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Lessons from my dog on parenting

June 1, 2012

Living Loved

I woke up this morning, thinking I was going to write about something altogether different, but when I plodded upstairs to let the dog out of my son’s room in the wee hours of the morning, his vivacious greeting sparked new thoughts. I realized he has taught me much about being a parent, and that he is really just a third child. I think that a lot of things that are true for my dog Cooper, are also true for my kiddos as well. Perhaps these will be fun and helpful little reminders in your parenting journey.

1. Children and dogs respond well to routine.

Every morning, I let the dog out of my son’s room, and every  morning he is waiting for me right by the door. Then he bounds downstairs, jumping, spinning, and wiggling with enthusiasm the entire way. He heads straight for his food bowl where he knows I will deposit yummy morsels. After he scarfs it down, he rings the doggy bell and heads outside for his morning duties.

This is every morning. Without fail.

If ever there is a misstep in the routine, he sits and whines until it is rectified.

Shortly thereafter, the kids both come down the stairs for their breakfast too. Elisabeth always gets dressed and ready first. Nathan just comes down in pjs and sleepy eyes overlaid with his glasses.

Routine makes our children feel safe. There is so little in this world that is within their control (especially for our young ones), that having glimpses of what to expect through routine, gives them joy. Tantrums are reduced, fear subsides, cooperation is elevated, when they can count on a routine. When my kids were little, before they could read, I would write their routine out on a piece of paper with pictures to show them what comes next.

This is harder for free spirited mamas to embrace, but trust me, your life will be much more peaceful if you allow your children to fall into a rhythm.

2. Children and dogs thrive on time spent with their parents (masters).

After my dog is fed, I head to the front room for my early morning quiet time. I snuggle into the couch with a blanket across my lap, sipping my coffee and reading my Bible. Cooper cuddles up right next to me, desiring to be as close as possible. All day long, I find him underfoot, oftentimes tripping over his nearness. When the family is gone, he mopes. When we return home, he comes alive.

Our children are like that as well. They want to be with us, to be near us. It is comforting for them, even if they don’t always express it. Time spent together is investment into the relationship and into their well-being.

3. Children and dogs need lots of physical affection.

Every time I see our dog after extended time apart, he is boisterous and exuberant until I bend to give him scratches and pats. When we rub his belly, he turns over in a calm state of bliss. He loves to put his head on our laps, or cuddle right up next to us. He loves touch.

So, too, our children crave physical touch. Nerves calm, stomachs settle, peace reigns when we take the time to give appropriate physical affection.

4. Children and dogs need time to play.

By play I mean, romp around, unstructured, relaxing, imaginative play. Just as a dog loves to chase his ball, or run in circles, children need to play to grow their brain, to de-stress, and just be a kid. For a myriad of reasons, too many kids are hurried from one activity to another. Even if they do have time to play, it take a good hour for many of them to become engrossed in it, but too full schedules often cut this time short.

My kids just happen to be in a season without sports right now (for the first time in a long time). As I write this, they are playing a rousing game of ping pong together, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. It’s so good.

5. Children and dogs need time to rest.

My dog sleeps most of the day. He will find a cozy sliver of sunshine and stretch long into it. Burst of energy are tempered with a time of refreshment and renewal. And, it is just as important that our children get their rest: that they go to bed at a decent hour, that they are allowed to sleep in, that they take a nap if it’s appropriate, that they balance the activity with the quiet.

6. Children and dogs can be expected to obey.

A two year old can obey just as well as a dog. They should be able to follow the commands: sit, stay, no, come, stop. For their own safety and for their future success, we as parents need to expect at least this much.

7. Children and dogs like to eat.

Okay, so there is no great parenting insights here, just an observation. The right foods at the right time can make both my dog and my children so happy. They also can be trained by it. Just sayin’.

8. Children and dogs both require lots of patience.

Enough said.

My dog is good for my children, and my children are good for my dog, and I have learned a lot from them both. Guess we will let “the furry little brother” stick around for a while.

Always learning as a parent!

  
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