The Bully in the Kitchen

My two dogs are great teachers in lessons about life. Obviously, I don’t get tips on social etiquette from them–like smelling another dog’s butt to say hello or licking myself in front of company. However, animals of all kinds are great teachers if we allow God to use His creations to teach us about Him and His people.

Lately, Cassie (9 y/o peekapoo) and Maddy (almost 2 y/o shih tzu) have had difficulty eating together. Since Cassie is a nibble-through-the-day kind of dog, we have open food bowls. Usually by the end of the day a few morsels of dry food remain. Because Cassie nibbles, Maddy also learned to nibble. Generally there has been no problem with this arrangement, until recently, when Cassie decided that she was Queen of the Food Bowls. Lying sideways, she “guards” both bowls (and the water, mind you) so that Maddy can’t eat until Cassie allows her. Plus, the dogs refuse to eat unless someone is home; therefore, the behavior is easily observable.

At one point I sat on the floor with the dogs, moved Cassie to the side, and showed them it was just fine to eat with one another. Maddy was a little nervous, shooting sideway glances at Cassie, but she ate. Cassie seemed a bit grumpy…but I’m the pack leader, not her. This worked for a while, until Maddy decided she should always eat from the same dish as Cassie. Again, I showed them their dishes and they worked it out. Today I was making lunch and noticed Cassie was being the Guardian of the Food Dishes again. I sat on the floor, and Cassie automatically moved to the side yet Maddy refused to come over. I sighed and moved the food dish closer to her and went on with my day. Maddy ate. Conflict resolved.

Then I realized something startling. I had taken the “easy way out”. Instead of sitting the girls down and talking to them about their problems (just kidding…they’re dogs), I just isolated Maddy and refused to deal with Cassie. Since Cassie was being the “bully”, I should have removed *her* from the situation and encouraged Maddy to eat at the appropriate area.

I realized this is exactly how I’ve seen bullies deal with in real life, you know, outside of my kitchen. Instead of dealing with the bully, teachers send the bullied kid to the guidance counselor. The child who is the victim is obviously the problem, not the kid who’s being cruel. Instead, shouldn’t the mean kid go to the guidance counselor? Or both kids at separate times? It’s a tough world so the kid being teased may need to learn better coping skills while the jerky kid may a smack down. Both children may be dealing with tough situations at home and it’s coming out in their behavior at school. Whatever the reason, instead of doing what’s easy, sometimes we need to truly address the situation at hand.

Right now, Cassie and Maddy are sitting by the door listening for intruders (like the FedEx guy–a real threat there) in the hallway. Maddy thinks that they should be running around the apartment like a couple of wild hooligans, so she’s jumping all over Cassie pulling her ears and her tail. Cassie growls at Maddy and puts her in her place. Dogs dealing with conflict on their own–normal pack behavior. Guarding the food bowls in the kitchen–unacceptable pack behavior.

Parents, youth workers, random blog visitors–how do you decipher between normal and unacceptable behavior in children or teenagers? What are ways you have deal with bullies–whether your kid is the bully of the bullied?

Oh, and do you have a dog? (That being the essential question in this discussion!)

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