In light of recent press (CNN, NYTimes) regarding Cesar’s techniques and application with kids, I thought I would revisit this article with some additional information. In my previous article (Raising Kids: Wisdom from The Dog Whisperer), I discussed the importance of the energy that we present to our kids, staying calm, and acknowledging good behavior. In this article, I will expand on principles that I believe are very effective from The Dog Whisperer’s bag of tricks.
Just as before, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating treating your kids as you would your pets, nor am I recommending that you would be physically or emotionally hurtful in an attempt to discipline or achieve a certain behavior with pets or children.
However, Cesar does use very helpful approaches when dealing with behavior problems in dogs that can be modified and used with children. He discusses a “calm, assertive energy” and encourages owners to recognize what they present to their dogs. The same goes for children. Upwards of 90% of our human communication is non-verbal. Therefore, what we don’t say often holds more significance than what we do. Keeping our emotions in check, positive and negative, and remaining in control of our behaviors, helps teach our kids to do the same.
Further, Cesar tries to identify the root of the problem behaviors in dogs. He believes that the secret to happy, balanced dogs is consistency, affection, discipline and exercise. Often when one of these elements is not present, it creates maladaptive behaviors. Similarly, I encourage parents to identify if the child is tired, bored or hungry before addressing the behavior. Often, those are at the root of the problems. If those are ruled out, then I encourage the parents to try to identify the feeling behind the behavior. In other words, when your child hits his sister, rather than yelling, punishing or asking why he did it, reflect the feeling with “You must be very angry at your sister” and then follow up with a limit “but people are not for hitting”. Please see Communicating with and Understanding Your Child or Limit Setting for detailed explanations of how to do both techniques.
Finally, dogs and kids are dependent on adults for security, love, affection, attention and education. Therefore, we need to acknowledge our involvement and impact on children’s behaviors. Cesar believes that he rehabilitates dogs and trains owners, thus recognizing that we have more power over the behaviors or dogs and kids than we think. We can learn to communicate more effectively and clearly (Remember the tip – “If you can’t say it in ten words or less, don’t say it”), give respect to earn it and embrace our effect on the behaviors of our kids.