Tips for Training Dogs OR Rearing Children!
Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFTBy Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT
If you’ve been reading my columns for several years then you know that this SmileNotes column is my attempt to brighten your day—maybe even gives you a smile. Well, last Saturday while I had Colt, a two-year-old tri-color cocker spaniel at his Agility 3 class and tonight while Rhett, his cousin, also the same color and age (“the terrible twos!”), was at Therapy Dog training, something dawned on me. What my instructors tell me to do with my dogs in order to have a great dog is the same thing I tell my clients in my private counseling practice in order to rear responsible children! No joke—hear me out!
First, my instructors tell me not to overuse the dog’s name. Otherwise they tune you out. Kids do the same thing when parents ramble on and on about directions, chores, reprimands, etc. It’s better to get to the point fast. Their attention spans are often short.
Second, I was told to get my dog’s attention before I speak otherwise I’m wasting my time. Parents often talk to kids over the TV, IPhone, computer, etc. Trust me, you don’t have their attention—so get it before you speak. It’s okay to ask, if needed, that those devices be turned off so you have their full attention.
I was also told, “Do NOT repeat commands.” Otherwise, they will respond when you finally get so frustrated that you’re yelling. And you’ve just taught them that until you get frustrated enough, they don’t have to respond. Children should have no more than one reminder before they lose a consequence for not following through.
And a really important tip was to praise lavishly. Say “yes” more than “no.” When the dog makes a mistake, I just say “oops” and then I redirect and ask for what I want. When the dog complies, I give a great big smile and say “Yes! What a good dog!” My boys beam with pride. So rather than complain to your child about what he or she is not doing, ask specifically for what you want. Reward good behavior not with things but with your enthusiastic pleasure in their accomplishment!
Feel free to use these tips for your companion animals and/or your children—they work for both!
Copyright © 2012, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
P.S. Please see my other column The Counselor’s Corner “Saying No and Keeping Friends—It’s Simply Elementary!”
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.