Got this last week:
Dear The Weed,
I just happened to read your blog from a friends phone and loved it! I see that you are a therapist and I hope you are ok with me asking you a question (because I'm going to ask it anyway :). My daughter is almost 10. She is very bright, kind, social, and for the most part, happy. My daughter has been showing some aggression and cruelty to my miniature dachshund. She hits the dog, drags her behind her on walks, and has kicked the dog and has kept her 'captive' downstairs, not letting her escape. My daughter loves all animals (I know that sounds crazy). She is always very loving to any other animal... Except our dog. I had no idea until today that she had been that mean to the dog. She isn't like that to the dog when I'm around. I am concerned and don't know what to do. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks for reading my ramblings... Sorry to be a pain :)
A Concerned Mother
First of all, thanks a ton for asking me for advice!
Here are some thoughts:
1. Is the dog particularly ugly? Because I heard one time from a friend that they did a study once about babies and how if babies were uglier they got less sympathy from their parents which I think explains a lot about my childhood. And also the kid on Modern Family.
2. Is your daughter particularly ugly?
3. Has the dog recently bitten your daughter?
4. Again just to clarify: does your dog look like this?
Because that would explain a lot.
5. How did you raise your daughter? Did you give her frequent treats? Was she coddled? Did you use lots of reward charts and also waterboard her occasionally? Did you breastfeed her, and if so until what age? Natural child-birth? When you were putting her to bed did you make her go potty before or after brushing her teeth? What kind of toothpaste did you use? How often did she eat blueberries? What is the total of the sum of the numbers in her birth-date multiplied by 8 divided by the numeric equivalent of her middle name? Does she like mint flavored ice-cream? Given the sequence 4835798475394378594 what does she answer as being the next seven digits in the pattern? The answer to any of these questions might contribute to our understanding of her behavior.
5. Okay, I jest I jest.
My impression is that her behavior is pretty normal. Her relationship with the dog is one where she has total power, and as kids grow up, there is experimentation to discover what having "power" or control over other beings means and feels like. It's possible that she is simply trying on a new role, controlling the dog, "disciplining" the dog, in an attempt to learn how to manage that kind of responsibility. It sounds like most of her behaviors fall in line with the idea of "disciplining" the dog, and I suspect she is simply trying to exert some control. I actually see this behavior sometimes in kids with their younger siblings as well.
If this is, in fact, the case then opening lines of communication about how to properly be "in charge" of a living thing might be helpful. I would probably avoid punishing her or making her feel "bad" for the way she's treating the dog in favor of simply framing it as "that's not the best way to take care of a dog..." That way she will avoid feeling unnecessarily that she is "bad" or "weird."
It doesn't appear to me that anything more troubling than that is going on, but of course keep an eye out for injuries on the dog, as that would probably be reason for concern.
Of course, I've never met your daughter. So that could all be totally off and she actually could be a sociopath. (Though that's highly unlikely.)
UPDATE: I forgot to say: readers, do you have any insight or advice for CM? Feel free to share in the comments if you have any thoughts or happen to be a dog-abuse expert or whatever.
So, apparently this is "a thing" now. If you have any questions for the The Weed Advice Column, please send an email to joshua dot weed at gmail dot com. I answer questions about relationships, deformities, genocide, sex and different types of salad. And pretty much anything else, but mostly relationships and family stuff.
*Any and all advice is meant for entertainment purposes and you shouldn't take it like I'm a therapist even though I am a therapist. I'm just talking, all right? It's no big deal. We don't have a therapeutic contract. Unless you live in Washington. And you pay me. And sign some stuff. Which can be arranged.