Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Leader of the Pack

I read an interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times yesterday about how people are taking the advice from the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, and using it to improve their home life with their children. I extracted a portion below for your enjoyment:

Becoming the Alpha Dog in Your Own Home

“When we started watching his shows, we had intended to apply his advice toward our dogs,” said Amy Twomey, a blogger on parenthood for The Dallas Morning News who is raising three children under 10 with her husband, Matt. “But we realized a lot of ideas can be used on our kids.”

Indeed, Mr. Millan’s advice has replaced a shelf full of books on how to tame an unruly child. “It’s all the same simple concept: how to be the pack leader in your own house,” she said.

Certainly, an army, or at least a few divisions, of credentialed experts on human parenthood long ago stumbled on Mr. Millan’s philosophical holy trinity — exercise, discipline and affection equals happiness. And Mr. Millan does not hold himself up as a new Dr. Spock; he has never opined on how one should raise a creature with two legs in his show on the National Geographic Channel, or in his four books.

So, kids and dogs are similar?

Until a year ago, when I received Makayla as Christmas gift and have had the pleasure of growing up with a puppy again, I would have disagreed. But--now I believe they are indeed similar. Not that kids are dogs, but that I (as dad, grandad, or dog owner) need to be ready to take charge and be the leader.

I believe that children, like dogs, are looking for someone to be in charge and to look out for their best interest. Unlike children, dogs are equipped to fill this role by nature; but children need adults to watch over them until they are--well probably into their 20's or so.

So reread the piece above and note the discussion of Millan's trinity: exercise, discipline, and affection.

Dogs require it--to be happy and allow their owners to be happy.

Children require these three things, too--and from talking to Chris about many of the children in her school--kids today are not getting enough of any of the three.

Note something here--all three require the active participation of the parent (or dog owner). These times become relationship builders. Be they exercise, or discipline (think of it as boundary setting and enforcing), and affection. Parents can't just show up occasionally--toss some gifts at the kids and think they are showing affection.

There is a time cost to having a dog.
There is a larger time cost (read: investment) in raising children.

I know that Chris and I are extremely conscious of being out in the evening and not spending time with Makayla after she has been in her kennel all day--we experience the consequences of lack of affection, exercise, and discipline. A poor night sleep because we have a restless dog.

And parents--who consistently fail to provide these three things for their children wonder why they have problems with their kids

Maybe Cesar has something here. Kids are definitely not dogs, but from the adult/parent standpoint; the personal interaction that is required to have a good dog is even more required to have great kids.

AND, by the way--Chris and I are blessed to have three great kids, 2 and 3/4 grandkids, and three great spouses (or almost spouses) for our three great kids. Blame it all on Chris, she actually spent the TIME to do the exercise, discipline, and affection.

All without a dog trainer to tell her what to do.

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