3 dog-rearing tips… applied to kids

3 dog-rearing tips... applied to kids

By Pastor Ruttan

The world of parenting seems to be pretty topsy-turvy these days. There doesn’t seem to be much consensus other than a vague acknowledgment that we should love our kids and try to make them kind people.

So let me suggest three parenting tips from an unlikely source: “The Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan. This American-Mexican dog trainer is the kingpin of K9 health and happiness.

At the risk of offending some people, I think we’d be wise to apply three of his dog-rearing insights to parenting our children from birth to high school. I think they go a long way in helping dogs (and, gulp, our kids) to be at their best.

1. Exercise

Exercise is huge. When dogs don’t have enough exercise they start to act out. They get agitated and start to make bad decisions because they were designed to be physical. So when we deny them rich amounts of exercise their systems and brains starts to backfire.

Let’s now apply this to kids.

Exercise is huge; and it’s sorely lacking in the age of screen time, less physical education in schools, distracted parents, and expensive sports. When kids don’t have enough exercise they start to act out. They get agitated and start to make bad decisions because they were designed to be physical. So when we deny them rich amounts of exercise their systems and brains starts to backfire.

2. The Boss

Dogs need to know who’s in charge. If there isn’t a clear authority figure, whom they learn to respect and take guidance from—even when they don’t want to—they will want to be that pack-leader themselves. If they assume that role they can become manipulative and demanding. But inside their minds, dogs actually crave an authoritative pack leader who can provide for them, and give them security, direction, and affirmation.

Let’s now apply this to kids.

Children need to know who’s in charge. If there isn’t a clear authority figure, whom they learn to respect and take guidance from—even when they don’t want to—they will want to be that pack-leader themselves. If they assume that role they can become manipulative and demanding. But inside their minds, children actually crave an authoritative pack leader who can provide for them, and give them security, direction, and affirmation.

To me, this is the biggest issue in parenting today: kids who are actually the boss in their homes and who set their family’s priorities—and parents who, because they aren’t truly in charge, become the submissives.

3. Rewards

Dogs love rewards. Don’t we all? But when you give a reward to a dog, they often interpret it as a confirmation of whatever they’re currently doing. So, for example, if you show affection to a dog when it is really nervous about something, you are rewarding them and making the dog think that you want them to continue being nervous. So with dogs, it’s important to reward them for positive behaviour, not negative behaviour that you actually want to discourage.

Let’s now apply this to kids.

Kids love rewards. Don’t we all? But when you give a reward to a child, they often interpret it as a confirmation of whatever they’re currently doing. So, for example, if you give a child a treat/reward/gift when they are misbehaving, you are rewarding them and making the child think that they can misbehave in order to get what they want. So with kids, it’s important to reward them for positive behaviour, not negative behaviour that you actually want to discourage.

Last week I witnessed a debacle. A parent asked a small child to take their coat off. The child refused. It eventually happened, but only after a 10-minute barter session with the parent, and only after they had been told about ten times they were a “good little girl” and promised an ice cream cone and extra screen time for being such an amazing human being. The take home in the child’s mind is that big time misbehaviour gets you big time rewards. The little girl had already become the pack leader and the parent was the submissive.

Gone to the dogs

I’m not a dog expert. I’m not a parenting expert either. But in this topsy-turvy world of modern parenting, I think there is something down-to-earth and commonsensical about applying three of Cesar Millan’s dog insights to children.

When we (1) give our kids lots of exercise, (2) are a confident leader who is in charge and providing care, security, direction and affirmation, and (3) reward good behaviour instead of bad, we are well on our way to healthier, more balanced kids.

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