Maybe you've never noticed how much puppies and toddlers have in common? I think of it often as I parent my 4th toddler. Let's look at some of the similarities...
1. Both respond to simple, clear commands along with tone and facial expression.
When an owner speaks to his pet his language is simple and straightforward. He doesn't speak in long, monotonous speeches because he knows the limitations of the one he speaks to. He is short and to the point - "sit", "come", "lay down". The owner doesn't spend time explaining why or apologizing for asking because he views himself as "in charge" and expects obedience from his pet. The pet is able to "read" the owners mood by his tone and facial expression. He knows if it is play time or time to relax. The same is true of toddlers. They respond best to simple language like "no touch", "come to Mommy", "sit down", "kiss", and they are able to read our mood too. The Bible says
James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
This is an important principle and one I am reminded of almost daily as I parent. We must say what we mean and mean what we say. Remember the KISS idea? Keep It Simple Stupid. What a great parenting mantra! There's really no need to do a full explanation of why I said "no" when you touched the ornaments on the Christmas tree, your just not allowed to touch them-period-cause I'm the Mom. :) I observe a lot of parents doing a lot of "discussing/explaining/lecturing" with toddlers and find it amusing when a simple "no" will work so much better.
2. Both require clear, consistent boundaries.
When you bring home a new puppy many of the training books will warn you not to let the puppy chew on household items like old socks. The reason is because they do not know the difference between "old socks" and your brand new socks! Then your mad because Fido has eaten every sock in the house! We have found the same principle to be true when training toddlers. All remote controls are off limits, all cell phones are "no-no", no papers, newspapers or books are allowed to be torn or crumpled because we know that little sweet-pea doesn't know the difference between a magazine we've already read and don't care about and the one that is important for Daddy's work. We know that although we may not mind if Jr. tears up our remote, that we may come over to your house and you won't ever invite us back when he tears up yours! The great thing about toddlers and puppies is that these things can be taught in just a few days with clear, consistent boundaries!
3. Both respond to positive feedback.
Puppies and toddlers both really enjoy pleasing their Mom and Dad! Again, they read our tone and facial expression and they know when we are happy and excited. We are teaching Evan to blow kisses right now and every time he does we all erupt in clapping, cheers and laughter! He knows that this is for him, that he did the right thing and he joins in the celebration. It won't take too many training sessions like that to teach him to blow kisses!
4. Both are smart and capable.
Our friends have laughed at us for a long time because each of our children have been trained to stay on the large area rug we have in our family room. From the time they become mobile we have said "stay on the rug" and picked them up and put them back on the rug until they learned that this was their play area. This is great for safety. I know what is within their reach while they are on the rug. There are no small pieces or parts, and they can't fall up or down stairs as long as they remain on the rug. We don't have to search the house to find them if we walk in to answer the phone. I know where they are and that they are safe. When my son began to walk recently many people have commented "I bet your chasing him all over!", I just smile and say "no, it's not that bad." Another benefit to this training is when we are away from home. My in-laws also have an area rug in their family room and our son stays right there in the room with us without wandering off into other parts of the house (into the dogs dishes...etc.). Many people are shocked when they discover this "skill" in our 15 month old which makes me laugh--do we really believe that we can train our dogs and not our children?? Our children are much smarter and more capable than our pets!!
5. Both desire security and leadership.
Toddlers and puppies are happier and more secure when they have discipline, boundaries, and strong leadership. They want to know that we know what we are doing and are confident in our decisions. When we are sure, they feel sure. When we wishy-wash around with a hundred words in an un-clear tone they don't know what to do. When we yell about something today and ignore it tomorrow they are confused and insecure. When we live by a flexible schedule and the rules stay the same, when our moods are predictable and stable, they are relaxed and happy. I had a boss once who said the number one quality he looked for in an employee was stability. He didn't want to deal with any Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde types where your not sure who your going to get today. Predictability was key to him. I think he had a good point.