when the cat’s away, beagle will play

I believe in raising my children to be respectful by doing, not telling. If I don’t want my guppies to scream or scold or to yank things out of other people’s hands, then I certainly won’t do it to them. It is more important to me that my children learn to identify and express their emotions, especially in a heated moment, than it is to instantly stop the negative action itself. We’re not talking about fire, knives, or clown hands. When there’s no immediate danger, I try to be consistent, fair, and patient.

Granted, I’m no saint; sometimes I reach for the remote or raise my voice, but if a sampling were taken, an average reading on my overall gold-star parenting, the eyedropper would yield a score of Mellow Yellow. Whereas sweet iron-fisted Phil would score an unquestionable Crimson Tide—the man is equal parts vodka and pomegranate juice. My problem with iron-fisted dictatorship parenting styles is this: kids feel shamed and learn to fear. I want no part in that and believe, with all my heart, that children can be disciplined respectfully, patiently, so they won’t behave like angels in the face of authority, then turn demonic in the face of anyone else.

Mr. BikiniWhich brings me to Mr. Bikini. Not our child, not capable of reasoning. The canine can smell cancer but can’t understand “come.” Okay, so he understands the command just fine. He just chooses to blatantly ignore it… especially when it comes from the mouth of anyone other than master Phil.

Mr. Bikini never comes when I call him near. Just forget commanding him to go in his crate. So, with Phil away these past two weeks, I’ve taken to bribery by way of meatballs. Only now our electronic fence has stopped working, and today Mr. Bikini darted off down our hiking trail into the woods. Asshole.

I was wearing shiny Tory Burch flats and was not about to haul my jean-skirt-clad ass through a scratch field of hell branches and slippery rocks just for the dog to not listen to me in the woods. He was already not listening to me from the playscape. So, I used my lungs and grabbed some balls.

“Kini! Kini, come! Special treat!”

My beans joined me, promising our frisky beagle meat sundaes and hand over fist “mama meatballs!” Still nothing. Our nanny, in sneakers and jeans, navigated the trail and searched for our bunghole dog.

As I called after Mr. Bikini from our playground, a meatball in each fist, Lucas came over and hugged my bare leg. “Mama, stay near me. I don’t want you to go missing, too.”

“Of course, of course. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. You’re safe with me.”

Norma then returned with Mr. Bikini in tow.

“Kini has bad manners,” Abigail says as we drag him inside.
“Yeah,” Lucas says, “he didn’t take the picnic class from the picnic school. At all!”

“Yes, Lucas, you can eat the meatballs now.”

If our children begin to respond the way our dog does, I’m gonna need to put someone in the doghouse. I’m just not sure if it’ll be me or Phil.



  1. LOL! My husband has 2 mixed breed beagles too and while they love me when I have food, they ignore me when the hubby’s around

  2. It must be hard co-parenting with two such different styles… sort of good cop/bad cop I guess. Doesn’t Phil worry that this difference will make them feel closer to and more honest with you though?
    Anyway, I love the way your kids talk about Mr. Bikini, like he’s a little person. :)

  3. You are an ardent supporter of positive parenting techniques for children….but you use an electric/invisible fence for your dog? Please read up more on how these techniques can contribute to misbehavior, fear, anxiety, and aggression in dogs.


  4. Use this break from Phil to teach Bikini positive reinforcement. Have the nanny stand at 1 end of the house and you at the other…use a new command, “Here” with the tastiest treats in town. Act like the biggest fool, only using his name and what ever other word in the sweetest voice you can use and call him back and forth. Only use “Here” when he’s actually coming to you. Start a few feet apart and add feet as he “gets it”. Treat only when you have grabbed the collar. He’ll get it in about 10 minutes. Practice twice a day for 10-15 minutes. Wean him off the food by only treating every 2 times, then every 3 times, then at random. Also make him wait for his food. He has to lay down in front of his bowl and wait until you say it’s okay for him to have it. It makes you the automatic boss. :)
    Happy Training!

  5. Oh, this post has ALL the classic elements of a Stephanie Klein post:

    1) Narcissism – “gold star parenting”
    2) Name dropping – Tory Burch shoes
    3) Classism – “our hiking trail”, sending the nanny into the woods, etc.

    The only thing missing was a mention of the assistant or housekeeper.

    1. Well – you clearly keep reading her posts if you can identify a “classic element”

  6. Beagles are sooo scent-oriented that they often just go following their noses, ignoring commands, then get lost. I’ve known several Beagles who have done this. You just can’t let them get too far away. Also, they say you should use your “command voice” when giving orders to your dog. Dogs respect and enjoy knowing where they fit in the hierarchy of the house.

  7. When I was in high school, I saw a pet food commercial with the cutest beagle running up the bleachers with his owner. I had to own one after that. My parents obliged and for the next 13 years I had the most STUBBORN dog I’ve ever known. I felt like it was personal when I would sweetly call her name and she wouldn’t even turn her head to acknowledge me. Or, even worse, when she would stare directly into my eyes and not budge when I would call her to come in or to get off the couch. She pranced around as if she ruled the world. I hear stories all the time about hard-headed beagles. They are super cute though – including Mr. Bikini!

  8. It’s interesting that you don’t see the value of fear (as in the fear of negative consequences) in raising a child. For instance, when your children are in the prescence of drugs for the first time, can you see how they would benefit from a fear of consequences in that situation? However, in order to ensure that they go into adulthood with that understanding, they have to learn it and internalize from you in childhood…I just read a great parenting book that I would highly recommend to you- it just might change your mind about some things. It’s called “Too Much Love, Too Much Discipline”.

    1. Author

      You know, I do believe in time outs, and when there are power struggles, I don’t give in simply because it’s faster and easier. Today we were a HALF HOUR late for school because Lucas kept asking me to help him put on his shoes. Only, he’s PERFECTLY capable of putting them on himself (he does it all the time). I told him that Mama helps with lots of things that he finds tricky but that putting on his shoes is something he can do without help. He had a hairy. Yelling at him would not right the situation.

      Ultimately, after attempting time outs where I refused to speak or negotiate, he still wouldn’t let up. He wanted to feel “babied.”

      What worked, “I am going to close my eyes and count to three. If your shoes aren’t on by the time I open my eyes…” then I didn’t quite finish the sentence because I don’t want to say something and then not follow through. When I opened my eyes, his shoes were on! But, he kept crying, Mama help me put on my shoes.

      Once I saw that his shoes were on, I told him I’d help him into the car, which immediately set him at ease. He simply wanted to be taken care of, pampered really. But I had to teach him that throwing a fit was not going to give him his way.

      It would, however, make us late for school… which I can live with.

      1. I’m not an expert on this stuff by any means (again, I just read that book so this stuff is kind of fresh in my head), but it seems like in the example you gave, your son was kind of rewarded for pitching a fit. Your son not listening to you about the shoes, and the tantrum that followed, were met with something pleasurable (ie. the one-on one attention from you or ‘pampering’), rather than a negative consequence. Aren’t you teaching him that not only can he get out of listening to you, but pitching a fit results in one-on-one attention from you? And if that’s what he learns at home, what do you think he will expect when he doesn’t listen to the teacher, or follow instructions at school?…Just a thought.

        1. Author

          Fantastic point! Though, he didn’t really have one on one attention from me. That is, as I said he was given, “time outs where I refused to speak or negotiate.” What I didn’t say is that as I ignored him, I gave my attention to Abigail, who was setting Phil’s singlet on fire.

  9. My gf has a beagle, Sassy. The dog clearly snubs her in favor of her husband. She said she feels like the other woman when the dog is around. I think it’s the breed.

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