Making it my business: it’s all about consistency

Helping parents let go and finding the holy grail of housebreaking.

Advice. Let me show you it.

Dear Valerie,

I need some help with mastering that weird transition into being my parents’ adult child. It’s like they don’t get they’re not my main source of advice-giving, so they compensate by bulking up on the guilt trip. I understand that they’re effectively jobless if I’m independent, but seriously.

Miss All-Grows Up

I’ve gone through a similarly difficult time making this transition with my mother. It didn’t help that I was her youngest and I got married first. In the first few weeks after we got back from our honeymoon, my mom called me constantly and actually told me that she expected me to check in with her every day to tell her what I was doing.

That’s right.

While I wanted to respond with a resounding, “Are you insane?!?” I went with the more diplomatic, “Mom, I’m doing great. But I’ll be sure to call you if I need anything.” She wasn’t thrilled with that response but she couldn’t be angry with it either. And I made the point to call her a couple times a week at first with questions, some real, some made up, to make her still feel needed.

Don’t get me wrong. We still have our ups and downs and huge servings of guilt shoved my way every once in a while. But when my mom plays the “I just don’t feel like you need me” card, I take a deep breath and say, “You just did a really good job teaching me to be independent. You should be proud that I’m capable of doing things on my own.”

When dealing with issues, try to keep these four points in mind:

1. Don’t yell. Yelling makes you look immature any way you slice it. And they will ultimately flashback to that time when you were three and screaming “I DO IT MYSELF!” while trying to put your arms through your pant leg.

2. Edit carefully. You don’t need to tell you parents about everything in your life. From my experience, parents feel the need to fix things. They seem to assume that just because you’re mentioning a problem that you’re asking for advice. If you don’t want advice, don’t bring it up.

3. Pick your battles. Just as your parents learned to let things go when you were growing up, you’ll need to do the same with them during this transition. It might take a few deep breaths at first, but soon you’ll be able to smile straight through your mothers’ comments about how she can’t believe your boss lets you come to work with your hair looking like that without a second thought.

4. Be respectful and patient. You’re here because of them and you’ve been their main focus since they found out you were on the way. “I love you” and “thank you” go a long way.

Dear Valerie,

I’m having a really hard time housebreaking my dog. No matter what we do, we can’t seem to figure out when he’s telling us that he needs to go outside. Any tips?

Perturbed Pup-Parent

I’ve gotta say, even though I’m bad at getting my dogs to stop jumping on people, I’m awesome at getting them over the whole crapping in the house phase. So you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s what you do:

1. Go to Michael’s or any craft store and by a medium-sized or large bell.

2. Yes, a bell.

3 . Tie the bell to the door you use when taking the dog out. Make sure it hangs low enough where the dog can reach it.

4. Take your dog’s paw and show him how to swat at the bell and make it ring.

5. Take him outside immediately.

6. Keep him outside until he does his business.

7. Praise him to the high heavens.

7. Repeat steps 4-7 whenever you take him out, based on his normal “business” schedule.

Now I can guarantee that as soon as your dog realizes that bell = time outside, he will ring it over and over again just to see what you do. During this training time, you MUST take him out each time he rings the bell. But, if he doesn’t get busy as soon as you go out, bring him right back in. No scolding, no praising. Just no more time outside.

We did this after struggling for a few weeks with our first dog and it worked immediately. Even better, we didn’t even have to train our second one to do this; she just copied what our first dog did.

Now maybe you can tell me what to do about the jumping. Thoughts, Internets?

(Got a question? Send it my way, little grasshopper.)

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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