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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

We’ve had the dog for seven months now. She’s adorable and wonderful, but not completely housebroken. I think it has something to do with the fact that we’re constantly just taking her out instead of encouraging her to let us know she needs to go. Well. Hubby and I bug the boys to take her out several times a day.

Lately, this has gotten to be a bit of a sore point. An adult says, “The dog needs to be taken out” and the boys all point fingers at one another, or an argument breaks out over who took her last and whose turn it is now for the chore. Last night they didn’t put her in her crate and she wet on the floor in the older boys’ bedroom. I know this because I was rousted at 5am with a request for paper towel.

Then, when Hubby and I got home this morning after some errands, they were cleaning up yet another mess. I’m concerned that she’ll never be properly housebroken if this keeps up. The boys get in front of a tv or computer screen and she is forgotten entirely. I can’t tell you how many pencils and small plastic toys have been shredded at their feet without them noticing a thing.

The real sore point, though, is the arguing. We made a plan for turn-taking, but that doesn’t stop them from complaining or even crying and arguing when it’s their turn. (I’m still on crutches from the accident in January so cannot take her out myself. I would if I could, but right now the responsibility rests on them.) After two years of begging for a puppy, you would think they could handle the whole “take out the dog” thing better. It’s not like one child is saddled with all the work; there are 4 of them to split things up. For the most part, they don’t even have to think about it because their parents are willing to remind them.

We expected that there would need to be parental guidance with the dog chores. That’s no problem…what family hasn’t gotten a pet and then needed to “help” the children with care? What drives me crazy is them arguing as if they shouldn’t have to do the job in the first place. Do they think that if they fuss enough, the dog won’t need to go? I wouldn’t mind if there was moaning and groaning from a boy while he was on his way out the door. But crying? Pouting? Arguing? Not loving that.

Growing up, we had horses and that meant going out to the barn twice a day for feeding, plus stall-cleaning and exercising. All in all, it was a big commitment. Did I always want to go out and take care of my jobs? Of course not. But I understood that the job existed and therefore needed to be done. Period. In fact, a recurring nightmare of mine (even now, 20 years after I sold my last horse) is that I haven’t fed the horses or cleaned their stalls in too long.

I asked my mother recently about my attitude and she confirmed that I wasn’t remembering only my wonderful qualities without being honest about my failings. In general, I was as I am now: I may not feel like doing a particular task, but I don’t argue about whether or not it should be done in the first place.

The boys do the same thing with their schoolwork. It’s routine-almost daily-to argue with someone about whether or not they should do their work. I have explained eleventy-thousand times that they must, by law, be in school. And yet, the arguments continue. Again, it’s fine to just moan and say, “I don’t feel like it”. But to question whether they need to do the job in the first place? Just isn’t part of my character.

So, here we are. Neither side can understand the other, and neither side seems willing to back down. In my case, backing down isn’t an option in the first place.

How do you instill a work ethic in your kids?

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