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. Overall the text was pretty brutal and rough. But embedded in its pages was a technique so easy and effective, I wondered why it hadn’t caught on.
It was also doable without needing to disrupt the activity at hand in any big way, at home or away, a crucial point because so many techniques don’t transport well to the public arena.
Stop. Pause. Redirect.
There are three simple steps to this technique:
1. Have your child stop the unacceptable behavior.
2. Have her stand quietly by you for thirty seconds with no interaction. (I had my kids stand up still, no eye contact, arms by sides while they were doing this and the thirty seconds only started when they were still and quiet.)
3. After the time is up, send your child off to do what she should be doing. ‘Go play.’
You can explain at this point why you stopped the earlier behavior but in my case my kids knew why, it didn’t need spelling out, so I would just give them a signal – a hand on the shoulder – and off they would run and play, the reason for the pause forgotten.
This technique seemed to work well in public because it wasn’t intrusive, there was no shaming and most people didn’t even notice. And, once we’d done it a couple of times, because the boys knew it was a just a pause and they would soon get back to playing, they had no trouble complying.
No words, no stimulation, a quick interrupt and a reboot. And you can do it anywhere. A great trick for your parenting toolbox.
And perhaps for your dog.
Are you a dog owner and a parent? Are there similarities between the two roles? Let us know in the comments!