Nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent. But when I was pregnant with my first child, at 38, I gave it a good go. I read everything out there.
Some friends swore by the Gina Ford books, others raved about The Baby Whisperer and books on bringing them up like French kids, so they wouldn’t throw food.
Funnily enough, no one suggested a dog training manual.
So the Channel 4 series this week, Train Your Baby Like A Dog, horrified me.
The notion that a human and a terrier have the same emotional needs is crazy. Imagine Barbara Woodhouse as your nanny.
But in the show, dog trainer and behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden claimed if everyone parented the way we train Fido, we’d have more confident, compassionate, curious humans.
I see what she’s trying to say. I’ve had a dog and, like a child, you have to set boundaries and show it affection and with that comes routines, good habits, social manners and discipline.
But babies cannot be compared to dogs and dogs cannot be humanised. We are human – we are the most intelligent life form on the planet, despite Trump.
But being the perfect parent is big business and it piles on the pressure. It’s not just shows and books, it’s all the sensory classes, the getting them to learn butterfly and speak Spanish by the age five.
Back when I was growing up, there was the threat of a smack keeping you in line. And while good riddance to that, it is a very different world – with desperate parents willing to try anything.
The most controversial of Jo-Rosie’s technique, and the most complained about – 25,000 viewers signed a petition to get the show scrapped – is the use of clickers and treats.
Some said it was plain bribery, a technique used on autistic children, and one shown to cause PTSD in adults.
But she got results. The kids were calm and the parents, who were at their wits’ end, were smiling. So where’s the harm?
The thing is, you constantly need to reason with kids – to give them time and explain things. Gimmicks come and go. A click won’t cut it.
I’ve spent hours with my two, explaining why they have to go to bed early, why they can’t have cake for breakfast, why they have to go to the toilet. I’ve used anecdotes, sharing my own stories.
Kids need human interaction. And parents need to give time and make the effort. Otherwise you may as well just get a beagle.
Children are a product of their upbringing. They learn, change and grow.
I’ve never wanted my kids to blindly obey me and roll over. I want them to have opinions. My dog, however, I just want to obey me.
In fact, not just dog, my husband too. Perhaps there is a need for that clicker after all.
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