Treat Me Like a Dog

When I was in middle school, I recall a time (well, there were several times, but this one stands out) when I did something wrong. This incident stands out to me, because this was the first time I was confident enough to stand up to my dad and flex by boundary muscles.

Here’s what happened: My dad went out of town and I was staying with a friend of mine who lived just down the street. During my dad’s leave, my friend and I snuck into my home one night, along with a few other friends, and had a little “party”. Being dumb teenagers, we did not cover our tracks very well. We left the house a disaster, leaving evidence of our night everywhere. When my Dad returned home,

All Hell Broke Loose.

My dad was so mad at me! I disrespected him and our home. I betrayed his trust. I let him down. As a result, I was grounded from using the phone, from going anywhere, and from talking or seeing any of my friends. I had a list of chores that continued to grow each and every time I crossed something off of it. I was in the “dog house”…so to speak.

One thing that really upset me, besides all the hard labor I had to do to work off my punishment and the fact that my dad no longer trusted me, was that my dad was not happy with me. When my dad was not happy with me, he let me know. He did this in a not so healthy way, a very passive-aggressive way: He gave me the dreaded silent treatment.

How many of you grew up getting the silent treatment at home when you were in trouble? It is awful! It caused me to walk on eggshells, because I didn’t know what my dad was thinking. It made me feel insecure because there was not healthy and loving communication. It made me feel like I was not unconditionally loved, but rather, like I had to earn my dad’s love and approval by behaving a certain way. He may not have consciously thought or felt that way, but his actions showed me otherwise.

 This was the ongoing chain of events:

Me doing something wrong,
My dad punishing me,
Me wondering when I would be back in his good graces.

This cycle happened throughout my life.
This was our “normal”.
Isn’t it interesting that our dysfunctions seem normal because we know nothing else.
It may not feel exactly right, but it is comfortable in an odd sort of way.

Well, back to this incident in my middle school years. I finally worked up the courage to talk to my dad about his behavior toward me. This is what I said, “Dad, I know that you do not like the fact that I had a party and snuck, and tried to cover it up. I know that you must be disappointed with my actions. I know that I will have to regain your trust, and I also know that building it will take time. But I also know that when our dog makes a mistake, you get angry at the dog, you punish the dog, you talk to the dog, and then you love the dog and move forward. With me, you seem to stay stuck in the getting angry part. I wish you would treat me like a dog.”

This brave step I took that day to talk with my dad and confront him changed my dad and our relationship forever. From that point on, we had some much needed boundaries set in place. There was a mutual respect laid down…instead of me just fearing his wrath. I allowed myself to display the power and confidence to be true to myself without being disrespectful to my dad.

I tell you this, so that hopefully you will learn a little something. I hope that you will treat your children, parents, friends, co-workers, and anyone else you have an altercation with, like a dog!

Take Action:This week and moving forward, let’s make an effort to treat people like a dog. Let’s communicate clearly, discipline with love, and then move forward. Lets not dwell, hold grudges, and make others feel guilty. Let’s not give the silent treatment, as that is the unhealthiest reaction of all!

Because Together is Better,


  1. what an amazing story! I hate the way my husband treats our 6yr old daughter. He usually takes his bad moods out on me but nowadays I am seeing that he is doing this with her. And been the loving and caring person that she is (just like her mom) she ignores the fact that he is angry with her and carries on as normal. I have spoken to him so many times but I get told I’m interferring. Just the other day she asked me why her Daddy is always so mean to her. I sent him your story hoping it will help…keep up the great writing 🙂

  2. I can relate to this post all too well. When you live in dysfunction it feels “normal”. My relationship with my own father is pretty similar to what you have described. I have been reading the book called “Unglued” and it talks about dealing with different types of people and making sure people don’t make you become unglued. Boundaries and using grace when dealing with someone like this is important. Since I can’t have a healthy conversation with my dad about important issues (I’ve already tried with it ending in anger), I have taken a break from him altogether to work on myself. To figure out coping techniques and to put boundaries in place. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Thank you so much for your wise words Elizabeth! I am sorry that you had a relationship like that with your dad…it is a shame that your efforts to resolve your issues was met with anger. Keep working on yourself, as ultimately, you are only responsible for YOU! I will look into that book, it sounds like a great read! -Deanna

