Consequences for accidentally poisoning our dogs
November 1, 2018 12:18 PM   Subscribe

My 11 year old left her Halloween candy where the dogs could get it. The dogs ate the candy. What are the appropriate consequences for my child?

Dogs in question

My 11 year old daughter went to get some of her Halloween candy to put in her lunch this morning. She left the candy on a chair accessible to the dogs. When I came back to the house two hours later, I found 2 full size empty candy wrappers on the floor. It is a lucky coincidence that I returned home this morning. The dogs went to the emergency vet, they are inducing vomiting, and I imagine the dogs will be just fine.

What are the appropriate consequences for this child? She knows chocolate is poisonous to dogs, and through her negligence she poisoned the dogs. The dogs are now suffering unpleasant treatment, I am missing work, and my wallet is $650 lighter.

I am looking for ideas on how to approach this problem with her when she returns home from school. My daughter will be very upset when she comes home and disappointed in herself. There will be tears.

I feel it is appropriate for her to have consequences for this action, throwing out the remaining Halloween candy and having her live with the guilt seems like not enough consequence. However she cannot be expected to work off a $650 vet bill. What is appropriate? What would you do?
posted by crazycanuck to Human Relations (100 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My daughter will be very upset when she comes home and disappointed in herself. There will be tears.

It sounds like knowing she nearly poisoned the dogs may well be punishment enough.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:24 PM on November 1, 2018 [221 favorites]

Since the question is what would you do, I would figure the guilt is punishment enough.

Think of it this way. What if you had done something similar? What if you forgot to lock a door and the dog or your child went outside and was hit by a car, resulting in big hospital or vet bills? Would you need a "punishment" to never do it again? Adults are not immune from making thoughtless mistakes that have serious results. How would you want others to treat you if you did something like this?

Your daughter is already upset, from your description. She knows she made a terrible mistake. Help her deal with that instead of adding to it.
posted by FencingGal at 12:26 PM on November 1, 2018 [98 favorites]

Yeah, jeeze. Go easy on her. Maybe have her read an article on why chocolate is bad for dogs and assure she's never going to do this again.

Maybe have her think of something nice she can do for the dogs. Groom them or pet them or tell them they're good doggos or something.

Please don't throw out the kid's candy and go easy on driving the guilt down her throat. She's 11.
posted by bondcliff at 12:28 PM on November 1, 2018 [140 favorites]

Honestly, the consequences are the guilt that she's going to feel about this. I don't know that you need to make it worse, or to add shame to that.

I've spent most of my life around dogs, and this is a human error type of mistake that sometimes just happens. My mother accidentally poisoned my childhood dog one year by leaving an Easter basket where he could get into it while she hid another basket. I accidentally poisoned a friend's dog by forgetting that her dogs were very food-motivated, and the half-eaten chocolate bar in my purse would be an irresistible temptation for them. Both of these mistakes were made by adults, and they're far from the only dog poisoning stories I could tell.

It was a mistake, and she's going to be devastated by it. That's punishment enough.
posted by mishafletch at 12:28 PM on November 1, 2018 [21 favorites]

A LOT LOT LOT of how I handled this would be based on how I had previously addressed the issue of making sure the dogs don't have access to chocolate with my kid. If my kid just knew it as a fact, but if it had never been an issue previously that had to be adjudicated, I would tend toward serious mercy. I would also take Halloween fever into account as a mitigating circumstance.

If previous conversations about issues like this, and others issues, had put my kid on notice that this kind of thoughtless behavior was something we had talked about and was unacceptable, I would be more inclined to invoke consequences.

It sounds like your kid will likely be hard on herself, and that might be all the consequence I was comfortable with if it were my kid.
posted by OmieWise at 12:28 PM on November 1, 2018 [16 favorites]

I agree with DirtyOldTown.

You could assign all dog-related chores she might not be doing already.

Caveat: I'm not a parent.
posted by jgirl at 12:28 PM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I was going to say what DirtyOldTown said.

The other thing you may want to do with her is help her through the SPECIFIC steps of what to do to prevent an accident like this from happening again. (Even though it was through her neglect, it was an accident—she didn’t mean to poison the dogs). NOT “I won’t leave chocolate where the dogs can reach it” but rather “when I come home with chocolate (or something else poisonous to dogs) I will immediately put it in (place that is reserved for this purpose).”
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:29 PM on November 1, 2018 [52 favorites]

This was a mistake, right? I get than you're angry - actually beyond angry seems an appropriate description of your post. Have you never made a mistake? And you're an adult!

She probably loves the dog and feels terrible. To me that seems like plenty of consequence, and your determination to add more punishment feels harsh. Really, what could possibly make her feel worse than her own guilt and remorse? Please reconsider this. Maybe something more dog-centric such as more responsibility for walks, exercise, and feeding would be more healing for her.
posted by citygirl at 12:30 PM on November 1, 2018 [32 favorites]

^ agree w/what Dirtyoldtown said above. i was nuts about animals at that age and would have been devastated at the idea of hurting my dog.. try not to go too hard on her.

and kids (will) make mistakes which are hella expensive. i crashed my dad's car twice before i even hit my twenties.
posted by speakeasy at 12:32 PM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

...having her live with the guilt seems like enough consequence.

If the money spent is the problem, figure out a partial payment plan.
posted by LoveHam at 12:33 PM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

She wasn't being mindful. Exercise helps people be more mindful. So she should take the dog for more walks to increase her capacity for mindfulness.

But don't frame it as punishment (which is an external motivation), lest it reduce her intrinsic motivation to enjoy exercise such as dog walking in the future.
posted by aniola at 12:34 PM on November 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

Instead of taking away her candy and finding other ways to punish her, talk to her about guilt and how to channel that largely unhelpful emotion into positive action. She loves the dogs. She's already going to feel horrible about making a mistake that could have hurt her furry friends. Don't make this worse by being cruel under the guise of discipline. Talk to her and then help her to unbreak her heart.
posted by quince at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2018 [50 favorites]

I did this as a child (just carelessly left chocolate on a couch table), I still remember it and the guilt I felt over it was quite enough punishment because again, I still remember it! I do not remember what else my parents did, only how I had failed. That had to have been 25 years ago. This emotion does me no good really and doesn't even make me less likely to forget so I guess I wish my parents had done this:

I would try to instill a sense of responsibility and doing things with a purpose rather than adding more guilt. I'd assign the kid to walk the dog, take care of the dog, etc. but not as a punishment, I'd phrase it as a way to make it up to the dog.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2018 [15 favorites]

throwing out the remaining Halloween candy and having her live with the guilt seems like not enough consequence.

I wouldn't have even suggested throwing out the candy! But I am not a parent and, as someone alluded to upthread, I don't know the history of this issue and whether this is a repeat offense.

I think the natural guilt of harming the dogs (including emphasis on the fact that it was only through chance that the dogs weren't left to suffer for many hours on end) will be sufficient but if you're looking to underscore the value of $650, and the relative impact on the household budget, I think it would be fine to cancel something frivolous and fun that was planned, with an explanation that the money was needed to pay for the vet bill.
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:36 PM on November 1, 2018 [16 favorites]

Hi, I am an adult who accidentally poisoned my dog once by leaving out a tray of chocolate cookies, which he promptly devoured. It was terrible and scary. He is fine now and I haven't done this since.

Talk to her about mistakes and ways to prevent it in the future. Then let it go. It was an accident, like you said; what could punishing her possibly change about that?

