I’m somewhat bothered by the fact that when I watch parents handling their toddlers in the supermarket, or at a friend’s wedding, I end up comparing how they deal with their small child to how I would handle a dog. I’m sure that has to be wrong. Not because the laws of learning wouldn’t apply to a toddler (after all, the average dog has the intelligence of a one and a half year old child, so…) but because I feel like I don’t have the right.
I have a dog, and I train dogs, so it’s natural for me to wince when I see dog owners making common mistakes. I see overly permissive owners being dragged down the street, and overly firm owners thinking that their dog is being stubborn when it’s really being terrified. But when I see parents make the same mistakes, I feel that I don’t have the right to wince.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not judging these parents (unless I see them doing something really awful, like letting their kid torture kittens or something. Then I would judge). I don’t even judge the dog owners who go down the street with their dogs strangling at the end of the leash. They aren’t bad owners, just poor handlers. I feel bad for them, and frustrated for them, because they don’t seem to know the things that I know. I always wish I could step in and tell them what I know without sounding like a real bint.
So it’s not judging, just frustration. But with parents, I really have no right to even be thinking the things I think, because I don’t have a baby and I don’t teach them for a living. I’m not totally baby naive. My goddaughter is five now, and though I don’t see her as much as I’d like, I baby sat her multiple times when she was younger. I’ve ignored her tantrums, and praised her for using the potty (thankfully, her mother is a firm and consistent handler). So I’m not, like, totally inexperienced. But still, I feel that I shouldn’t think the things I think.
Like, there are the parents who give their instructions in the form of a question: “Do you want to come here so I can put on your pants?”
…and the dog trainer in me thinks, “Make it a command, not a question! Use a firm tone of voice so he knows that this is not an option!”
And there are the parents who soothe their child through a tantrum in the mall, saying “it’s okay, shhhh,” and then buying the kid candy to shut her up.
…and the dog trainer in me thinks, “Don’t reward bad behaviour! Establish some negative consequences. Get her to do some puppy push-ups!”
Or a toddler starts running around in church, and the father gives an apologetic shrug to the congregation, as if to say “what’re you gonna do?”
…and the dog trainer in me thinks, “Don’t let him break the command like that! If he breaks from his sit, you need to enforce the command or he’ll never stay put again. Return him to the original position as many times as necessary for him to get the idea, and then reward him when he finally stays put!”
I think parenthood is going to surprise me, when I realize that I can’t just crate the baby to keep him from pooping on the floor.