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Training a child

October 1st, 2008 / 7 Comments

My family had a great time at the Los Angeles County Fair this past weekend.

At the “Bark Park” the stunt dogs performed a number cute tricks. For one of the tricks, two small children were asked to be volunteer helpers. Usually kids love that sort of thing. However, one of them, a little 4-year-old girl simply would not turn around as instructed by the trainer. After several unsuccessful attempts to coax the girl, he exclaimed, “It’s easier to train a dog!”

Isn’t that the truth!

We’ve owned two dogs, and I tell you, it’s not easy to train a dog either. But it seems to me that people who train dogs are more serious about their job than parents are at training their kids. For some reason, we think that telling our kids what to do a few times is all it takes while dog trainers work a lot harder to get their dogs to behave.

So I think if we applied a bit of dog training techniques to training our children, we would find much more success in getting good behavior from our kids.

Here is what we as parents can learn from dog training:

1. Training takes patience. We don’t expect a dog to learn a trick in a day. It takes repeated efforts of step by step demonstration and reinforcement over days, weeks, and months. So why do we expect our kids to clean their rooms if we have not taught them step by step and reinforce their behavior a little at a time?

2. Training takes consistency. When it comes to dog training, I was always too lenient. “Oh, he doesn’t have to heel this time. Give him a break and let him have his treat.” But our dog soon learned that he doesn’t have to obey me at all! He will, however, obey my husband, who expects the best behavior from him all the time. Inconsistency is confusing to children at best, or they might even begin to lose respect for your authority.

3. Training takes lots of love. How many times do you see a dog trainer hug their dogs enthusiastically and say, “Good boy!”? Lots of hugs and affirmation are the crux of training. And I think we as parents can do much better than merely giving a “Good boy” to our kids, right?

Have you had to train a pet and what lessons did you learn?

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  1. Katy, we’re “cat people” – there’s not a lot of training possible there. You can set and enforce some general parameters – like don’t get on the dining room table, don’t get on the kitchen counter, etc. – but you have no hope that they’ll do what you want when you’re not around. I guess the same is true with dogs, but they are much more “trainable.” With children you have totally different dynamics in play. We humans (and, yes, young humans) have a moral nature that is absent in animals. Far more is possible with us humans. 🙂

    BTW, nice site!

  2. Rob: We have a rabbit now, but I am told rabbits can be trained. We haven’t tried.

    Thanks for the compliment!

  3. When our two cats were younger we had heard you could toilet train them. We bought the contraption that was supposed to help with the process – something called “Kitty Whiz” of all things!

    One thought it was the best thing since catnip, the other one revolted and resorted to using our bathtub instead. The noble experiment was over, and the litter box restored to its place of honor and usefulness.

  4. Rob: Actually, our rabbit is trained to use the litter box. She has full run of the house, and goes faithfully back to her litter to do her “whiz”. Rabbits are clean like a cat.

  5. nice site. picked it up from your christmas card. this topic to me begs the question, “how do we get down to the training of instincts in our children?” Another thought: what is the role of a soul naturally gravitating towards a Kingdom healthiness and how is this integrated in our training? of course, volumes could be written on this, and many have been. ..

  6. Hi Steve: Great to hear from you! I am thinking, what do we consider are instincts in children?

    Your second question would make a good post. I’m actually planning a seminar that will cover that a bit.

  7. training children? isn’t that just a bit insulting to children?
    just cause’ they are not what you perceive as good, does not mean they are bad.


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