By Jay Tucker
We have a three year old West Highland White Terrier named Max. Max is a pretty good dog, I have to admit. He is obedient, loving, and usually pretty quiet. Max is as gentle with our two children as any dog could be. He contributes daily to Twitter, has 298 friends on FaceBook, and once saved a family from a burning building. O.K., he hasn’t done any of that, but being able to sit up and dance sounded a little boring for the high pressure world of internet blogging.
So maybe Max isn’t Super-Dog. What he is, however, is a member of the family that has taught me a thing or two about parenting. This just goes to prove the old adage, “A young dog can teach a nearly middle-aged man parenting tricks.” Or something like that.
Always Be Clear About What You Need- Max leaves no doubt about when it’s time to go outside to do his “duties”. I have found that when I am unclear about my expectations with my children they usually aren’t met. Sometimes even when I feel like I’ve been absolutely clear about what needs to happen, it doesn’t happen. I’ve learned that sometimes you need to as obvious as jumping and clawing at the door.
Some Temptations Simply Can’t Be Avoided- My daughter left the last third of her chocolate Easter bunny where Max could get to it. Although Max knows that people food isn’t allowed, he just couldn’t resist. Temptation won out. Temptation gets the best of even the hardiest of adults too. Our kids are tempted by so much of what they hear through television and other media. While reasoning with Max doesn’t work, I’ve found that sitting down to talk with my kids about things that aren’t good for them does. Sometimes, however, I have to make sure that their access to temptation is removed completely. Make sure the T.V. is something they look at briefly each day.
Patience is a Must- Our dog lives with a seven year old and a four year old. The things that Max puts up with on a daily basis are truly heroic. The only explanation that I can come up with is that he loves our kids. He gets ridden around the house, startled, and awoken from naps several times per day. He never shows any anger towards his instigators. Instead he wags his tail and continues to play tug of war with his chew toy. Yep, he either loves our kids or figures the food messes they leave are worth the torment.
Even the Potty-Trained Veteran has the Occasional Accident- Max was the easiest dog to train in this area. He’s only left squishy doggy landmines in the house a few times as a puppy. However, if we miss his schedule or leave him alone for too long, he will download. It’s not as though he wanted to do it, but sometimes what happens, happens. We pick it up, take him outside, and try to remember that he really is a good dog.
Quiet Time is a Must- We crate-trained Max as a puppy. This means that he spends a lot of time in his roomy and comfortable doggy crate in the kitchen. The theory behind crate training is that because dogs are naturally den animals, they won’t soil the place they sleep or eat in. Max’s crate has also become his place of refuge. When the kids get too crazy or if Max gets tired, he retreats to his crate for some R and R. We all need at leas a few moments of quiet “me time” during the day. It’s amazing what a little rest can do for the soul.
So take a look at your canine friend today. What is he trying to say to you about parenting? If you are lucky enough to have a collie you can get parenting advice AND directions to what mine Timmy is trapped in. With that I will bow-wow out gracefully, and not a moment too soon.
About the Author
Jay Tucker is fulltime Youth Minister and dad in Florida and author of “The Whole Youth Worker: Advice on Professional, Personal, and Physical Wellness from the Trenches” from Loving Healing Press. You can read more articles by Jay at his website www.BetterYouthMinistry.com·