  3. This post is SO interesting for so many reasons!! How amazing you remembered this incident in your childhood so well. And the ability to illustrate your feelings in a way your dad could understand with the comparison of punishing a family dog. It can take these illustrations to get through to people, especially passive aggressive personalities. What a breakthrough for you and your dad back then!! It also reminded me of the golden rule with time outs with toddlers. When the time out is over have a talk about why they were put in time out, what better choices they can make next time and always end with a big hug and I love you no matter what!! People assume their loved ones know this but it has to be demonstrated AND affirmed with words. Great post my friend!!!

    • Thank you SJP, I appreciate your kind words! I love your Golden Rule with regards to time outs…children need to know they are loved and have clear and healthy boundaries. I love that you implement that! Good job! -Deanna

  4. What a great story to share. It reminds me that I need to be like this with my children. Always communicate with them even when they get into trouble.

  5. Great analogy… Its true though..You usually always forgive the dog for what they did.. Now we need to do this in our everyday life..

    • Thank you Kelly. It is true, if we don’t think about it, we will hold grudges and treat our loved ones poorly. Thank you for your comment! -Deanna

  6. Heather Petersen says:

    Great post! There’s so much truth in your post.

  7. So well said! I love your blog! I also love sharing your blog 🙂

  8. Disciplinary actions is a must. Parents who love their children and want them to grow with high moral values, respected and with dignity are parents who knows their obligation. Fathers knows best and mothers knows best. It is the way their disciplinary actions are being handled maybe because of their imperfections, but for sure their intention is right, to make things right. If the child is not rebellious in nature, they will grow and later be thankful to those punishments, otherwise they will just became one of the juveniles out there.

  9. Great blog.
    Once you found out your very own self, you set up your boundaries, and you know how to use it with kindness.

  10. Loved this article! So needed to read this today!

  11. EXCELLENT story and very good illustration.
    Makes one think.. I love your ending quote.. and might even quote it !!
    You were brave and respectful so your parents taught you that… I always was glad when my kids respectfully disagreed with me, as many times they had a good point.

    Thanks for a great post.

    • Yes, Terry, you are right in that I was respectful. I did learn that from my parents. My dad was a good dad, but we all need to keep learning and growing, don’t we? Thank you for your encouragement and comment! -Deanna

  12. I applaud you for for courage and bravery! Stepping out of our comfort zone, owning our mistakes and leading from the heart changed everything. Both you and your Dad learned valuable lessons!!

    • Thank you, Meli! Sometimes the sweetest things in life are the hardest, aren’t they!?! Thank you for your kind words! -Deanna

  13. I never received the silent treatment, but when I disappointed my parents, they let me know. It was such a sad thing to endure and I never did whatever twisted them in the first place again.

  14. Cool blog!

  15. A friend of mine always said she wants to come back as my dog!! And yes, we do get a lot of men into the flower shop who are “in the dog house” and a dozen roses helps them get out! My parents taught me to “feed your animals before you feed yourself”. I guess it comes down to this: if you don’t get INTO the dog house you won’t have to get out!!

    • This is true Tina…but as a silly teenager, it was more fun to have fun and deal with the consequences later. I just got tired of the consequences! -Deanna

  16. Deanna, this is a fantastic post! Parents are not perfect and sometimes they need their kids to remind them of that. Being on the other side of that now as a parent of two boys (17 and 11), I see the things my father did in my own interactions with my kids. My kids don’t know their grandfather, but they do me and they have called me on the carpet like you did and for that I’m grateful. It’s not about being right when your a parent, it’s about growing up with our kids as we parent them.

    Great article. Thanks again!!!!

