” he got upset and ran to his room. How can I make him understand that elephant trainer is a horrible career choice? – Jayne L., via email
DEAR JAYNE: OK, first, remind yourself that your son is 6 years old. Kids at that age cycle through a lot of exciting career choices: fireman, policeman, trapeze artist, cowboy – a lot of things capture their fancy.
While I respect your stance on performing animals, I think saying a flat “no” to your son isn’t the best way to go about it. At 6, he’s old enough for you to have a conversation with him about your opposition to trained elephants.
You also can encourage him to explore other ways to work with animals while he’s still fascinated with the subject. Take him to visit a local nature preserve or conservation center, and join a tour group or talk with one of the staff about the work they do with local animals. Look for age-appropriate kids’ programming – DVDs, cable TV or on services like Netflix – that discusses efforts to protect endangered elephants and other wild animals.
In short, your son is beginning to explore the world and his place in it. You can figuratively slam the door on career options that you abhor, or you can be his guide and help him think through certain issues and learn more about ways to help animals.
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