Also, please let her keep the damn candy. She probably won't want it anyway.
posted by Amy93 at 12:38 PM on November 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

My daughter will be very upset when she comes home and disappointed in herself. There will be tears.

This is punishment enough.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:39 PM on November 1, 2018 [17 favorites]

This is something that any human being could accidentally do. The fact that she is a child means that she is more likely to make mistakes like this than an adult person.

Unless you are concerned with your 11 year old not understanding the seriousness of this mistake (or, god forbid, it was not an accident/mistake...), I think the fact that almost killing two dogs is probably sufficient punishment.

In general, I think asking yourself what you hope to get out of any punishment is important. (e.g. Do you just want to make yourself feel better for having to spend time and money on this?) Figure that out, then decide what you should do.

I agree that working on mindfulness and a reminder that dogs can't eat some things is probably fine, but I would not do that right away. Schedule that after a period of recovery. (I am a soon to be parent.)
posted by ancient star at 12:39 PM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

You're all right, I am angry. I haven't adjudicated an issue with chocolate before. One of the dogs is young and known to be a chewer. Just yesterday we found a library book that she had left out and the dog had chewed. She swore it would never happen again. Now we have the candy problem. It is the general carelessness causing damage to our property (and now the dogs) that I take issue with.

I am under other stresses so I might be more upset than usual, please be nice to me too because I am having a rough day. Thanks
posted by crazycanuck at 12:39 PM on November 1, 2018 [30 favorites]

Yes, please turn this into a productive learning experience and not a layered trauma she's still going to be thinking about in 20 years.

You are the adult on-site, you made the ultimate mistake here. You cannot just leave your animals' well-being to the sole control of an 11 year old; for their safety you have to encourage her to do the right things but actually make sure the situation is okay yourself.

Maybe the two of you can come up together with some suggestions for dog-proofing that the family can practice together. As an example, before we leave the house empty for a stretch/go to bed for the night my husband and I check the house for stuff left within dog reach that they are likely to mess with (and dogs are creative, they will make up new trouble to get into), and we try to check the yard once a day for anything that might have arrived/happened that would be bad/gross/dangerous/messy. Come up with a name for the danger check so the two of you can make a habit of doing Paw Patrol or whatever as a routine.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:40 PM on November 1, 2018 [63 favorites]

I would let her keep the candy and ask if she would be willing to help pay part of the vet bill by taking a certain percent of her allowance off of the top. Say 10% or something like that. You could even make it into an achievement-oriented exercise (i.e. she puts the money in a glass jar or something, so she can see it accumulate). Then, at the end of it, if you can afford it and want to, use the money for something nice for the dog - a new bed, grooming, whatever.
posted by dancing_angel at 12:41 PM on November 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

While I agree in general that you don't necessarily need to do anything to explicitly punish her or increase her feelings of guilt, if your financial circumstances as a family are such that an additional $650 expense has consequences, you might consider not shielding her from those impacts. I'm not suggesting that you harp on it or make a big huge song-and-dance, but a big unplanned expense like that would mean no dinners out, no takeout, no pizza, no going to expensive entertainment things like movies or the science center for my family, because we don't have an extra $650 laying around. If that's true for your family, I think it would be reasonable to say something like "we can't get pizza for dinner on Sunday because we had an unexpected vet expense this month that used up our extra money" or whatever, especially if your kid is asking "why can't we do [thing that costs money]?". For me, there is a difference between a consequence and a punishment, and it's not heartless to acknowledge that there are consequences that are sometimes unpleasant and not avoidable, even when the trigger event was a sincere accident.

I would actually probably do that in preference to punishment-for-punishment's sake (like taking away the rest of her Halloween candy), though I do love the idea of having an established dog-safe place for "stuff we don't want the dogs to get into"-- that's a great idea.
posted by Kpele at 12:41 PM on November 1, 2018 [59 favorites]

In addition to what a lot of others have said:

Are you angry? It's reasonable to say you're angry. That's useful information for a kid to have. It's not so good to punish in anger.

And also: Are you feeling responsible for this? Like it wouldn't have happened if you'd raised her better, and so now you need to crack down to compensate? Because a better channel for that, rather than "How can I punish her now?", would be "In the long run, how can I encourage her to be more mindful?" or "To be more tidy?" or whatever thing you wish you'd taught in the past.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:42 PM on November 1, 2018 [13 favorites]

Consider the goal of punishing a child: making them feel the weight of the transgression, persuading them that they shouldn't do the thing again, making sure the experience is memorable (I guess... not a fan of punishment as a philosophy, but recognize that it might be needed in some cases...)

All of these goals are probably already met when your daughter finds out she could have killed what she loved.

Another goal I'd like to observe is making sure people have a sense of proportional justice (see the work of Elinor Ostrom re: how common pool resources are successfully protected for one justification of this).

Now, if your daughter has a history of not being particularly moved by the plights of other creatures, or of general carelessness, then other strategies might be called for. In the lack-of-empathy category, maybe ... I don't know, but some serious thought should go into it.

If she has a pattern of general carelessness, then maybe she could do some research and propose some ways to ameliorate that.
posted by amtho at 12:44 PM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am under other stresses so I might be more upset than usual, please be nice to me too because I am having a rough day. Thanks

Make some tea for both of you and sit and talk about being careful about leaving out things that may be harmful to other members of the family. Eat some candy and pet the dogs while you talk.

I hope your day gets better.
posted by bondcliff at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2018 [45 favorites]

This is so stressful, I'm sorry. I'm an adult and I'm at work and I've spent half the day anxiously considering whether I can go home early because I'm concerned I may have accidentally left the hamper and its tempting tempting dirty laundry in the dog's reach.

Between the book and the candy, I would sit down with her to develop a better strategy for 1. making sure everything has an appropriate place, 2. getting routines in place to put them away regularly and 3. doing periodic sweeps, maybe before leaving dogs home alone, to ensure that nothing inappropriate is left somewhere accessible. If you have a chore system in place, maybe think about explicitly adding those. This isn't a consequence as much as it is a good way to (actually) teach the lesson you want her to learn.
posted by mosst at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2018

My daughter will be very upset when she comes home and disappointed in herself. There will be tears.

When this happens, please hug her and hold her and say how very sad and scared you were too. And only when she's calmed down, discuss the consequences with her, whatever you decide they are.
posted by ambrosen at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2018 [50 favorites]

I'm an adult, and I was careless enough to leave raw cacao beans on the kitchen counter where my sneaky dog pulled them down and swallow about a 1/2 cup--more enough to poison her 30lb body. Now whenever I leave the kitchen--or any room where there is ever likely to be food--I check that "nope, there's nothing edible within reach" box on my mental checklist. Maybe you could talk with her about a similar checklist routine with your kid, and come up with safe places to stash food out of reach from the dogs.

For what it's worth, if and when your chewing dogs get into inedible stuff in the future, you yourself can induce vomiting at home by feeding them about a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide mixed into yogurt or something else that they would normally find tasty. They'll be throwing up within a few minutes, so either do it outside, or make them go outside right after they ingest the peroxide. They will keep heaving until their bellies are empty, and even a little bit past that point. Source: Best friend is an internal medicine vet, and this is what she advised me to do in the above incident, with great results.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

It's really hard to remember to put things up when your dog is a chewer who gets into everything. I'm not saying that to make you feel worse. I'm saying that your expectations may never match of up with reality here, and when we expect one thing and another happens that often leads to anger. Other emotions, too, but in this case it's anger that we're talking about.

I'd gently suggest that you may need to just.... accept that things are going to get destroyed. If something she loves is destroyed, that's a natural consequence for her. If she's continuously negligent about putting things up, you may ask her to help pay for some of the stuff that he chews.

