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Try Doggie Discipline -- on Your Kids!

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Cesar Millan, a.k.a. The Dog Whisperer, has developed a new fan base: Frazzled parents!

Cesar Milan

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: A friend of mine just forwarded me a New York Times article that outlines a hot new parenting trend in disciplining kids -- taking tips from a man known as The Dog Whisperer!

The article states that because strong parenting role models are lacking on TV these days, parents are turning to The Dog Whisperer's disciplinary techniques to get their kids to sit, stand and roll over on command:

"Parents -- particularly those weary of never-say-no techniques and child-rearing books suggesting that children should call the shots -- say they find inspiration, and even practical advice, in Mr. Millan's approach, which teaches pet owners how to become the alpha dogs by projecting his trademark 'calm-assertive energy.' "

Sure, there's something to be said for calm, authoritative behavior. But does this mean its okay to teach our kids to fetch our slippers and morning paper too?

A child therapist has even taken Millan's concept and, in the words of Woody Allen, turned it into an idea: "Brenna Hicks, a child therapist in Palm Harbor, Fla., who writes an advice blog, The Kid Counselor, adapted Mr. Millan's central idea, that dogs take their cues from their masters, and misbehave only when the masters fail to carry themselves, in body language and tone of voice, like pack leaders. In a post, 'Raising Kids: Wisdom From the Dog Whisperer,' she wrote, 'When we present nervous, angry or scared energy in front of our kids, they pick up on those emotions.' "

Now I can see the parallels here, I really can. LAWD knows I'm a proponent of taking your kids out for a run before expecting them to sit through a meal.

I love and respect dogs, I really do. I also love and respect my kids. I don't know about you all, but I find something a tad disturbing about treating a human child like a four-legged creature that sleeps outside and feels compelled to lick its own feces.

Isn't the challenge of parenting supposed to lie in our ability to reconcile their ideas and opinions with ours? What do you all think?

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9 comments so far | Post a comment now
Emily November 30, 2009, 12:52 PM

First off, not all dogs sleep outside. my dogs sleep in my bed. Second off, i agree with the idea that what works for dogs will work for kids. If you are a wishy-washy parent who says NO to getting a toy at the store, only to leave with a toy in the kids hands, then you are a bad parent. no should mean no. and dogs understand this if you are a good owner. kids should understand it too. If your dog won’t sit on command, then your kid probably is lacking in basic social skills as well. kids didn’t come with an instruction manual. And that is what this technique is teaching. It teaches the parent to be a parent and give the guidance our kids need.

Beth November 30, 2009, 12:58 PM

I think if you can learn strategies that help you feel more effective as a parent, then you should grab on with both hands regardless of the intended audience or initial source.

There’s a metric ton of good research done in animal behavior and shaping behavior that is useful for parents and that can be another tool in the old parenting tool box.

I don’t think it means I look at my son like he’s a dog or my dogs like they’re daughters.

Pamala November 30, 2009, 4:58 PM

Honestly I can see why the concepts work and I think frankly people need to separate the concepts from who it can be applied to. And why we treat our pets better than our children (by providing them with the proper structure they need and training) is beyond me. If it’s good enough for your dog, then why isn’t it good enough for your child? We give children too much credit. They aren’t little people. They are immature beings who need to be trained, loved, cared for, and this can be done using the same methods as one does to train a dog. They’re not talking about using the “shtt” thing and poking your kid, but rather that you present yourself in a calm assertive manner, where a child can then feel comfortable.

Janet Powell November 30, 2009, 5:45 PM

Yes, Vivian, you’re spot-on! We as parents do need to consider our children’s ideas and opinions.They are not empty vessels to be filled with our opinions and knowledge. Guiding children does not mean telling them what to do, when to do it or how to do it, as you might with a dog.It means taking their needs and feelings, as well as our own, into consideration.

Angie November 30, 2009, 6:23 PM

This article is really funny considering just over Thanksgiving I was watching Dog Whisperer and that night when my two year old was being a monkey I told my husband I was going to leave because I thought I was giving off the wrong energy and he was picking up on it. (A trick I just happened to see that day on the show…) Sure enough as soon as I left, my son completely behaved and let my husband finish putting his jammies on. Seems to me my stay at the in laws was just stressing me out more than I realized!

gbmonkey November 30, 2009, 6:24 PM

This is so self explanatory the majority of teaching a dog to behave is to follow through, and being consistent. If you can do this with a child it will make a world of difference. Following through is key.

Candy December 7, 2009, 3:37 PM

Well, it makes sense. It’s how my parents dealt with me as a child and how I’m dealing with my own. It’s very structured, cause and effect based training. Yes, children do need to be trained. Feel free to have an opinion, just know when to voice it. If I tell you to do something, it gets done now, no arguments. Same thing with dogs. Humans are just as much pack animals as dogs are; just look at societal hierarchies.

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