What happens when a teen feels one way about a particular issue or problem and the parent has a very different take? At Your Teen, we understand that sometimes you need to look at a problem from multiple perspectives. It can also be helpful to hear from a neutral third party. That’s when we bring in a parenting expert to provide the practical advice you need to bridge the divide and help restore harmony. Here, a parent, a teen, and an expert grapple with the question about whether or not to get a dog.
I Don’t Want a Dog
My seventh grader has her heart set on getting a golden retriever. I love dogs, but my answer is no. Here’s why:
First of all, the responsibility to walk the dog would fall on me or my husband whenever my active daughter has a sports game or play practice, or whenever it gets too cold or dark outside for her to walk the dog herself (going in our yard isn’t an option). Considering that my 4-year-old son still needs help wiping his behind, I feel that I deal with enough poop already.
Also, my husband commutes a long way to work. On evenings when he isn’t home yet and my daughter can’t walk the dog herself, I’d either have to find someone to walk the dog for me or haul my three kids out with me since my teen isn’t mature enough yet to watch her 4-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister alone.
Furthermore, we live in a split-level home. A big dog like a golden retriever, or even a smaller dog, could knock my 4-year-old down the many stairs in our home.
Lastly, I’m a writer who needs silence to work. As is, I steal pockets of time to write when the kids are sleeping, in school, or otherwise not home. A dog would further complicate the silence I need to work.
I don’t want a dog. It’s just not the right time.
When she isn’t debating with her daughter over getting a dog, Dolores Smyth is a writer whose work has been published in numerous online and print publications. You can find her on Twitter @LolaWordSmyth.
I Want a Dog
My mom grew up with dogs as pets. Now that I want a dog, my mom won’t let me have one.
I love playing with the dogs that live on our street. I especially love golden retrievers. Ever since I saw a movie starring a golden retriever, I’ve been in awe of that magnificent, graceful dog, and I always wish I had one of my own.
If my parents got me a golden retriever, I’d walk her in any weather. I’d take an umbrella if it was raining, big enough to cover me and our dog. I’d also dress our dog in warm sweaters if it was very cold out and make sure to cover up her paws to protect them from the snow.
Even if I couldn’t walk the dog myself, I’m old enough to watch my little brother and sister alone at home even though my mom doesn’t think so. My teachers and coaches all say that I’m responsible and hardworking.
I would be fine with getting another type of dog as long as it wasn’t too little. If the dog bothers my mom while she is writing, I will keep the dog in my room with the door closed.
Christina Smyth is an aspiring writer who was listed as an honor roll author in Stone Soup Magazine. She loves animals, her friends and family, and all things purple.
Should You Get a Dog?
While both mother and daughter make thoughtful, reasonable arguments, I’m going to advise Christina to take the long view. Dolores isn’t trying to let her daughter down. In fact, I get the sense that Dolores wishes she could accommodate Christina’s wishes. She loves dogs but is realistic about her fears, responsibilities, and limitations. She’s overwhelmed by the demands of parenting three children while working from home and also worried that a dog might knock her 4-year-old son down the stairs. Plus, Dolores recognizes that Christina has a busy life of her own. As a teen, she has to divide her time between school, extracurriculars, and home. Christina’s offer to keep the dog in her room so her mother can work is genuine, but unfortunately, it’s not a promise she can keep.
But there’s good news, too. Dolores’s hard “no” relates to logistics, not an aversion to pet ownership. She isn’t saying “never”; she’s simply communicating that it’s “not time.” Christina would be wise to use the next year or so to prove her maturity. She can get some babysitting experience and help her parents care for her younger siblings. She can even use that time to research dogs that might be a better fit for her family. In the meantime, her brother will continue to grow more independent. He won’t be 4 forever, and if Christina is patient and plays her cards right, her mother might be willing to revisit this decision sooner rather than later.
Phyllis L. Fagell, LCPC, is the school counselor at Sheridan School in Washington, D.C., a therapist at the Chrysalis Group in Bethesda, Maryland, and the author of Middle School Matters. She blogs at phyllisfagell.com and tweets at @pfagell.