My dumb dog has destroyed numerous cell phones, numerous pairs of perscription glasses, shoes, blankets, fuck at one point he even ate an entire sleep apnea machine that cost well over 1,000 dollars. My family is all adults. If you have a kid and a dog who chews, you may just need to accept that things are going to get destroyed.

You could always have her help you rearrange, so everything has A Place that is very clearly out of Dog's reach. That way she's involved and she has a clear alternative place to put things, which is more concrete and easier to remember than just Put Things Up. Even then though.... some things are going to get chewed no matter what you do.

Kids are great. Dogs are great. Together they can be adorable, they can be fun, they can help each other in various ways adults may not be able to. But something they are just maddening too, and there's not always a whole lot you can do to change that.
posted by Amy93 at 12:55 PM on November 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

What should be the effect of these consequences on your daughter? It sounds to me like there's a part of you that would like her experience to be sufficiently traumatic to act as a deterrent against future mistakes. And if that's how you parent, fill your boots. It's not how I parented.

But mistakes are made in a moment, and as other posters have pointed out, as adults we prefer to be given an opportunity to repair mistakes, rather than be shamed for them. If your daughter will be upset knowing that she inadvertently poisoned the dogs, I think it's pretty clear that this was a completely unintentional mistake made by a child.

So what can your daughter do to help repair the mistake and make amends? Take on extra dog-care duties? Could she do some extra household duties to compensate you for the time you lost from work? What can you do to make this a teachable moment? I really like hurdy gurdy girl's comment that maybe there needs to be a conversation about what things are hazardous for dogs (or people, for that matter) and the specifics of how they are dealt with in your home.

I get that you're angry and you have every reason to be. You're out time and money you could have used for something else, and you've taken on a whole bunch of stress that is not helpful to your own well-being. But I'm not sure that punishment and shame will either prevent mistakes from happening in the future (that's the nature of mistakes--stuff happens) or will give provide anything other than retribution.
posted by angiep at 12:58 PM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Consequences (aka punishment) aren't an effective tool for changing future behavior. If your goal is to make sure she won't do this again, you'll get more mileage out of talking with her about what happened.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:00 PM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you're having a rough time of it, crazycanuck.

Yesterday was Halloween. Your 11-year-old was careless with a library book (something on loan, not something owned) yesterday. Yesterday she got a lot of candy and she was still excited about that candy this morning. Her recent missteps are tied to the calendar - the holiday, and her age.

You know she's going to devastated when she learns she accidentally endangered the dogs. Ask her what she considers appropriate punishment, and you'll be shocked at what she thinks up. Regardless, tell her she's just going to walk the dogs more than she does now, and as a family you're going to do the evening 'closing-down' procedure Lyn Never outlines to help keep the dogs safe.

When there's too much going on, it's easy to let all of it roll into one giant, terrible snowball. Evaluate these last two days with your daughter separately from the other life stuff, and think about what you want the takeaway to be - mindfulness, responsibility, and safety.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:00 PM on November 1, 2018 [28 favorites]

You don't get to take out your anger on your child. End of story.
posted by sinfony at 1:01 PM on November 1, 2018 [45 favorites]

When things have settled down, read Kids are worth it by Barbara Colorado, it has great sections on these things!

I would give her about $100 responsibility, to be worked off over 4 months.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:01 PM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I would remind her to be more conscientious of things that the dogs can get into and leave it at that. She's 11. We all make mistakes and leave stuff out. I wouldn't make a big issue of it. This is not a heavy subject to get all worked up over, granted it was an expensive bill but as you say the dogs will be fine. No need for tears and disappointment.
posted by loveandhappiness at 1:10 PM on November 1, 2018

As someone involved in rescue, I have read dozens of stories of grown humans forgetting and leaving something somewhere a motivated dog could get at it. Carelessness can be really provoking, but it's not deliberate. The natural consequences here--having been the cause of beloved pets being ill--are really quite sufficient. The appropriate response is to try to identify what caused the problem and work out specific ways to avoid its recurrence.

Ideally, you would never punish out of anger. The proper concomitant of recognizing that you yourself are stressed and emotionally vulnerable is recognizing that this is not the time to be punishing your child. Your child will be taking away a lot more from this than the immediate lesson you want to teach. She will be learning how you manage anger and how you think it's appropriate to treat people when you are angry. Believe me, you want to teach the right lessons here. There's a line in George Orwell's essay about being sent away to boarding school when very young and being beaten for repeatedly (and unintentionally) wetting the bed that has stuck with me: "I lived in a world where it was not possible for me to be good." Not to be melodramatic over one incident, but don't introduce your kid to that world.
posted by praemunire at 1:12 PM on November 1, 2018 [22 favorites]

I hope your day gets better, it sounds rough all round.

Could the two of you brain storm some places to put things out of the dog's way? It's hard with chewers because all the normal places don't work. Maybe some baskets up high on a shelf that she can reach but doggo not. That gives her a tangible positive step to take rather than the negative spin of 'don't forget' which isn't a solution. And she can rehearse coming home and putting things in doggo safe places. It'll probably need a lot of practice but it's a positive way to build good habits.

All the best to you all.
posted by kitten magic at 1:18 PM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

[Couple deleted. People, please be kind here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:18 PM on November 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

Not to derail, but xylitol is lightyears more poisionous than halloween chocolate, which I don't even know if you can classify as real chocolate.

After our sugarless gum scare (and overnight ICU stay) the vet said he'd rather see a dog eat a whole pan of brownies before eating one piece of Ice Breakers gum.

The guilt was enough to make my kids more aware of what they were leaving around the house.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:24 PM on November 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

My parents, who are grown-ass adults, once left a drawer open which resulted in the family Labradoodle eating an entire bag of chocolate chips. (The dog didn't go to the vet, by the way; he bounced off the walls for several hours and then was eventually fine and lived a nice long life afterward.) This stuff happens. I wouldn't be too hard on her.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:28 PM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

When this happens, please hug her and hold her and say how very sad and scared you were too.

And also remind her that you love her, no matter what mistakes she has made or might make in the future.
posted by spamloaf at 1:39 PM on November 1, 2018 [38 favorites]

When I was young, my family bred (small) dogs. One day I was responsible for letting the dogs out into the yard. One of the dogs was in heat, so I put her in the separate, fenced-in yard for just this purpose. I left them there for maybe half an hour, and when I came back, one of the male dogs had managed to mate with the female through the chain-link fence. I still remember my panic as I tried to pull the dogs apart, but they were stuck together until nature had taken its course. When I told my father, he erupted in anger, since this was our living and he had a stud lined up for her to mate with for a considerable fee. And he told me that because of my mistake, I was going to have to take a hammer to the puppies when they were born to kill them.

The adult me knows that that was his anger talking in the moment. But as a kid, I believed him and cried hysterically for hours until my mom found out what had been said and made my dad promise that he didn't mean it. I still remember this incident vividly, to this day.

The reason I tell you this story is to say that 1) the guilt of my mistake was already enough for me to never leave any dogs in heat unattended outside again, and 2) I became terrified of my dad, and 3) terrified of making mistakes. Please don't be my dad.

This is a great opportunity for you to teach compassion and problem-solving, not punishment.
posted by widdershins at 1:44 PM on November 1, 2018 [81 favorites]

Ok I'm not a parent but I am a teacher. Research I've read recently says that empathy opens up the ability to learn. Also, lectures steal any of the lessons learned from logical consequences.

