Connecting moms in Polk County, Fla.
My stepdaughter visits us each weekend and we enjoy her company very much. However, she seems to be quite jealous of our dog. We're not sure why but the only reason we can think of is maybe because he gets to live with us all the time? She plays with him but we've noticed that she is also unusually rough with him and will sometimes try to spank him and say he is a bad boy for any given reason. How's the best way to handle this?
My daughter used to do this with our cat. He actually used to hide when she was around. Finally when she turned twelve, she calmed down and I guess he could tell it right away because he stopped hiding when she came to visit. They weren't the best of friends, but she no longer tried to blame things on him or try to hit him. Hopefully, as your daughter gets older, she'll see the dog as a part of the family and make friends with him. - M. T. in Chicago, IL
Many kids do this to family pets regardless if they are there all the time in the household or only part of the time. There are several reasons that she may be rough with him. Sometimes, kids feel that the pet gets more love and attention. However, with your stepdaughter, it could be a simple fact that she is indeed jealous because she has to leave her dad and the pet gets to stay. Another reason kids seem to take out their frustration on the family pet is that once a child has been reprimanded over whatever, they will in turn want to get the next closest person, or animal in your case, in trouble right along with them so that they don't have to be the only “bad” target in the house. If you will listen closely when she is scolding the dog, you may very well hear her using the same or similar words when scolding the pet that she heard when she got into trouble. Or, she may have gotten into trouble earlier in the week and is just repeating phrases. The best thing to do might be to keep a watchful eye on her when she is around him but also to be conscience of how much attention is given to both. If she's old enough, let her help to feed, walk and all around play with your dog and to praise her for good behavior with him. Tell her how much the pet misses her when she's not around and how happy he is when you tell him she's coming over. If she feels like he really loves her she will most likely settle down and love him back. Either way, supervised interaction between the two will be mandatory for a while.
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