Thursday, February 28, 2013

Training kids like dogs: Discipline by example

The most automatic argument I've ever received from people when the discussion of "not spanking/punishing" kids comes up is, "How will kids learn if you don't give them consequences." 

I wrote a post one day about how "it's true that we do need to train children just like Michael Pearl says: like dogs." When training a dog to respect the boundary of an invisible electric fence that process is like this with dogs:

clearly show the boundary
2. establish the safe zone by the owner showing praise and comfort when moving away from the boundary
3. allow the dog to experience the consequence of crossing the line and feeling the pain caused by that line being crossed
4. be there to comfort and praise to the dog when the dog rushes toward the safety of the owner and home

And, this process would almost suggest that this is true...that we need negative consequences to learn boundaries. But, while negative consequences do teach us where some boundary lines are, there is another way to learn that involves no pain and is just as effective...Romans 1 says so because I saw it demonstrated in the Creation just the other day!

The belief in the need for the experience of negative consequences sorta' goes hand-in-hand with that belief that ya can't appreciate good without bad and so on. I have never bought into that because everything God created was good and I can't believe that God created us that we must experience that which nailed Him to the cross in order to appreciate that! 

So, one day I was out in my yard planting...and planting...and planting! ;) And, the dogs started to bark as a jogger was going past...and I noticed something...something really cool that I had suspected and finally saw the fruit...and fortunately had my phone with me to take a picture!

We have three dogs. Two of them have been trained as outlined above with the shocking collars to respect the boundary of the underground electric fence. The newbie, a Chihuahua puppy which joined our family in November...has never been trained, but, has always gone outside with the other dogs...and look what he learned...without ever receiving a negative consequence...

You can see where the boundary is, can't you? The dog in the background (left) is Jasmine. She's been officially trained with the electric collar and has had some pretty painful shocks. The cutie in the foreground of the photo is the newbie who has never been shocked. How did he learn the boundary?

By modeling. By example. When running with the pack the puppy stays inside the safe zone. It's the coolest thing to see him standing there barking as tho' he can't cross that line! But, another interesting note is that sometimes the puppy will cross the boundary...if the other dogs are not around. 

So, what does that tell you about parenting? We so often wonder why our kids misbehave and do this n' that...but how much time do we really spend with our children being the example? Modeling for them how to behave and not "cross boundaries" in this world? How much time do our kids spend with each other, with other kids, or alone? How much time do we really invest into modeling and being the example for them?

Do we always say please and thank-you to them?
Do we always be quiet when they are sleeping?
Do we always ask them "permission" before taking a toy out of their hands?
Do we always listen and respond to our children when they speak to us?
Do we always speak respectfully to our spouse in front of the children?
Do we put our cart away at the grocery store? (sorry! Pet peeve of mine had to add it!)
Do we decide at random that "it's time to go" and make our kids leave a friend's house when there is still 20 minutes to go on the movie they're watching?
Do we snap at them and tell them to leave us alone because "we're in the middle of an important status update on Facebook?"
Do we tell the kids it's bath time "right now" when they're in the middle of an exciting video game?
Do we hit (spank) our children to get them to do what we want (listen to us)?

Do we model disrespectful and selfish behavior to our children and then wonder why THEY misbehave? I can't tell ya how many times I have been in public and heard parents snapping at their kids or hitting/spanking them and just overall treating the child totally disrespectfully...because their child just did something...disrespectful. (Or, how many times I've heard myself speaking disrespectfully to my kids and yelling at them for being disrespectful to each other. And, it always hits me when I ask the inevitable, "WHY did you just say that to your sister!") The irony is too sad. The most ironic and saddest is the child who is hit (spanked) because they just hit someone...

Truth is if you listen to your kids speak to each other...they sound just like you. The way they speak to you is a reflection of how you speak to them. They are following your example. Kids raised in a punitive environment will know that if they say "this or that" that you will hit/spank them and alter what they say/do for to avoid punishment, but, what's inside of them how to treat others is the example you've set. And, so sad it is that they get punished for what we have taught them...

"A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." 
Matthew 7:18

The tree (parent) needs to be good for the fruit (children) to be. If the fruit (child's behavior) is bad...the problem isn't the's the tree (parent's example.) 

Jesus was without sin, and He said that He only did what He saw the Father doing...and that seeing Jesus we were seeing the Father.

Our kids do what they see us do and seeing our children...we see ourselves.

This should be life-alteringly convicting to the truth-loving Christian...

If the kids are naughty something is wrong with the model they are following. And, Christians should not be so blind to this as they are when it is their leader who designed us this way and told us this Himself!! Focusing on controlling, punishing, and changing the fruit isn't character building in the children...but only hides your own failings and sin...and maybe that gives us a clue where this type of parenting is really founded?

So, getting back to Michael Pearl and his advice that training kids is like training a dog...OK! Yes! Mr. Pearl! You're right! You can actually even be a dog and train a dog! You don't even have to have any brains to do it! You can simply set the example with your own life...and your children will learn right from wrong and where all the "boundaries" are in life without ever being hit, hurt, or punished. It's true! 

(Mr. Pearl really needs to start watching "The Dog Whisperer" if ya ask me!!!)

I guess we can learn about parenting from cats, too ;)

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