I think you could ask her what she thinks would solve the problem of the Vet bill. She might not know, but maybe she could sell some toys, do odd jobs around the house or neighborhood, or garnish her pocket money.

Overall though, she is going to feel bad and need empathy, not anger.
posted by freethefeet at 1:45 PM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am under other stresses so I might be more upset than usual, please be nice to me too because I am having a rough day.


I agree with everyone here that she's going to feel quite bad enough, just as I would, as a nearly-50 year old woman who makes mistakes, sometimes bad ones. I'd feel ghastly about this, and I'm a super-responsible type--but as Garfield says, 'pobody's nerfect.'

This isn't a punishment situation.

Maybe you see the resounding reaction here kind of indicates your emotions are out of proportion to the incident and not in alignment with what's best for you, your daughter, your family, and maybe you are exhausted, super-stressed, eating poorly, tired, filled with anxiety--that's good information for you to have, because maybe you can use it to direct yourself to greater self-care, kindness to yourself, and addressing whatever is going on with you.

In short, give her a hug and tell her you know that she didn't mean to do it.

And then maybe take a long hot shower or bath, have a decent dinner, and get a good night's rest.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:50 PM on November 1, 2018 [10 favorites]

My friends got a chewer last year that has cost them a tremendous amount of money and really hurt the feelings of children and adults when valuables have been chewed to pieces. The dog poisoned itself more than once.

Be mad at yourself for accepting this hardship on behalf of your 11 year old.

I understand life can not be protected in bubble wrap, but there’s no reason to seek out a pet (especially if it’s not a rescue) with behavioral issues. Your 11 year old didn’t have a choice and is not developmentally able to accommodate the needs of this particular animal. That’s on YOU as a parent and the adult decision maker in the household.

I’ve had problem pets with children in the same household. This was the realization I eventually came to about my own choices. I know it’s hard to swallow, but sometimes it’s worth flipping the situation around to see it. Having a pet with needs you can’t meet is not an inevitable burden to be endured, it is a choice you made. Going forward, seek to mitigate the impact and responsibility of your choice on your family. This isn’t on your 11 year old’s shoulders.

I’m totally sorry all the way around. I don’t mean to pile on, I just noticed you made that mistake all animal lovers do! Loving animals doesn’t mean you can be a great owner at every stage in your life.
posted by jbenben at 1:50 PM on November 1, 2018 [16 favorites]

I'm so sorry for this. This is extremely stressful for you.

I think you have a lot of great advice above about discussing the financial consequences and handling this together as a trauma, with love, instead of punishing it as an incident. I just wanted to add one thing. Please don't say to her, "you poisoned the dogs." The words she poisoned the dogs really leapt out at me in this post. That is the kind of thing that can echo in someone's head late at night for the rest of their life.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:56 PM on November 1, 2018 [42 favorites]

I was protractedly and creatively punished for an act of carelessness at about this age. I was a basically obedient, tractable child, the punishment was extremely shaming and upsetting and in retrospect I can see that it led to a long period of being unwilling to make mistakes, being unwilling to take risks and basically believing that I was a giant fuck-up.

One life-long consequence has been that I over-correct - if I make a mistake that contributes to a bad situation but does not totally cause it, or if I am involved in an institutional mistake, I tend to take on all of the blame, pay costs that I did not really incur as a form of "fixing" "my" error, totally ignore any role anyone else played in the problem in favor of beating up on myself, etc. In addition to being no fun, this is an unproductive behavior that doesn't improve my life or institutional functioning.

Many years after the original incident, the parent involved in the punishment told me how much they regretted it, what a mistake it had been and that they had recognized that it had an enormous effect on me.

In terms of the "my daughter has been careless around the dogs before" bit: It takes time to change a habit, especially for kids. You can't reasonably expect a kid to go from "I see the error of my ways" to literally never doing the same thing without an intervening period. Adults often can't do that. It's just an awful accident that this act of carelessness was such a grave matter.

Kids take things to heart more than adults realize, I think. I'm pretty sure that a lot of adults have a "kids just laugh off punishments, they are so selfish and immature" mentality and that's not what's really going on.
posted by Frowner at 1:56 PM on November 1, 2018 [67 favorites]

What are the appropriate consequences for this child? She knows chocolate is poisonous to dogs, and through her negligence she poisoned the dogs. The dogs are now suffering unpleasant treatment, I am missing work, and my wallet is $650 lighter.

Make her aware of what the dogs went through in what limited detail the vets provide. she won't see any of the consequences directly, so go through them briefly when you are calm enough to not be yelling and also to not be distracted by tears. this is punishment enough - but only if you don't try to shield her from it or talk her out of feeling the weight of what she did.

Do not make it about the money. don't talk about it as if these living creatures who suffered and could have died are just dollar signs. this isn't property damage. as to the guilt being punishment enough: it will be, but she has to feel it. The dogs don't know she feels guilty, and the dogs are the ones she hurt. she needs to know what she is and isn't responsible for, and as a child, she isn't responsible for your bank account. but she is responsible for hurting living creatures when she knew better. this could so easily happen again if she takes it lightly.

feeling awful, for a time, about things you did wrong is a sign of human decency. of moral health. of developing maturity. it is not, in itself, a trauma of the kind that has to be avoided. sometimes a minor shock of this kind is actually helpful to the memory of the chronically careless, in spite of it feeling terrible at the time. sure, don't shout at her. don't describe her actions to her in a gratuitously cruel way. don't throw it in her face every time you're frustrated with her from now on; let her get over it. but immediately comforting her out of her guilt and telling her it wasn't her fault will be both untrue and no kindness in the event she accidentally does it again and a dog dies.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:05 PM on November 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

The next question on the green was about dog poop. As I remember, after treating a dog for ingesting chocolate, their poop was messy and their behinds needed extra cleaning. I wonder if helping with this would be an appropriate natural consequences. I would treat not as a punishment (you did something wrong, here is an unpleasant punishment) but rather this thing you did had this consequence (messy dog bottoms, messy poop) that someone has to deal with, you, ear daughter, need to be (at least part of) that somebody.
posted by metahawk at 2:15 PM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

oh also, getting rid of the halloween candy (or just sequestering it somewhere accessible only to you, for controlled distribution to her) is not some unspeakable vindictive punishment, it is the natural consequence of believing that this was a complete accident and not a malicious deliberate act.

If she can't remember to consistently keep chocolate away from dogs, every time all the time, it isn't safe for her to have the power to leave it around the house: not because naughty girls aren't allowed to have nice things, but because she just isn't able to be perfect on this point, and it only takes one careless error to send the dogs to the emergency room. if you choose to do this -- and I would -- make it clear that this is the reason why: it's not to punish her, it's to protect the animals. it's a sign that you don't believe it's all her fault or that she did it on purpose. and it's also a sign that it's your responsibility to restrict her ability to cause harm, as her parent. that should limit her sense of guilt to what she can handle.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:21 PM on November 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

So stressful! I'm glad that it sounds like your dogs are going to be ok. My wife and I have had some scares with gum (our dog is incredibly resourceful at getting into things that are put away), and it's always really scary - I don't blame you for being angry. I agree with most of the other posters that punishment/anger aren't really appropriate here. I think the important thing is to make her understand that unexpected things can be poisonous to dogs, and that the only way to keep your dogs safe is to make sure that they can only eat what you feed them.

