"Why would Burton run away?" I asked. It was my turn to be tentative. My son, however, was gaining momentum. "I figured he would because you keep saying you will kill him and beat him if he does something and that's not nice at all," he stated. Now let me explain that he is a sweet dog but he's also addicted to diaper shredding and food stealing. This behavior has escalated because of the new baby and, although I love him with all my heart, he's been on my last nerve. I have reserved every last bit of patience for my kids and there isn't much left for my Burtie.
"If you are frustrated you should just walk away and take a break. Or you could say, 'Burtie, please don't eat Rosie's diapers,' my son continued. At first, defensiveness swarmed in my head. I thought, "I would never really hurt him - He's just driving me insane! He's adding ten more messes a day to my line up and I'm exhausted! You would be mad too!" Then I looked into those big earnest eyes of my son and realized it was all empty excuses. I don't have the right to lose my patience with the dog any more than I do with the kids.
It was the first time one of my children has used my words to admonish me. And you know what? I absolutely deserved it. I needed to be reminded that I am accountable for my behavior, too. I thanked my son for bringing it to my attention and promised him I would work on it. I asked him to help me out a bit with Burton - Maybe clean up a few of the messes with me or help take him on walks. He agreed that this would be a team effort.
Have your kids ever used your words to let you know your behavior is out of line? Do you respond defensively or openly to the criticism?