Shadow (German Shepherd/Collie/Mongrel) joined our family when our oldest daughter was eighteen months old. He died peacefully in his sleep when she was fifteen, under the trampoline where he spent many hours â€śsupervisingâ€ť as our children played and jumped above him. He lived a full, long life, but it was hard to say â€śGoodbyeâ€ť or think of replacing him. Nine months ago a beautiful white bundle of energy (Husky/Malamut) joined our family. Our children named him Olaf, after the snowman from the movie, Frozen. Olaf has reminded me of several important truths regarding parenting:
1. Love unconditionally
It takes puppies and children time to learn whatâ€™s expected.
- Olaf chews shoes
- Olaf knocks people over because he doesnâ€™t know how to control his enthusiastic energy
- Olaf goes where heâ€™s not supposed to go (like to our neighborâ€™s to chase cows!)
- Our children spill milk
- Our children are often accidently rude
- Our children do things that are socially unacceptable (like intruding on peopleâ€™s personal space).
As parents, we need to remember that our children are still learning and use their mistakes (and ours) as learning opportunities. Harshness alienates; Love builds bridges. We need to love our children unconditionally.
2. Set boundaries
In order to teach Olaf what we expect, weâ€™ve had to set boundaries for him. He used to stay in our yard well. However, when he discovered cows and a female dog at our neighborâ€™s, he started to roam more. We had to set boundaries by restricting him to a certain area where he still has room to run and play, but heâ€™s not getting into trouble.
Children need boundaries too. We donâ€™t put babies down on the floor when there are small items they can choke on. We donâ€™t give our young children hundreds of dollars to carry in their pockets. We set appropriate boundaries to keep them safe. Then as they grow and mature, we change the boundaries and allow our children to be more and more independent.
3. Train consistently
The boundaries we set should be temporary â€“ they should expand as our puppy learns and becomes more mature. We need to teach Olaf and train him to stay in our yard. We need to teach him to follow our commands like, â€śCome, Sit, Down, Stay.â€ť This training has to take place repeatedly and consistently. Sometimes we may use rewards. Other times weâ€™ll use tools like a leash.
Our children also need to be trained consistently. We need to teach them basics:
- How to dress themselves
- How to eat
- How to go to the bathroom
- Even how to sleep.
We also need to teach them skills like:
- Money management
- How to clean their room
Teaching takes time. It needs to be intentionally built into our days, so that itâ€™s repetitive and we can correct and instruct as our children learn by trial and error.
(This post will be continued next month)
What has worked for you as a parent in the areas of demonstrating unconditional love, setting boundaries, andÂ training?
Ruth L. Snyder and her husband Kendall continue to seek Godâ€™s wisdom in raising their five children, ages 7-17. Ruth shares her adventures in writing and photography atÂ http://ruthlsnyder.com.