I actually think it's useful to separate this incident and the book incident, both in how you think about them and how you talk to your daughter about them, because the potential results are so wildly different. The book amounts to property damage, and can be dealt with the same way you would if she were running through the house and knocked over a lamp. The chocolate is different, because it's much more important that she understand what chocolate can do to dogs than it is that she learn a lesson about carelessness. I don't know your daughter, but I can almost guarantee that she will see accidentally one of your dogs as something to be avoided far more than she will see having her phone taken away or whatever.

On another note, do you know about the ASPCA poison control hotline? It's what we used during the gum incident, and it saved us a costly visit to the emergency vet.

On a final note, your dogs are very cute.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:25 PM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

are you a very consequences-and-punishment type of parent, normally? would your kid expect to get punished for something like this? do you think you would be inclined to punish her the same, more, or not at all if the results of her negligence had been worse?

because she's probably going to feel horrible about this in a way that's worse than anything you could do to her. getting some sort of slap on the wrist punishment that's in line with precedent might actually relieve a little of the guilt and normalize the situation.

if you're not normally a punisher, I would not punish her for this.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:29 PM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Kids take things to heart more than adults realize, I think.

Yes, I in cowardly fashion used Orwell as a proxy in my own comment, but, OP, please note the number of people here who remember their parent's angry reaction to this kind of incident as traumatic and harmful even well into their adult years. This is not at all to imply that you are some kind of incipient abuser--rather, just to gently point out that these are the kinds of circumstances that tend to magnify the impact on a child of a parent's reaction. I'm sure you would never want to unintentionally have that kind of effect on your kid.
posted by praemunire at 2:30 PM on November 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Just chiming in to say that I really hope you don't frame this to her that she "accidentally poisoned your dogs". That's incorrect/misleading on two fronts. She left out something that could be unhealthy for dogs and they ate it. She should have been more careful, but halloween candy is not "poisonous" in the sense that it's inherently dangerous and she didn't do this to the dog, she created a situation where they did it to themselves.

I would be understanding with your framing of this with her. She's 11, she's not an adult. Also, as someone who has spent most of my adult life trying to unlearn childhood lessons about needing to be careful and responsible for everything, all the time, I'd warn you than getting angry at children for being imperfect is an amazingly effective way of creating anxious adults. It's ok to screw up. People, especially children do that. Having the people who you love and who are most important to you get angry at you for small mistakes is damaging to children.

If you need to do more, how about working with her to create more places in your house for her to put her stuff where it's out of reach of the dogs.
posted by mercredi at 2:35 PM on November 1, 2018 [17 favorites]

I think this is a teaching moment, not an anger moment. When you can do it calmly, sit down with your daughter and tell her, in as fact-based a way as you can muster, what happened, what the dogs' treatment was like, and what might have happened if you hadn't come home. Don't hurl this thing at her, but let her feel some part of the weight.

Then make a detailed plan for how to prevent it from happening again. Not "I will never again make a mistake" but "These are the backup systems in place so that mistakes are caught before there is a crisis." Like, if you forget to do something important, you don't vow to never forget something again (that doesn't work), you figure out a reminder system that backs you up.

As a natural consequence, ask her to take on some amount of extra dog-care duties.

Finally, this isn't about the money, and the money should be an afterthought of sorts, but I do think she should be required to work off a small portion - maybe $50-100, depending on her income and how well you guys pay for odd jobs.

I don't think you should direct your anger AT her. You can tell her how upset you were, how afraid for the dogs, and so on. But you should also remind her that you know everyone makes mistakes, and although this one was particularly bad, you LOVE HER NO MATTER WHAT. If she is distraught over this, she deserves compassion.

Every step of the way, especially since your feelings are understandably running high right now, check in with yourself: Will this help my daughter learn to be a more responsible dog owner? Or is this borne of my desire for revenge? Please quash the latter.
posted by telepanda at 2:35 PM on November 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm gonna dissent slightly and say that as a kid who deeply loved animals and would have been profoundly devastated by accidentally hurting one, I think some sort of punishment would actually be helpful in working through the guilt, as long as it's administered impartially, without anger and with the understanding that she already feels bad (and yet, that doesn't take away what the dogs suffered). Taking over all dog-related chores for a period of time, or doing some sort of volunteer work/allowance donation for an animal-related charity, might be appropriate.
posted by waffleriot at 2:49 PM on November 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Hey OP! Just wanted to chime in again and say that I really admire that, even though you are/were angry, you took a step back and asked for some perspective. That takes both courage and wisdom.

You're having a tough day, and you still stepped in here. You deserve big, big props for that.
posted by angiep at 2:50 PM on November 1, 2018 [59 favorites]

everyone's saying not to get angry and it's a hell of a thing. if I'd almost killed one of our cats and my mom showed no particular anger or other emotions over it, if she treated me as the primary injured party in need of consolation, as if that was more important than what did happen/almost happened to the animal, I'd have been in therapy for the last 30 years trying to forgive her and figure out what was wrong with her. don't get angry at your kid, in the sense of don't shout and threaten? of course not. but be angry about what happened, like a human being, where she can see it, and frankly acknowledge it in age-appropriate language breaking down what you feel ("I feel angry now because I was scared before, because..."

you know how it's good for kids, when they're treated unfairly by teachers, to see their parents get genuinely angry about that injustice on their behalf? this is the same. modelling protectiveness over all those under your care and appropriate affect in response to a threatened catastrophe is very good parenting. the opposite of abusive.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:56 PM on November 1, 2018 [17 favorites]

First of all I'm very sorry that this has happened, and that you are having such a rough day. Much love to you, your dogs, and your daughter.


From the way you are talking about this, it sounds like your dogs do not have insurance? In a way, I guess you are being punished for not having insurance to cover this vet bill.

Or in other words: the vet bill is a problem, how do we solve that?

I live in the UK, and each of my cats is insured. One of my cats died of lymphoma in the span of a month this summer; her bill was in the same ballpark as yours. The insurance reimbursed everything except a £75 excess and the £14 for cremation. Her premiums were £23 per month and she was aged about 10-12.

Another cat is showing signs of what I really hope is not asthma; but if he does have it, I know I can afford to get him treated. Because he's always getting into scrapes, his premiums are a record-breaking £30 a month, but it's a "can't afford not to" situation. I've had cats with riotously expensive chronic conditions, who were given hopeless prognoses, and they just lived and lived until they died. We were forking out huge sums of money on a weekly basis, so I see the "£30 a month for ONE cat?!?" from that perspective.

I don't know how plans and prices compare where you are, but maybe you can limit future damage by insuring your dogs if you haven't already. Chewing stuff will probably be excluded, though, being that he's already had a trip to the vet over this. Sorry, it sucks.


That's about all the advice I can offer, other than to reaffirm what queenofbithynia said.

And also to reaffirm points made by various commenters, including telepanda that you have a system problem here and what you need is to set up a system that's resilient to the errors of an 11-year-old.

If there's no way to reconcile the system then you may have to consider jbenben's point that not all pets are suitable for all stages of life. I hope you can work out a safe system so you don't have to reach that conclusion.
posted by tel3path at 3:01 PM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I haven't read all the responses, but the way to both have her make amends and build her self-esteem is by having her make amends to the dogs. So, she has extra responsibilities for walking and playing with the dogs for a certain amount of time. That's a mostly happy chore (even if it feels like a chore because she'd rather be watching TV or reading or whatever), and it makes her feel like she is contributing to the household and the dog's quality of life.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:02 PM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

It wasn't a conscious decision on her part; it was a mistake. I'd vote for a stern but kind talk, joint problem-solving about where to store candy, and she has to do something to make amends to the dogs. I just asked a passing-by 16-year-old and he also says that "punishment" isn't the right approach for a mistake.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:06 PM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

It is the general carelessness causing damage to our property (and now the dogs) that I take issue with.

