Yesterday, an animal activist came to speak to my daughter’s class. She explained her approach to training her dogs and I realized, it is good advice for parents too. It was good having her over. We discussed almost everything there is about dogs, down to the best dog lotion for dry itchy skin.
No negative reinforcement. No “bad dog” or yelling. No hitting, my God, no hitting. No punishments. Only positive reinforcement.
She explained that when a dog is told “NO,” it isn’t told what TO do. So it sits there, feels bad and then wonders, what could I have done instead?
No withholding food or drink. No banishing to a corner of the room or left alone to ponder its mistakes. Loving, guiding hands and explanations to teach the right path so it’ll know.
When children are little, it’s the same thing. Yelling accomplishes nothing – only terror. The kid feels unloved, feels ignored, feels unimportant and disappointing – and nothing replaces those feelings.
As a parent, I am not always calm, cool and collected. I’m human too and I lose my cool when I’m cranky or tired or frustrated. We all do. But it’s not the kid’s fault.
The other day one of my children complained about an adult yelling at him. The thing is, it was the adult’s frustration, not anything my kid actually did wrong.
We all would do well to take the animal training advice and remember that kindness in equals kindness out. Compassion in, compassion out. Teaching, patience and guidance all lead to good outcomes. Punishing screams, withholding and ignoring, not so much.