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I was surprised, and a little perturbed, one day to learn that a parenting technique I was having such success with was a dog training trick! I was describing this new-found success to an animal-loving friend, the owner of many a cat and dog, when she said, casually, ‘Oh, that’s what you do with dogs.”
It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with my primary care doctor once about the many parents she spoke using similar practices with their kids as they do with their dogs! It slightly appalled me.
The need for parents to be alpha dogs
But I can see the similarities. Parents do need to establish themselves as the alphas in a family. Kids fight, sometimes to a frenzy, like dogs. They need to have their youthful exuberance moulded and focused into behavior that’s tolerable and productive.
I found the following parenting technique in a book called ‘The Manipulative Child.’ Like the idea that dog owners should be leaders of the pack, the book was clear about the necessity for establishing parental authority and overall the text was pretty brutal and rough.
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Imagine you were a new mom. Your baby girl was three months old. You’re nursing, changing her diapers, seeing her smile for the first time. You were bonding, loving spending the time with her, looking forward to watching her grow up.
But something is nagging you. You feel tired. Breathless. You put it down to post-partum depression and birth recovery but it doesn’t get better. One day, it is so bad, you can no longer tell yourself that it is nothing, so you go to the doctor. And you get a diagnosis.
Cancer. Contracted from the asbestos your father brought home from work on his boots, his clothes, his hands, when you were little.
How would you feel? Everything you expected would happen, looked forward to, suddenly thrown up in the air likes leaves, swirling around in the wind. Who knows where they would land? Would you even see them land?
This happened to Heather Von St James. When her daughter, Lily, was three months old she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. She was given three treatment options: Do nothing and live only another 15 months; undergo conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatment with an expectation of living another 5 years; or undergo surgery to remove the affected lung, pleura, diaphragm and pericardium. This final option was the riskiest but also held the most promise - 10 years or more.