They Don’t Speak My Language

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?

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who speak a different language than their children.

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15 Responses to “They Don’t Speak My Language”

  1. Debbie says:

    Hi Amy,

    Children are a real challenge. What I would probably do is make a schedule out for them when it comes to who’s turn it is, and let them know that if they don’t want to take care of the dog you will find some little boy that would really appreciate having the little guy. They have a week to settle down and take care of him or her end of story.
    What I did with my girls is that the more they complained about things needing done the more a give them to do. I told them that life was full of things we don’t always want to do, but have to be done. Now if they wanted to complain I would make sure they did have something to really complain about.

    Guess maybe at times I was a little tough, but always remembered to thank them for doing things and sometimes we did special things, because mom had more help which in turn gave mom extra time for those special things.

    Hang in there, parenting can be a thankless job at times, but in the long run it is wonderful.


    • Amy says:


      No kidding about the thankless aspect! I can deal with that, it’s just the endless banging of my head against brick walls that gets to me.

      The schedule idea is a great plan and one I think we’ll implement. If nothing else, we gotta finish getting the puppy housebroken, and she needs more structure.

      After experimenting with pretty much everything else, I also agree that giving them more work when they complain is the only thing that works. It’s just really hard to do that, you know?

  2. mostafa says:

    Hang in there, parenting can be a thankless job at times, but in the long run it is wonderful.

  3. Stu Mark says:

    My opinion is this: Teaching work ethic to kids is slow and painful. Accepting that is one way to find peace. Another thing to do is to set up a calendar of dog responsibilities. This will become the impartial arbiter of the situation, which will make it easier for the kids to accept. Eventually they won’t need it (if you’re lucky), but for the moment, you’ll find it a lot easier to point to the schedule and say, “See, it’s so-and-so’s turn to do such-and-such.” Then they won’t be able to point fingers as easily. I find this works for just about all our responsibility-oriented issues.
    .-= Stu Mark´s last blog ..Passover Thoughts =-.

    • Amy says:

      Stu you’re right. I’d done the calendar/schedule thing in the past with no success, but now that they’re older it seems to be more helpful. In fact, we implemented a schedule for school and I’ve actually run into resistance if I let them slide on it at all. Who woulda thought?

      The calendar can be a great third party arbitrator without any emotional baggage.

  4. ceejay says:

    I think everyone in today’s society is ‘too busy’ to focus on important issues like teaching our children about good work ethic. Along with the fact that our children are being expected to do more homework and more activities than that of former generations. This is causing we, as parents, to put important values like work ethic on the back burner. As a result we are seeing more and more ‘lazy kids’. I believe we parents need to place more importance in instilling a good work ethic in our kids in order to secure their own futures. I think more responsibility is in order for our children.

    • Amy says:

      ceejay, that’s a fascinating take on things. The “busyness” of all the activities does take away the responsibility opportunities for children. For better or worse, Hubby absolutely hates to be overscheduled, and I’m not exactly fond either. So at least we have that going for us. 🙂

  5. Stu Mark says:

    Responding to the aversion to overscheduling: I hear that, and I run our house with an underscheduling vibe. However, as we all know, aversions can lead parents to go the opposite way, rather than the middle. Creating a solid work ethic in our kids requires, in my opinion, a firm commitment to a schedule. Limiting the number of scheduled events is good (for those who think that way), but when something *is* on the schedule, the calendar should be treated with the utmost respect.

    Also, my wife and I, in order to create the work ethic, put all our stuff on the public calendar, so that the kids can see their parents walking the walk.
    .-= Stu Mark´s last blog ..Jass Cott Plays Zappa’s "Son Of Mr. Green Genes" =-.

    • Amy says:

      Stu, the public calendar sounds like a great plan. I haven’t been doing that for the kids, just keeping a private calendar for Hubby and me. I’ll get that going! Thanks for the suggestion, my friend.

  6. Lynne Foster says:

    good article…. i enjoyed it.. good job amy

  7. Marlene says:

    My husband loves dogs so he would probably be the one to walk the dog every morning without arguing, though I would argue if he’d ask me.

    It seems that you’ve been using crutches for quite a while now than I did. I am hoping for your quick recovery.

    I don’t have kids of my own but I work with kids in school. Indeed, they are good at arguing. Not a day with them without an argument. Sometimes it’s challenging, sometimes provoking.

    • Amy says:

      LOL Marlene, I’m glad your husband would be walking the dog for you. Yes, I’m still (!) on crutches but hoping to be off in the next few days or weeks. My doc officially told me to start working my way off of them, and I went to physical therapy for the first time. Yay for progress! I’m glad you’ve already recovered.

      Yea, that arguing can really take the stuffing out of a person. I’ve been working on laughing at them when they get too whiny and they’ve been sucked into laughing too. It helps.

  8. Hey amy!

    really good post…. yeah, i agree with mostafa! There may be hard times, however, in the long run its wonderful!! 🙂

    best wishes! 🙂

    • Amy says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! I’ve been working on seeing the wonderful in the boys a bit more lately. So far, so good!

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