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Dog Doo To Do

by Elizabeth Pantley, Contemporary Books, 2001

“Dad! I’m home!” Melody announced her arrival from school in the typical way. “Where are you?’

“In my office, Mel,” Kevin answered. She ambled in, knowing she’d get a hug, a smile, and an inquiry about her day. After they exchanged greetings and Melody told him about her day at school, she turned to leave the room. Kevin stopped her. “Mel? Before you go out to play, would you mind picking up the dog doo in the yard? You know you’re suppose to do it in the morning before you leave.”

Melody wrinkled her nose. “Sorry, Daddy. I forgot. I’ll do it.”

A while later, Kevin finished his work. As he entered the kitchen to start dinner, he spotted Melody out on the swing set. He also spotted the various brown lumps decorating his lawn. Kevin opened the window and called out to remind his daughter, “Melody! Don’t forget to pick up the dog doo!”

“OK!” she answered back cheerfully.

Soon after, Kevin called Melody for dinner. “What do you say we eat outside? It’s really nice out.” As the two of them toted their food out to the picnic table, Kevin had to sidestep several doggie deposits. “Mel, this is really gross. I wish you’d get it picked up.”

“I’ll do it right after dinner. Promise.” Melody looked contrite, but her Dad looked unconvinced.

Dad and daughter enjoyed a very pleasant dinner, despite the canine ambiance, catching up on the day’s news and tossing around ideas for the upcoming weekend. As soon as they’d cleared the picnic table and tidied up the kitchen, Melody gathered up her homework and began studying diligently for her math test.

Kevin put his hand on her shoulder. “Honey…I’m really proud of you for being so conscientious about your homework. . . but are you ever going to pick up that dog doo?”

The Hidden Message
“If you can put up with the drone of my voice, go ahead and feel free to ignore me. I don’t plan to take any action about this issue at all.”

Think About It
An inescapable part of parenting is getting our children to do many things they’d rather not, like picking up dog doo, taking out trash, cleaning their rooms, and finishing homework. When a parent continues to remind, ask, beg, pester, and yes, nag a child about a task, but fails to follow through with any action, the parent actually gives the child an interesting choice: either listen to the nagging, or do the task. The child is free to decide that the minimal pain of listening to a parent beg over and over is a small price to pay for sidestepping the dreaded deed. And children often do, sometimes without realizing it.

All of Kevin’s comments to Melody are vague, and without any follow through action on his part he may as well say, “If you could manage to pick up the dog doo sometime before your next birthday, that would be really nice…”

Changes You Can Make
You can avoid falling into the nagging trap. Simply follow this four-step process:

  1. Think;
  2. Tell;
  3. Warn;
  4. Act.
  1. Think. Before you ask your child to do something, think about exactly what you want, when you want it done, and how your child should proceed. Be clear about your purpose.
  2. Tell. Once you’re certain about what you want, tell your child. Be specific. Avoid any phrase that makes your request sound optional. For example, “Melody, I would like the dog doo picked up before we sit down to dinner at 6:00.”
  3. Warn. If the deadline looms and the requested task has not been completed, let your child know that you are aware of this, and remind her to get the job done. “Melody, dinner will be ready in ten minutes. You are to pick up the dog doo before we eat.”
  4. Act. If the deadline has been reached and the task has not been performed, you have a wide variety of options that all come under the heading “Act.”A) You could nudge your child in the right direction either with physical help (Put the shovel and bucket in her hand and guide her out to the yard.)B) You could use a when-then statement (“Melody, I’ll be eating my dinner in the kitchen. When you have picked up the dog doo, then you may join me.”)C) You might follow through with a consequence (“Melody, since you didn’t do as I asked, you’ll be staying home after dinner instead of going to your friend’s house as you had planned.)D) If this is a repeat offense, you might invite your child to sit down for a heart-to-heart. Express your displeasure and your expectation. Brainstorm a solution to the problem. For example, you may decide that she needs to create a checklist and keep it posted in a prominent place, such as on the front of the refrigerator, so that she’ll remember to do her chore each day. Then hand her a piece of paper, a ruler and a box of markers and ask her to create the checklist then and there.

    E) You might choose to do it yourself. I know, I know—you’re thinking, “What!?!” But wait, you didn’t let me finish. Do it yourself and let her know which of your jobs she can do for you. (“It’s 6:00, and since you did not pick up the dog doo, I took the time to do it for you. Which means that, in return, you’ll take the time to pull the weeds for me after dinner.”)

Keep in mind that, if you already have demonstrated a gift for ‘gentle reminding, asking, nagging and hinting’, it will take some time to convince your child that you have changed. And she’ll only get the hint that you mean business if you’re consistent in employing the last step (“act”). If you repeat step 3 (“warn”), twice, three times, a dozen times … then you defeat the process and default into your old Nag Mode.

Copyright Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)

About the author:
Elizabeth Pantley is the author of several books, including
Gentle Baby Care : No-cry, No-fuss, No-worry — Essential Tips for Raising Your Baby, The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night, Kid Cooperation (with an introduction by William Sears, MD), Perfect Parenting, as well as her latest The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers and is also president of Better Beginnings, Inc. She is a popular speaker on family issues, and her newsletter, Parent Tips, is seen in schools nationwide. She appears as a regular radio show guest, and has been quoted in Parents, Parenting, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Working Mother, and Woman’s Day magazines. Visit Elizabeth’s web site

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