Saturday, November 9, 2013

Who Will Let the Dogs Out?

You know how sometimes your gut is right? A little voice of reason nags you from the back of your mind and despite common sense you disregard it and deeply regret it later?

Yeah, that's how I feel about our dog. There are two types of people in the world, animal and non-animal people. Don’t hate me dog lovers, I can’t help it. I am not an animal person. That’s why I didn’t want a dog but worse, I didn’t want to be the kind of mother who denied her children the opportunity to grow up with a dog. (The sacrifices we mother’s make are endless, I tell ya!).

My children were pleading and begging and promising if I said yes to the dog they’d take care of it. I knew better. My gut told me I would be the one stuck caring for the puppy but I told myself that I would stand strong and not be that mom that caves and end up doing all the work myself. In hindsight I can see now how we were all lying to ourselves.

Five years later it is still a battle to get someone to take out the dog. Every day my kids scatter so they’re not around when dog needs to go out. Every day they mysteriously remember that they forgot they have homework at precisely the time dog needs to potty. Or ironically, everyone is locked in a bathroom taking care of their own business when the dog needs to go out.

I’ve done everything I know to do. I made a rotating schedule on whose turn it is to take the dog. I made a sticker chart with a prize at the end. I even put out treats. For the dog? No! I set out treats for the kid who takes the dog out. In desperation I even threatened to take the dog back but none of it worked. Instead we bicker and battle and point fingers at who’s turn it is to take her out.

I should have gone with my gut!

My exasperation got so bad the other day, and my nerves were completely frayed, that I took it out the nearest kid I could find. I yelled at my son when he argued with me about not taking a turn with the dog. I gave him a verbal lashing so severe that his entire posture winced with every word I spat. And while he did end up taking out the dog I could plainly see he had been hurt.

It was not my proudest moment and I immediately regretted my words.

What I am trying to do is to teach my kids responsibility and compliance. Not berate them into submission. I’m not running any army troop here I’m raising human beings.

I may have been frustrated. I might have even been justified regarding my children’s laziness but the way I choose to deal with it did not serve my goal.

In fact, my kid avoided me for the rest of the night. Which means I missed out on any opportunity to connect with him about his day.

Sadly, if I taught my son anything it was that verbal abuse is an acceptable response to anger. What a terrible example and worse, double standard. He would have been severely punished had he spoken to me that way.

Certainly this was not my best parenting moment. I deeply regret my behavior and have since apologized to my son. Not one of us parents perfectly. But here’s the bottom line; shaming our children is not okay. While it is easily understandable that our initial response is to lash out when we reach our limit, it is frankly a dangerous and immature way to behave.

I want my children to grow up feeling brave and self-confident. In order for that to happen for them I need to build them up, not tear them down. Yelling about dogs and laziness certainly doesn’t instill the behaviors I’m trying to cultivate.

Our dog Libby
Kids drive us crazy. They always will. Add a dog to the mix and its any wonder mothers aren’t certifiably mad. Yet it is my responsibility to figure out how to balance all the craziness. That would be the best example to set for my kids. Well, that and I guess I'll take a turn taking the dog out. Even though I vowed I wouldn't have to. Next time I'm standing out in the yard waiting for the dog to do her business I'll remind myself to go with my gut. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why!

This article appears as a part of her weekly Practical Parenting series for The Review Atlas. Stephanie is a mother to five children and a parent educator for the Monmouth-Roseville school district. She hosts playgroups, parenting classes and wishes she had a fenced in yard for her dog. She can be reached at

This is not the first time our dog has inspired my articles. Remember that one time I used her to MY advantage? Take that curfew!

Read all my Practical Parenting Articles here.

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