Tell Me About It: Dog owner will be a fine kid owner

Woman with dog
Is the way I treat my dogs any indication of how I'll treat my children?

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: Do you still feel that the way a person handles their dog is a good indicator of what kind of parent they'll be? Because if that's true my kids are going to be kitten-throttling serial killers. The dogs have too many toys, I plan most vacations so I can bring them along, and I have a habit of praising them for existing. If one of them comes over all waggy, I'll put down my book in a heartbeat to lavish unearned adoration on them.

This means my kids are going to be entitled, self-centered, unsympathetic, instant-gratification-focused nightmares, right? And they probably won't run the vacuum, either.

Answer: I do still think that. And if you plan to treat children exactly as you treat your dogs, then, yes, CPS will look unkindly upon your letting the kids outside to poop in the yard.

Treating your dogs in a way that's right for dogs, though, usually means you'll treat kids in a way that's right for kids, so it's a fine indicator.

Comment: Though I suspect the dog owner was being facetious, I do think it is worth noting that in my experience, not disciplining/training your dog can translate to not setting boundaries for your kids. Personally, I don't think there's anything more annoying than a dog/child that does whatever it wants, be it jumping on people, eating off people's plates, interrupting every conversation to say "look at me" or eating while jumping on the couch.

Both groups benefit from (and want) some boundaries/discipline.

Answer: Right - the discipline appropriate to the species and to the temperament of the dog/child. That was the point of my original, long-ago comment, that the willingness to meet needs and enforce boundaries was predictive. Thanks for bringing it up.

Question: I do not like my father-in-law. He's rude, crass, obnoxious, argumentative, and prone to flying into a rage over inconsequential matters. He also hugs me a bit too close and too long and has been caught looking at porn on our family computer.

I haven't shared my feelings with my husband, because saying "I don't like your dad" just seems mean, and he's also aware of his dad's faults and works hard to make sure he never repeats them.

How do I deal with my feelings during inevitable get-togethers?

Answer: Share what needs family action. "I don't like your dad" is not useful information, but "I'm uncomfortable around him" is, when supported by specific examples.

Also useful is noting that you both need to secure the computer, and asking him for suggestions for dealing with the over-the-line hugs, assuming it's more than just a semiannual nuisance.

Taking this approach will not only avoid adding needlessly to your husband's existing dad-burden, but it will be more honest than pretending you're OK with ol' Dad.

As a bonus, it will help if you ever need to take a real stand on the dad's behavior. Make too much of a fuss over his merely being obnoxious, and your husband won't take you as seriously when you try to argue that his dad has crossed a serious line. Be honest and judicious both.