How Do I Handle My 4 yr Old Son Killing Our Gerbil?
My 7 year daughter purchased a pair of gerbils with money she had saved last week. We are a multi pet household and both of our children have been raised in this environment. Over the first week we developed a play system with the gerbils in which we allowed them for short periods to run free with us (The whole family) in my daughter's room away from the other animals. We laid down several rules pertaining to the gerbils safety specifically not being to active as not to accidentally step on one.
Yesterday we allowed the children to play with them unattended. While the thought of one of them getting accidentally squashed crossed my mind I thought it would be fine. My daughter had left the room for some reason leaving my son (4) alone with the gerbils. A short time later maybe 3-5 minutes, when she returned one of the gerbils was dead.
I assumed a tragic accident had happened, however when I went into the room it was apparent that this was no accident. I don't want to make it sound like some sort of mutilation because that is not the case but there was blood smears in about an 8 inch circle and the gerbil had blood coming out of its nose and ears. I then came back out to my son and took him to an isolated part of the house and questioned him. He told me that he pushed down too hard on the gerbil and blood came out. I questioned him about the amount of blood and he told me he dipped his finger in the gerbils ear and smeared it on the carpet. I am suspicious that the gerbil would hold still long enough to be pushed on without an initial swat.
My concerns are many fold. First is the obvious concern about my sons behavior and what it could mean. He is a very sweet and empathetic boy. He does however get aggressive with both the pets and people. He doesn't hit or bite but during play he sometimes clenches his teeth and pinches or squeezes too hard and I have seen him stomp on the dogs tails or paws. I have chalked this up to being a boy. When his mom asked him if he was trying to kill the gerbil he said yes, but when we asked if wanted the gerbil to be dead he said no. I was wondering if he has a disconnect there or if he is regretful that he has to deal with the questions?
I'm also concerned that as empathetic as he normally is, he doesn't seem very sad. I would like to believe this was a tragic mistake but I don't want to brush it under the rug. We have had talk about how sad and wrong this was and how he needs to act in the future. I also don't want to verbally badger him about it either. What I really need to know is should I just let it go and be vigilant or is there something to be gained by further questioning.