Sorry to be blunt but welcome to having a child and pets. I can't tell you the number of times a dog (or cat) peed on something or chewed something or that I broke something on accident. Hell, we had a dog jump in a break a window shattering glass on all three of us kids and my bedroom because my friends were taunting it to jump! (An action I tried to stop.) I mean, gosh, my parent once backed over my bicycle with their car! Stuff happens.

That's not to say you can't be upset. That's not to say you can't talk to your child about responsibility. I once had all my toys taken away because I got in a candy/food fight in my room. But honestly that just made me upset and didn't really do much to instill a value of objects. If the library book was destroyed work on teaching the dog not to chew. Work on teaching your child the value of objects. Make a special place on a shelf for library books to be kept when not in use. Talk about how libraries work and that they depend on people being responsible. Talk about her being a co-caregiver for the dog. Don't just get angry and yell. Don't try to punish for what is a pretty normal if not small amount of average childhood forgetfulness or carelessness. Any lessons that could be taught in punishment tend to get lost into anger at the punishment instead.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:08 PM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

This question and the responses just got me in tears, what a tough situation all around. I hope you're able to do something good and caretaking for yourself tonight also.

I think that the advice to not say the phrase "you poisoned the dogs" is good, and the advice to talk it through with her - how you felt (scared, sad, angry it happened) and about how these feelings are normal to feel when family members are in danger and having a bad experience because of an accident - was great. Tell you you love her, do this while petting the dogs and having candy - that was also excellent advice.

And take care of yourself, too. Best of luck and I'm sorry this is such a Time right now.
posted by sockermom at 3:09 PM on November 1, 2018 [12 favorites]

My focus as a parent for this kind of error, when you have a child who is genuinely sorry, is to make it not about punishment but about taking responsibility. She can be responsible for the dogs' aftercare (with you hovering, of course), which maybe includes staying home all weekend to ensure they're okay or checking their poop or whatever. She can be responsible for coming to the vet with you and getting a stern lecture about the dogs' wellbeing when you pick them up, and getting the information about the aftercare. She can be responsible for paying for (a small part of) the vet bill. She can be responsible for thinking of a system to ensure this never happens again -- a system that has to satisfy you. (If it were my kid and I felt punishment was needed, I would probably ask them to decide an appropriate punishment, which they would typically suggest something like throwing away the candy or being grounded.)

But carelessness isn't generally cured by punishment; when you make careless mistakes as an adult, you have to take responsibility for them and deal with the consequences. I would let her deal with an appropriately-supervised and attenuated set of consequences, which serves as both a "punishment" and as a way to make amends, and I think is healthier than just punishing. Having her take responsibility lets her have real consequences that really matter -- not random parentally-imposed ones -- and at the same time gives her a way to make amends for her error, which is REALLY IMPORTANT, and tends to make kids more responsible, because they see that they have the power to correct their mistakes.

Part of the consequences, by the way, should be that she understands that you are angry, you were scared, and you are disappointed in her. Interpersonal consequences are consequences too. I wouldn't tell her this cruelly, or harp on it to make her feel bad, but it's okay for your disappointment and upset to be part of the consequences. It's okay for her own disappointment in herself to be part of the consequences! Bad feelings are part of what happens when we make mistakes.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:13 PM on November 1, 2018 [12 favorites]

When I was 13 or 14 I made a mistake while grooming one of my grandmother's ponies. I cut off most of his tail. She was a high-profile breeder, so it wasn't just play, it was work, and I f*cked up. It wasn't in any way life-threatening, but it was potentially devaluing that very precious pony for a long while.
She said one harsh sentence when she saw it, and I still feel guilt to this day, more than 40 years later. Trust me, if your kid is in any way human, she's had all the punishment she needs. Once my gran asked me what was the worst things I'd ever done, and she was actually surprised at how bad I felt about that particular mistake, because in the end the pony was fine after a year and it wasn't as big an issue as she thought when it happened. Her other ponies won tons of medals that year and sold well, and I compensated by doing good at events.

I think you, like my gran back then got a huge fright, and reacted naturally with fear and anger, and any child will feel that and react with her own fear. You've dealt out the relevant consequences already. It's OK.

You might not think the issues are comparable, but lets just say that they were so to her and to me. And then I'd add it was her job. Her ponies sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they cost almost as much to breed. So a loss of potential income for a year could have been devastating for her. It worked out, but it was a huge shock, and it's totally OK to react dramatically to a huge shock. It's also OK to look back and realize it ended well and no-one was really hurt.
posted by mumimor at 3:35 PM on November 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

I have never owned or known a dog that didn’t chew and/or swallow something it wasn’t supposed to at some point, and the dogs with issues chewed everything all the time in the manner you describe.

From that perspective, how will you cope going forward?

I don’t think you can reasonably keep valuables or dangerous substances away from the chewer dog’s mouth and stomach. Maybe come up with a way to cope better next time? This is going to happen again.
posted by jbenben at 3:40 PM on November 1, 2018 [10 favorites]

Two words: poop patrol.
posted by Middlemarch at 3:45 PM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Just yesterday we found a library book that she had left out and the dog had chewed. She swore it would never happen again.

I think you may find this page on using natural and logical consequences in parenting helpful!

My thought would be that the logical consequence of chewed up library book would be paying the replacement fee to the library. The logical consequence of leaving candy out might be to have the candy locked away and having to ask mom or dad to unlock the candy when you want to eat it.

The idea with a logical consequence is that it's supposed to be related to the behavior you want to change, not designed to punish or induce guilt, and similar to what an adult might experience in the "real world." Maybe bc you missed work, there is a fun activity that the family has to skip while you make up that time. Maybe bc the dogs are chewing on her things, she has to do a sweep of the house for chewable possessions before she leaves. Maybe bc the vet bill was so high, she is responsible for 10% or 20% of it, paid over time from parts of birthday money or chores. Etc.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:06 PM on November 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

You're the parent, and ultimately you alone are responsible for your child and the dog's vet bill.

What are some steps YOU could have taken to prevent what happened?

11-year-olds are not known for their fastidiousness.

It's your job to manage your household, mitigate these risks and plan for success.

Forget about it, and try to think of some ways to ensure it doesn't happen.
posted by JamesBay at 4:11 PM on November 1, 2018 [19 favorites]

Oh my goodness, the kid didn't accidentally "poison your dogs." When I read the title I thought something awful had happened here. She left Halloween candy out. She didn't leave poison in the dog food.
I will be interested if someone corrects me with an actual anecdote of something that happened in their own house to the contrary, but despite all the warnings, I don't think dogs are really seriously poisoned by two normal Halloween candy bars. Dogs get into candy all the time and they don't die. Unless these dogs are about 2 pounds, or this was not normal Halloween candy but some kind of 95% dark chocolate and a gigantic bar of that, I'm shocked that your vet induced vomiting unless you asked them to.
Every dog I know has gotten into the good stuff now and then. Maybe they have some runny poop.
Please just tell your kid not to leave the candy where the dog can eat it. Don't make her feel worse than she does for this. Kids all over the country have left their candy on the chair after the excitement of Halloween, including kids with dogs and baby siblings, it is so not unusual or terrible a thing.
posted by nantucket at 4:32 PM on November 1, 2018 [17 favorites]

