I DID train my baby like a dog.

Buckle in bitches, this will be a big one (ooo err missis). 1000 other people will be knocking out blogs and posts about this topic as it’s hotter than Satan’s hairy crack (I’m just assuming it’s hairy, maybe it’s not. Maybe he waxes) but here is my take on it, as a dog owner, walker, trainer (in training) and mother to a feisty 4 year old.

I’m guessing if you have been on social media at all in the last week, and you have dogs and/or kids, you will have been aware of the Channel 4 program Train Your Baby Like a Dog. It aired tonight and man, did it brew up a shit storm of opinions which were spat all over social media!! There was a petition to get it stopped, people argued it was unethical and cruel and that the autistic community were still suffering the PTSD symtoms from “this type of behaviour modification”.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it??? However every single one of the people who flapped their gums about it had made their mind up about it based on the title and a 20 second clip. Channel 4 know how to whip up the general public into a triggered frenzy, don’t they!!! They know how to market and how to polarize, which probably boosted their ratings enormously.

The dog trainer involved was (luckily) Jo-Rosie Haffenden. She is a very well respected dog trainer and behaviourist, working with dogs and trainers to educate people on the best way to train your dogs. No lead jerks or ‘dominance based’ bullshit here. Jo-Rosie also studied psychology and has a 2 year old son with the amazing Nando Brown.

I can imagine there will be literally 1000’s of blogs and posts going up tonight about this program and I think rightly so as it was fucking amazing.

Here’s my ramblings on it, as someone who has both dogs and a child, and as someone who absolutely has ‘trained’ her baby like a dog! Myself and a dog walker friend of mine, whose son is 6 months older than Thea, said years ago that bringing up a child was errily similar to dog training. Obviously that statement is subjective because sometimes people treat their animals and kids horrifically and not in a caring and respectful way at all. That’s not what I’m talking about.

A long time ago, my dog training knowledge was terrible, however I didn’t know at the time how terrible it was. It was so out of date it was growing mold and had started to smell iffy. I had based it all on ‘old school’ methods and didn’t stop to think whether or not it made sense. I did finally see the light and educated myself on the modern, scientifically based training methods which totally blew my mind and transformed my relationships with dogs. I kinda had the same thoughts about parenting. When I was pregnant with Thea I had such set ideas about how I was going to parent her. I said I’d breastfeed for a year only, I would never let her sleep in my bed, I’d use the naughty step, I’d not ‘make a rod for my own back’, and I’d send her to school.

So far I…. (much to my family’s disapproval)

1) still breastfeed (I can almost hear some of you vomiting in your mouths at the idea of me still nursing a 4 year old, but I don’t really care!)

2) Had Thea sleep in my bed up until very recently (and she still gets in for a cuddle some nights!)

3) Never once used the naughty step

4) Definitely don’t have any rods on my back

5) And she’s not in school

I know. All shocking. However what I did do when Thea came along was trust my instincts and learn about child brain development. I won’t go into here as it’s not a parenting blog but you get the gist.

So this TV program was basically Jo-Rosie helping parents to connect, listen to and be more understanding of a childs emotional needs. I feel a lot of adults forget that kids are really vulnerable and it’s instinct for them to seek safety from their parents. Sleeping alone is not natural for ANY young mammal, as being asleep makes you even more vulnerable. We may not be living in caves now with the threat of predadors sneaking in to eat our young, but a babies underdeveloped brain doesn’t know that. Babies tun solely on instinct when very young.

Jo-Rosie helped a stressed mother who was feeding chips to her daughter every night before bed, then leaving her alone to cry in her cot. It should be common sense that that baby needed a better diet and to feel secure so that she can go to sleep safe in the knowledge that her mother was there for her, but common sense has been severly diluted in our modern times.

Thea never has any real issues going to bed because I always cuddle her to sleep. She has a secure attachment and is developing into a really independent little lady. She’ll happily play alone, she happily forms good relationships with other adults and I can leave her without any tears or clingyness. Big oak trees can’t touch the sky without secure and deep roots (I know. Deep shit)

The main issue attachment/gentle parents have with the program is it uses rewards and empty praise with children, and in the long term that isn’t a good thing! Again, I won’t go into it as it’s not a mammy blog (if you google ‘why using rewards with kids is bad’, you’ll find out why it’s not part of gentle parenting ethos) but I feel a lot of gentle parents will completely write off this show simply because of the reward and clicker element, without taking the main message from it. A bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water….. (boom boom!)

So in the end of the program, Jo-Rosie had helped parents understand the needs of their kids and form better attachments and connections. She helped them build up trust, enriched their kids lives and work their brains, connect with them and to better understand their needs and perspective on life. All by using her dog training knowledge.

Now imagine if everyone trained their dogs with the same principles and ethos? What a world that would be, and that’s the world I’m working towards.

So do I ‘train’ my baby like my dogs? Absolutely. Or do I train my dogs like my baby…..?? You decide!

So thanks for reading folks. If you haven’t seen the show I’d highly recommend it on 4 On Demand. Even if you’re a purist Gentle Parent!

Tam and Thea


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