I had today off and I have spent it enjoying some positive training shows.
One is It’s Me Or The Dog, showing Victoria Stillwell using positive training methods to train problem dogs (and their owners).
The other is Supernanny, showing Jo Frost using positive training methods to train problem children (and their parents).
I was just introduced to Supernanny by a friend, and I marathoned 5 episodes in a row. Watching it, I was struck over and over how much what she does is similar to what I do when I go into people’s homes and help them train their dogs. The standing and giving them instructions while the kid is having a tantrum on the floor was eerily reminiscent of my regular life working with clients while their dog is misbehaving in front of them. “Lots of praise, lots of encouragement,” comes out of my mouth constantly, just like hers. And so many of the techniques and advice are essentially the same as what I recommend to my clients for their dogs.
Basically, the show has helped confirm for me that raising children is much like raising dogs. Positive training is positive training! Here are just some of the similarities I saw:
Give appropriate outlets for energy
For dogs this means the owner takes them on lots of walks, runs, plays games of fetch, goes to the dog park, and does training. For kids this means the parent has to spend time playing games with their kids to have fun together and give them physical and mental exercise. This is the number one things that almost every person with problem children/dogs needs to improve on.
Set up rules with consequences and always always always follow them
Define the problem behaviors, decide on consequences for the behavior, and be 100% consistent in enforcing the rule the same way every time.
Separate the offender from the fun of the family as a form of discipline; for many problem behaviors this is taking away what the offender really wants most and is thus the most effective punishment.
Make the offender choose to accept the punishment
With kids this means not locking them in time-out, but allowing them to choose to get up/out and being there to put them back every.single.time they choose to do so. The punishment is internalized when they acknowledge it enough to choose to stay in it. With dogs it’s often much the same, for example, holding them in an “alpha roll” proves nothing. Intimidating them into an alpha roll (they choose to submit and roll over without physical contact) at least conveys a message. Similarly, when your dog refuses to listen, getting firm and waiting them out, being calm but not backing down, insisting they listen to you at least eventually, is far more effective than just shoving them into position.
Hitting only escalates the situation and doesn’t convey any lesson.
If the owner/parent loses it and gets angry, the battle is over. There is no longer any productive comunication happening. To stay in power and control of the situation stay calm and follow through on your planned discipline.
Acknowledge the good behavior that’s easy to ignore
It’s easy to ignore your child/dog when they’re being good, because you have a break. Instead, make a conscious effort to notice that good behavior and praise or reward it somehow.
Yup, pretty much the same. Now imagine what Jo could do if she had a clicker!