I think this might be a circumstance where I'd open up the conversation (after the initial shock and upset, maybe tomorrow) to her suggestions for how she can a) help herself to remember to not leave stuff out for a chewy dog and b) help the family deal with the aftermath of the event, either monetarily or in some other fashion to help care for the dogs. Not in an angry upset way but in a "I don't blame you, it was a mistake, but it's one that needs to not happen again, so let's think about that together" way.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:37 PM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

It is the general carelessness causing damage to our property (and now the dogs)

The dog caused the damage to property, not the child. I agree with others who've said it's a big burden you've put on a child's shoulders to never leave anything out. Maybe after you talk to her compassionately about what happened, you guys could come up with ideas together on ways to avoid the dog getting in stuff its not supposed to. I don't think punishing for an unfortunate mistake will do anything but add to the trauma she's going to feel. All humans, adults and kids, make mistakes. Helping each other figure out the best ways to avoid similar mistakes in the future is the best way forward. Sorry this happened.
posted by JenMarie at 4:45 PM on November 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

If I were to pick the one action that I most regret as a parent, it was punishing my son for something that he never would have done on purpose, he just had a forgetful moment. It involved unnecessary suffering for an animal (though no vet bills). I wholeheartedly agree with everyone who says the guilt she already feels is enough, and I think your acknowledging that she understands what she did, and feels remorse for it, in the most compassionate way possible, is likely to be the most effective teaching in the moment, and will also save you having to apologize twenty years from now. BTDT.
posted by bricoleur at 5:00 PM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

It sounds like it was a really hard day for you. I am wondering if your own parent (or parents) acted angry and punative toward you when they were stressed? The type of reaction you had doesn’t come from nowhere.
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:02 PM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

Also, the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk was absolutely life changing for me. One useful concept was “natural consequences” rather than punishment. Example: if kid acts up at the store, the consequence is I don’t want to take kid to the store next time. I found this much more useful than an arbitrary invented punishment.
posted by FencingGal at 5:28 PM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am under other stresses so I might be more upset than usual, please be nice to me too because I am having a rough day. Thanks

It's ok to tell her that there will be consequences but you haven't decided about them yet because it has been a busy and stressful day and you haven't had time to think what they will be.
posted by yohko at 5:36 PM on November 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

everyone's saying not to get angry and it's a hell of a thing.

"Don't get angry" and "don't make punishment decisions out of anger" are really two quite different things. When you punish out of anger you are not thinking about what the best thing to do to ensure that your kid learns the appropriate lessons is, you are thinking about relieving your angry feelings. An eleven-year-old is plenty old enough to recognize when a parent is doing something to hurt them because they've been hurt and yet calling it justice. Plenty old enough.
posted by praemunire at 5:39 PM on November 1, 2018 [24 favorites]

Full disclosure: I have neither dogs nor children. BUT, I was your daughter once. And I’m still your dogs. I’ll explain!

I was a scatterbrained kid, and many of the adults around me responded as though I were that way on purpose, just to spite them. I’m now a scatterbrained adult, and just last night I accidentally “poisoned” myself in...ahem...a rather traditional Halloween kind of way.

I don’t (want to) know if any of the neighbours saw/recognized the overgrown “cheerleader” on all fours, puking in my front yard at midnight. I do know that even though my mom’s been dead for years, I could still imagine what she might have said in her “fed up” mode. It’s been with me all day. It will also probably not stop me doing it again someday.

Mom really was a wonderful mom in a lot of ways, though, and I can also imagine what she would have said in her compassionate, tough-but-unconditional-love mode. If I focus on that, I’ll probably be a little less scattered in the days ahead, probably have a little less chaos in my wake. My guilt complex will loom every bit as large, because that’s just who I am...but I’ll do more constructive things with it.
posted by armeowda at 5:53 PM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

One thing that’s important to take into account is there may very well be trauma around her finding out/realizing that she almost killed innocent beings that she loves. It may be more than guilt that she will be dealing with. It may go even deeper. Hold that gently.
posted by MountainDaisy at 7:09 PM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

It is unclear to me if your child even understood there was a potential health risk to your dog. I mean, it was her stuff she was risking getting ruined, so unless someone explained clearly the potential danger to the dog, she didn't have any reason to be particularly mindful of what she did with the candy.

Also, yes, it is unlikely that a haul of Halloween candy contained enough actual cocoa to do your dog much if any damage. Theobromine starts being toxic at 20 mg per kg of dog. So, if your dog weighs around 22 lbs, it would require 200 mg of theobromine to even begin being toxic -- and that's at the hyper-dog, let's keep an eye on him so we can rush him in if he starts to look distressed stage. A full-size hershey's milk chocolate bar has 64 mg of theobromine. Unless everyone in the neighborhood was handing out solid chocolate almost exclusively, your dog probably didn't get much of a dose. BUT! That doesn't mean it shouldn't have scared you. You love your dog!

You can teach your daughter how to take responsibility for her actions by making meaningful amends to the damaged party, which can help her feel more responsible and in control of herself. Or you can teach her to be paralyzed by shame and self-doubt, believing that any mistake she makes is going to have catastrophic results.

My dad taught me that before I left any room, I should turn around and sweep my gaze across it. Did I leave anything out? Even if I didn't, is there anything that might be bad if my toddler brother got hold of it? If something needs to be put away, do it, and then do a visual sweep again before leaving the room. My dad was generally a pretty terrible parent, but this was actually a great skill he taught me, which I use to this day, and am proud of myself each time for remembering to do so. He must have praised my effort rather than nit-picking my failures. I do remember that he had to do the visual sweep with me and tell me what and HOW he was seeing multiple times before I a) started remembering to do it, and b) learned how to kind of mentally step back and take in the big picture of the room while still cataloging the individual elements. I think if you teach your kid the skills that will allow her to do what you want her to do, rather than saying "don't forget," everyone will come out better for it.
posted by tllaya at 7:36 PM on November 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


I fetched the dogs from the vet. We got a large quantity of charcoal as the take-home meds. I left them on the counter and left for work.

My daughter returned home from her friend's house before I got home. She saw the meds and asked me what they were for. I explained about the candy. My daughter volunteered to throw out all of the Halloween candy.

When I got home, my daughter was crying. She was deleting apps from her phone saying that she doesn't deserve them. I did explain to her that everybody makes mistakes. I reminded her of the time that we got into a car accident, which was my fault, and everybody forgave me for having the car accident. I restored her phone from backup.

We came to an agreement on the vet bill. We will scale back Christmas accordingly. I can afford $650 (this is why I do not do pet insurance), so it is more about understanding the scale of the expense and trading one expense for another.

Thank you to the kind posters who talked me off a ledge on this. As a single mom I do not have a place to turn so I appreciate the advice that I could take and use.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:59 PM on November 1, 2018 [115 favorites]

PS - as her penance she is on 💩 patrol cleaning up black charcoal poop.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:03 PM on November 1, 2018 [65 favorites]

That sounds like a good, productive, and loving update! I'm glad the puppers are okay, too.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:10 PM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

black charcoal poop

SUCH an underrated band!

Seriously, though...sounds like you’re raising a compassionate, empathetic kid. Thanks for the update. I wish you ALL a gentle way forward.
posted by armeowda at 9:12 PM on November 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

I'm so glad you, your daughter, and your dogs are OK (they are extremely cute by the way). You are a good parent for coming here to get perspective in the first place, and I really hope you didn't feel too piled on. We have all been there, and it's even worse when one is feeling stressed, so good for you not only for coming down off that ledge but also asking for help to do so.

