Attitude adjustment

… mine, that is, not theirs. I’ve been checking myself lately regarding my approach toward contributions. I had been slowly losing my sense of purpose around inviting (ordering) the girls to help more around the house. When I read a recent post from Vicki, a light bulb went on:

1. Who am I doing this for?

    Believe it or not, when you train your brain to stop and ask “Who am I doing this for?” you can suddenly find yourself faced with a truth that will alter your course of action quickly and decisively. How many times have you made a parenting decision based on someone other than your child?

2. What is my purpose in doing this?

    Asking ourselves what the “purpose” in doing something is, helps clear the crap and provide an illuminated path towards our true purpose. (Is my purpose to get the house picked up because neat houses mean neat families or to help my kids learn how important their cooperation is to the health of the family?)

—from Five Most Essential Parenting Questions

Ah, clarity. Now, when the urge to nag about the mess, the stuff, the spill, the clothes, the dishes inevitably bubbles up, these two questions provide the needed attitude adjustment: Stop. Why am I about to say what I’m about to say? What’s really important here? Sometimes it takes a few minutes, but the shift in the air is palpable. And the odds of getting the girls’ cooperation skyrocket.


For me, it’s socks. If an unexpected solution surfaces, I’ll let you know. Especially if it involves dog slobber.

While I’m on the topic of contributions, I’d like to share another bit of inspiration from an unexpected source: 4 Legs & a Tail: A Magazine for Pet & Animal Lovers. The title of one of their articles caught my eye because in the last few years I’ve noticed quite a few overlaps between improving my relationships with my daughters and improving my relationships with my dogs (trust them, be both firm & kind, when in doubt shut your mouth, etc).

But the moral of the story below turned out to be: question your assumptions, go slow, and stay open to unexpected solutions. (Oh yeah, also: bribes don’t work.) Enjoy.

How to Train a Dog/Teenager

by Tim Hoehn

I always refer to that time between the end of fall foliage and the first snowfall as Gray Stick season. It was on a particular Saturday morning during Gray Stick that I found myself just killing time at the Norwich Bookstore. Sure, I could have been home, knocking off a few from the honey do list. But then, what would I do in February when re-staining dog-chewed woodwork is actually a welcomed prescription for cabin fever.

As I slowly shuffled through the store, I came to heal in the Dog Training section. There were more than a dozen books, all with well-behaved dogs on the cover and smiling pet owners next to them (although, all the humans were very attractive, so they could have been models. Come to think of it, so were the dogs. Is there such thing as a dog model?). Thumbing through several of the books, I found that, although the names of the dogs were different and the profound impact on “Masters” life varied slightly from book to book, the message was essentially the same. All you needed to get man’s best friend to sit, stay and speak is patience and some yum-yum treats.

As a father, I contemplated the simplicity of basic Behavior Modification and realized, if you can train a dog, you should be able to train your adolescent daughter using the same principles…patience and yum-yums. After all kids are smarter than dogs (or at the very least should be, with the amount of property taxes I pay that go to the school district). Kids have more complex communication skills than the family dog. Dog speak is a bark, a ruff-ruff or, maybe a howl. Whereas, with your kid you’ll get a plethora of communications such as: “Ewwww,” “Huh,” “Word” (which is new slang for yes) and the non-spoken “What planet are you from?” gaze.

Yum–yums are the problem. An industrial size box of dog treats is less than ten bucks. I have friends who pay their kid $25 for every A on their report card, plus an additional $50 if they make honor roll. With three marking periods per year, you do the math. Yes, Katie does well in school, but do you think she could put a dish in the dishwasher instead of the sink? The problem is that we live in a high-tech society. Kids are motivated by iPods, iPads and smartphones…a trip to Dairy-Twirl just don’t cut it anymore.

So with patience well in hand, and a gift card for Abercrombie & Fitch, I decided to train my kid. According to the dog book, it is best to start small, with the basics, and work your way up. Pick something that is achievable and will please both master and dog/kid. Easy. My daughter wears her hair long and ties it back with florescent colored hair bands. The only problem is that there are more hair bands lying around the house than in her hair. Hair bands on the bathroom sink. Hair bands on the kitchen counter. We even have dozens of hair bands wrapped around the stick shift in the car. It’s time to train the kid to take care of her hair bands.

And so…it begins. I patiently explain the issue of the hair bands all over the house and car, to which she replies…”Huh?” I then patiently ask if she would like an Abercrombie gift card for picking up her hair bands? Word! At this point, I’m feeling pretty good with thoughts that I might just be the next Dr. Phil.

Unfortunately, that was the high point of my “Great Experiment.” As days turned into weeks, hair bands seemed to multiply everywhere. With positive reinforcement thrown out the window and my patience worn thin, it was time to chuck the book and go to plan B.

As I gathered my composure, I casually mentioned to her one evening that she really needs to take care of her hair bands, because the dog was eating them. As she flashed me that quizzical glance of, “how do you know?” I responded that I have been finding them in the yard when I clean up after the dog. And when she asked what I did with them after, my simple and patience response was, “I rinse them off and put them back in your drawer”.


Needless to say, the hair bands were never an issue again and I re-gifted the gift card. Teenager trained.

…teenager trained and relationship intact. 🙂

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One Comment on “Attitude adjustment”

  1. Papa Says:

    Haw!! That has an appealing and believable directness about it.

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