This morning I was watching the Today Show and on came a piece about kids and how to curb temper tantrums. I don’t have kids but it all sounded awfully familiar: They were suggesting dealing with the kids using the same techniques used in positive reinforcement dog training. Minus the Milkbones, of course.
People are always asking me if child rearing and dog training are related. Indeed. Actually, animal training is related to pretty much all interactions we have with other humans. After all, we’re all animals.
The Today Show segment is hinged on a 30-year-old Yale University study on Parent Management Training for Oppositional and Conduct Problem Children
Here are some of the highlights from the segment:
-Praise your child with a happy song-songy voice when he is behaving in a way you like. Reinforce the positive and be specific why you are praising. (In dog training, we use a clicker to help with the specificity and then dole out a tasty treat as the reinforcer.)
-Learn your kids “hot spots” (when they are tired and hungry) and be extra calm and go easy during these times. (Likewise with a dog, you always want to set them up for success and not ask too much from them if they’re already taxed).
-Your kids emulate you, so if you start yelling or show frustration during a temper tantrum it will certainly escalate the tantrum and will increase its duration. Remember: any attention is reinforcing. The solution: turn your back and ignore! (Dog trainers repeat this sentence countless times with any given client - amazing). Make sure to stay calm and, if needed, give yourself a timeout. If you must address your child use a calm voice. (I mean this is dog training gold.)
If we can get parents to see that this is the way to raise children it will be MUCH easier to convince them that this is how we should raise our dogs! And it might make us all happier animals.