I agree that "Black Charcoal Poop Patrol" would be an excellent band name!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:21 PM on November 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

I think you raised a good kid and this sounds like a great resolution. Good parenting job.
posted by like_neon at 4:00 AM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I got home, my daughter was crying. She was deleting apps from her phone saying that she doesn't deserve them. I did explain to her that everybody makes mistakes. I reminded her of the time that we got into a car accident, which was my fault, and everybody forgave me for having the car accident.

This is such an empathetic way of handling it. Good for you. Good family, good parent.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:20 AM on November 2, 2018 [19 favorites]

Thank you so much for updating. I'm so glad you were able to hear people's suggestions and sorry if any were too brusque. Good for you handling this so well, and please don't be hard on yourself either. All parents get angry, and ultimately, you did a great job here.

(And with my own kids, eleven was the absolute hardest age for me - way harder than the teenage years.)
posted by FencingGal at 6:48 AM on November 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

You sound like such a great mom. So glad for the update. Enjoy your break from poop!
posted by hazyjane at 6:55 AM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your daughter sounds like a good kid with a kind heart. It's perfectly fine to be angry, I'd have been angry too. I'm glad you asked and got some other perspectives from us here. That's what makes life better! I have a feeling this will be a positive memory overall that your daughter will remember (weird, I know.. not positive as in "good" but as in productive and meaningful) because of how you all handled it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:01 AM on November 2, 2018

We got a large quantity of charcoal as the take-home meds. I left them on the counter and left for work.

So....was I the only one who thought this was going to end differently? Like...with the dogs getting to the charcoal? Heh.

Glad everyone worked out. Your daughter sounds amazing.
posted by the webmistress at 11:08 AM on November 2, 2018 [12 favorites]

It sounds like you ultimately did great in this situation (though I'm not so sure about curtailing Christmas, but that's obviously within your rights as a parent). However, maybe the bigger takeaway here is that you sound like you need and deserve support! You're single-parenting (possibly because your husband passed away, from past posts? I'm so sorry if that's the case, though of course divorce can be extremely hard as well), you had some less than ideal modeling of parenting by your own mom, and you sound so busy and overwhelmed with how to carry everything yourself. This is so understandable and so difficult. Where can you seek support? Are there parenting classes where you are? Is there a supportive therapist who can act as a pillar for you in times of heavy stress? Are there friends you could rely on more? You shouldn't have to do this all alone, that is so, so hard.
posted by namesarehard at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

My childhood dog Maggie (previously) ate my Halloween candy several years in a row, and threw up lavishly immediately afterwards.

I never felt guilty and my parents didn't get angry over the notion of potentially killing the dog. Instead, the fact that I had lost every single piece of candy was itself punishment. If your daughter is more sensitive than I was, then she will also be beating herself up about it.

I wouldn't come down hard on your daughter.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:29 PM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I did explain to her that everybody makes mistakes. I reminded her of the time that we got into a car accident, which was my fault, and everybody forgave me for having the car accident. I restored her phone from backup.

You did some good Mom'ming there. Good ending...and I wonder if, years from now, one or both of you might laugh at the charcoal poop patrolling.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:37 PM on November 2, 2018

I may be projecting, probably, but it sounds as if she was judging herself as an unworthy person (not deserving those apps is a red flag), as opposed to just a person who did a bad act, that would be awesome mom-opportunity to to empower her into adulthood.
posted by MountainDaisy at 5:03 PM on November 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

Also, the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk was absolutely life changing for me. One useful concept was “natural consequences” rather than punishment. Example: if kid acts up at the store, the consequence is I don’t want to take kid to the store next time. I found this much more useful than an arbitrary invented punishment.

This. Absolutely this.

In fact it was this very philosophy that was the driver behind the fashionable shift from the word "punishment" to the word "consequences" to describe appropriate parental responses to children's failures to behave like ideal adults. It's a real shame that most of the message has been lost, "consequences" subsequently mutating into an essentially PC synonym for "punishment", as this very question illustrates so clearly.

What is appropriate? What would you do?

Pretty much exactly what you did. Well played.

Except possibly for the part about restoring her phone from backups. I would have allowed those apps to disappear without a backward glance. But that's probably just me being a bit hidebound about kids and screen time.
posted by flabdablet at 10:38 PM on November 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Further thoughts on the apps thing: another argument in favour of leaving them deleted after she's chosen to delete them is that to her, deleting the apps clearly felt like an appropriate part of making up for what she did, quite possibly on the basis that she knows full well that using those particular apps leaves her inattentive. Undoing those deletions disempowers that to some extent, as well as taking the immediate focus off her relationship with the dog and how she's going to manage that from now on.

Whether or not this matters is the kind of endlessly layered judgment call that consumes every parent for most of our waking hours. Whenever you ask for advice on an issue like this, you're going to hear from parents who have made different calls for their own kids than you've made for yours.

But you know little ms crazycanuck better than any of us do, so the person most likely make the correct calls for her is you. Whenever you feel you're failing as a parent - and you will, we all do - you need to hold onto that. Parenting is hard. Nobody makes a perfect fist of it.

Fortunately, human beings are resilient enough that all we really need from our parents when we're little is love, respect and attention. Be generous with those and she'll turn out just fine.
posted by flabdablet at 10:54 PM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

As an adult who was once a child with undiagnosed ADHD and a father who harped endlessly about how small mistakes I made frequently were due to my own carelessness, I agree with others in this thread that punishment isn't warranted here. That doesn't mean do nothing - but do things that are about trying to help the dogs in the future, not set this up as a failure in a way that will teach her that even trying her best isn't good enough.

For instance, work on strategies you can implement TOGETHER with her that will help ease the cognitive load of having to deal with dogs who are such bad chewers. Put up brightly colored and lettered signs around the house that say things like "remember to put chocolate and other chewy items up high!" Invest in tall shelves that can be put in more locations around the house so that wherever you or she are, there is an easy place to immediately put items high up. Please don't add to her distress by setting this up as a situation that deserves punishment.
posted by augustimagination at 2:14 PM on November 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

As a kid who was very sensitive and extremely prone to inappropriate self-flagellation - to the extent that it is maybe luck that I never seriously hurt myself - I think it is an appropriate intervention to stop emotionally-driven self-punishment, even when the action is pretty virtual in the grand scheme of things. Self-destruction isn't a great skillset, and learning to step back and take a breath and choose what useful lessons/actions to take in the wake of emotional discomfort is a good thing.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:37 PM on November 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

I just wanted to say you turned a potentially traumatic situation into a beautiful moment that your daughter will remember forever. I really wish my parents had dealt with stuff this way.

She was deleting apps from her phone saying that she doesn't deserve them

Your daughter has a kind soul. I think I know who she takes after. Please check in with her and drive the point home that her worth as a person is not conditional to her being perfect.
posted by Tarumba at 7:13 AM on November 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm going to take a step back and not comment on your interaction with your child and talk of consequences except to say a little gentleness goes a long way.

I do have concern about a vet charging you +$600 for eating two full size chocolate candies. Chocolate toxicity for dogs is generally many ounces higher, something like a snickers or reese's cup doesn't actually have that much chocolate--even a hershey's bar is less than 3 ounces. Unless your dogs are extremely small or have medical issues this would not generally be a life or death(or even diarrhea ) situation. Inducing vomiting in dogs and knowing when to do so is also something I feel is pretty helpful for dog owners and easy to handle with a bit of research(spoiler:a little milk/half&half mixed with a little hydrogen peroxide from your medicine cabinet are amazingly effective!)
posted by nenequesadilla at 11:31 PM on November 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

« Older Dog poop etiquette and logistics   |   Recruiters asking for my passport number. Why? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments