The Strong-Willed Child, pp. 11-15
Warning: this section contains stories of animal abuse!!!
So Dobson starts telling us about the number of pets his family has, and then he gets to Siggie the dog. If you’re familiar with Dobson at all, you’re probably somewhat aware of this story. Here is how he describes his dachshund Siggie:
“Siggie is not only stubborn, but he doesn’t pull his own weight in the family. He won’t bring in the newspaper on cold mornings; he refuses to “chase a ball” for the children; he doesn’t keep the gophers out of the garden; and he can’t do any of the usual tricks that most cultured dogs perform.”
He continues on,
“Furthermore, Sigmund is not even a good watchdog. This suspicion was confirmed the night we were visited by a prowler who had entered our backyard at three o’clock in the morning.”
He goes on to describe hearing the prowler move on the garage and trying to send Siggie to “attack” the guy, but Siggie cowered in fear. So what have we learned about Siggie the dachshund? That he is a typical dachshund. Seriously Dobson, did it not occur to you to do any research on dog breeds before getting Siggie? Dachshunds are not naturally guard dogs. Most people already know this, but, they are small dogs. If you wanted a guard dog, you should have gotten a breed suited for such a purpose. Also, if you had done even the tiniest bit of research first, you would have KNOWN that dachshunds are naturally independent/stubborn, and tend to get an attitude and resist training. If you had wanted a docile, compliant dog, that would learn tricks and readily obey commands, they are out there. You could have gotten one.
The next couple of pages tell an extremely disturbing story of animal abuse. We start out with,
“The greatest confrontation (between Dobson and Siggie) occurred a few years ago when I had been in Miami for a three day conference. I returned to observe that Siggie had become the boss of the house while I was gone.”
Do you know what this means, Dobson? It means that while you were gone, your wife and kids didn’t enforce any rules and let the dog do whatever he wanted. This is a conversation you should be having with your wife and kids, not beating the hell out of a small dog. It is not the dog’s fault that your wife and kids fell down on the job.
It now takes Dobson two full paragraphs to convey that Siggie has a designated spot in the house where he is supposed to sleep, but at bedtime on this night he was curled up on the toilet seat, which had a fuzzy cover. When Dobson commanded him to go to his room, he refused and growled at him, which I suspect is a sign that Siggie already does not like this man.
“I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The only way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me “reason” with Mr. Freud.”
Aha! Suspicion confirmed.
We’re not even to the worst part of the story and my stomach is already churning. What a vile person. This is NOT how you treat a pet dog! We continue, after Dobson tells Siggie once more to go to his room and Siggie refuses again.
“…I gave him a firm swat across the rear end, and he tried to bite the belt. I hit him again and he tried to bite me.”
“What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast.”
Ever staged??? This situation wasn’t staged – you had a choice of how to react and behave! Stop wording it like someone else or some other unexplained force made you do this. Secondly, your pet dog is not a beast. He’s 12 pounds, by your admission. Seriously. Pick him up and throw him in his room and shut the door quickly. I have a 15 pound cat and I can manage to do this. Geez…
“I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt.”
Well, in fairness only one of you had a belt…
“I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene.”
You should be, Dobson. You absolutely, positively should be embarrassed. This entire incident should have prompted you to get your ass to a therapist’s office stat, to figure out what the hell is wrong with you that you would have such an extreme overreaction to something that is really not that big of a deal. Instead, you decided to write a book about basically treating children the same way. Lovely…
And yes, Dobson pats himself on the back for eventually getting Siggie into his room that night, and everything he already believed about this poor dog and all children is “confirmed” because apparently, Siggie never disobeyed the command to go to his room at night again. He even says,
“…there is an important moral to my story which is highly relevant to the world of children. Just as surely as a dog will occasionally challenge the authority of his leaders, a little child is inclined to do the same thing, only more so.”
Dobson gives zero evidence or proof of this assertion, and furthermore, comparing all children to a dog you find to be a pain in the ass is really telling. Red flag, people, red flag.
The last paragraph of this section finds Dobson whining about how the “experts” don’t recognize or admit this “characteristic of human nature.”
“I have yet to find a text for parents or teachers which acknowledges the struggle – the exhausting confrontation of wills – which most parents and teachers experience regularly with their children.”
Um, maybe because those experts you deride see children as human beings rather than pain in the ass dogs. Maybe those experts value building a relationship with children and treating them with respect and dignity, and they realize that that becomes impossible if parents make everything all about me, me, me and my authority. Maybe those experts are way ahead of you in realizing that if you use communication as your primary tool for raising all children, it doesn’t have to be so exhausting, and that when you are willing to hear your child out, it stops being a battle. Maybe those experts realize that if a child is acting up out of the blue, there is often an underlying reason, and parents have a moral responsibility to figure out what is going on.
Honestly, I can’t even do the math on this whole section. It is so utterly disturbing and disgusting. And this is at the beginning of the book. Why on earth would anyone in their right mind keep reading after he admits all this? The other part that disturbs me so much is that he could not even be bothered to consider that maybe Siggie doesn’t like his room. Maybe he doesn’t have adequate fuzzy things to lie on and he needs a better pillow or something. Maybe the room is cold and that’s why he wanted to stay elsewhere. But Dobson can’t even consider any of this. He just has to get his way, no matter what the cost. He has arbitrarily decided where the dog should sleep and that is the end of the story, and if the dog refuses, then it must be because the dog is being “against him.” And that is exactly how my parents parented me after reading your book.