    • Thank you Don, what a great comment you left here. I really appreciate your words, you are right, we do grow up with our kids. Sometimes I think they are here to teach me instead of the other way around! -Deanna

  17. Daddy G says:

    I’m with “Rob” on this one. I never got the silent treatment – oh how I would have LOVED the silent treatment! I pretty much got yelled at every day for all my “childhood indiscretions.” Looking back after a poop-load of therapy, turns out I was just a normal “spirited” boy.

    So, I ALWAYS make sure to discipline my (our) kids with love and make SURE they know that Daddy loves them when they are in trouble as much as when they are not… BTW: A big thanks to you, Deanna, for helping me to understand how to do that.

    • Yelling and the silent treatment are on different sides of the spectrum…yet they both leave such marks on a child. The ticket is to discipline with love. A child should never ever doubt that they are loved! -Deanna

  18. Michael B says:

    Great information again. I loved the breaking eggs comment. It reduces the gray areas of our lives and helps to define what we really want to be black and white. What behaviors are acceptable, what are not and what are the consequences.

    The goal is not perfection but rather progress. your article is a great pathway to that progress. Thank you!

  19. Wow fantastic article i love it! Couldn’t of said it better!

  20. Great post!
    I liked it.

  21. This is what I’ve learned and observed: A person never knows how dysfunctional or messed up their upbringing was until they see that other people live differently. When this happens, it could be very difficult yet an eye opening situation. Sadly, many people are reluctant to really reflect deeply about themselves.

    Yvonne Brown

  22. Carolin says:

    Great article! And so true.
    If I am angry, I tend to say things I regret later!
    We have to really rethink our words and actions sometimes!

    • I could not agree more with you Carolin! I am teaching my 8 year old right now to Think BEFORE she Speaks! Thank you for your words. -Deanna

  23. I agree that communication is essential to get to the crux of the problem and the silent treatment really doesn’t make it better. Glad that you solve the misunderstanding with your dad.

  24. You’re right. We all grow up with a certain type of “normal” that’s probably not so normal. It’s hard to get out of the roll that is put on you as a child. But, it’s important to have healthy relationships with others and to take a stand for yourself when it’s the right thing to do.

    • Absolutely Deborah! Setting healthy boundaries is hard, especially when you grow up not being able to do that. Progress! -Deanna

  25. Veronica says:

    There’s so much truth in your post. You have to train people how to treat you. Growing up there was a lot of screaming in my home, so it was the opposite. But I can see that silent treatment is just as bad.

    • Thank you Veronica for your words here. I think dealing with “screaming” and the “silent treatment” are both so unhealthy for kids. Hopefully we don’t pass that on to our children! -Deanna

  26. That was a great lesson. When I am angry or uncomfortable about a situation, I often retreat for awhile. I hate confrontation and actually am afraid of it. I grew up with many unhealthy relationships, especially friendships. When I felt upset about something and got up enough courage to speak my mind, often times I had people in my life who would get angry with me, turn things around, and then give ME the silent treatment. So I have become accustomed to swallowing it instead of releasing it, only to let it fester just underneath the surface. I have gotten better, but still have a LONG way to go!!

    • Thank you for sharing that Gigi…it is hard to break those coping habits. but being aware is the first step…and you seem very aware. I hope you continue to learn how to have healthy communication…Forward Motion! -Deanna

  27. I grew up the other way, the yelling was terrible, but that’s all we knew. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Thank you Rob for your comment. I do know people who grew up with yelling, and that is a different kind of “normal” to cope with. Thank YOU for sharing that! -Deanna

  28. Diane Morrison says:

    Yeah that was amazing well said I was treated the exact same way by my dad and had the same side effects from it you are one brave cookie I am so proud of you and it’s interesting you’re helping me figure my own past out! I think it’s why I overcompensate with my kids at least we broke the cycle right?

    • Diane, thank you for your comment! I am so glad that you can relate and that you are healing and learning about your childhood…it makes us better parents when we become aware and thrive! -Deanna

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