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Vail Daily column: The secret to getting kids to listen

Jill Marchione Papangelis
Family Matters
Vail, CO Colorado

I have a girlfriend who swears kids just don’t listen. She says her son tunes her out completely and she could scream “Fire!” and would be ignored. I told her this was nonsense – kids listen more than she thinks. Unfortunately, she actually tried this at home. The results didn’t go well for her. Luckily the house really hadn’t caught flame – this time.

Another friend who has a young son visited the pediatrician to have some audio testing done. She was certain her child had clinical hearing difficulties. The doctor gave her boy’s health a thumbs up but said to her, “Maybe it’s the way you’re communicating with him; maybe he’s bored with your conversations.” Ouch!

I, on the other hand, think my kids listen remarkably well. I’ve never had the chief complaint so many of my friends have had. Why am I so fortunate? I have a theory. The reason I have always believed my kids to be such attentive listeners is that I have an English bulldog.



Children’s listening skills, compared with my dog’s, are genius. Arthur’s memory is short. Very short. Pondering this fact, perhaps it has something to do with his height. Short legs, short memory? I know dogs with graceful long legs like German shepherds, Labradors, golden retrievers who have brilliant attention spans and always seem to remember their owners’ instructions. Giraffes must be kings of the long-term memory.

My dog is not a bad dog – he’s kind, ultra-affectionate, and has a great personality (isn’t that what they always say about the homely ones?). He is not unintelligent; he learns quickly. He is not deaf; like my friend’s son, his hearing is perfectly adequate. His only ailment, I’m convinced, is that he has some form of early-onset Doggy-Alzheimer’s Disease.-



Arthur, for the most part, is well-behaved. That might not be entirely true, but I’m giving him an inch here. It’s difficult to tell since he spends most of his day lounging in the sun snoring. I like to think he’s contemplating something important and he’s not just wasting his time. I guess that can’t very well be considered fine-mannered but let’s agree, it’s definitely not disruptive. Dog books describe his breed’s energy level at one (of five), their heat tolerance at one, their cold tolerance at one, and their trainability at (you guessed it) one. He often is hot or thirsty, but can’t be bothered to gather the required effort even to move towards his water dish. He just stares in hopes it will move to him.

Laziness is his specialty and he could quite possibly be the least ambitious dog on earth. However, the moment a new dog, person, car, or bicycle comes into his little life, he forgets everything he has once learned or been told, employs some fantastic reserve of vigor, and reverts to puppy training day No. 1.

I’ve tried to instill good habits by showing him the alternative to his uncivilized ways. This can be demonstrated by the fact that when I take Arthur around the neighborhood for our walks, I often force him to sit and look at the numerous “good” dogs we pass by. I verbally abuse my dog (in a cheerful and positive voice, of course) by telling him how these other dogs are not loser dogs. These dogs stay. These dogs sit. These dogs walk politely on their leashes. They probably even smell nice.



Arthur stares blankly at them for as long as I make him sit and observe, most likely in wonderment as to why these otherwise normal dogs are not jumping, pulling on their leashes, drooling and smelling foul. I have no doubt he questions what’s wrong with them.

Luckily, I appreciate Arthur not for his obedience or distinguished beauty, but for his comic relief. I love a dog who makes me laugh just by looking at him. He has a very soft heart and quizzical expressions – he makes me smile. My kids make me laugh, too; and after walking around the block with Arthur, they seem incredibly obedient. My advice for parents, if you feel your kids aren’t listening to you, maybe the answer is to buy a bulldog. That’s sure to lower your expectations.

Jill Marchione Papangelis is a freelance writer and mother of four. She lives in Edwards with her family. Send column suggestions or comments to-jillscolumn@gmail.com.


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