Soon after I graduated into parenthood, I found myself deep into casual party conversation with fellow parents about the vexing particulars of parenting. People (parents and strangers included) are rarely shy about dispensing a bit of wise parental advice, and this party was no exception. Beleaguered parents were brimming with tips and tricks as how to get your child to sleep through the night, stop crying, etc. The most intriguing comments came from a couple that had loads of experience with both large and small animals alike (one was a veterinarian and the other raised horses). Their conviction, in short, was that much of what they learned raising, herding, and caring for animals could, and should, be applied to raising children. The gasps and chuckles that met this confession were plenty, and became the fodder for many subsequent jokes at the party.
But, as much as I might not have been convinced, these two were obviously on to something. As is evidenced by a New York Times article from a few years back that outlined the growing trend around people taking Dog Whisperer tactics and applying them to the raising of their children. For those of you unaware or confused about what exactly a “dog whisperer” might be (full confession: I have never actually seen the show – just read an awful lot about it), The Dog Whisperer is a TV show that is hosted by, and essentially is, Cesar Millan (a self-proclaimed and plainly evident dog guru). I won’t get into the specifics of the show (feel free to follow up yourself) but essentially Millan employs a pack mentality (where he is the obvious leader) and provides three essentials for his dogs: exercise, discipline and affection. These Dog Whispering tactics are quickly being adopted by parents and fast becoming child whispering tactics.
Ideas like this, containing the holy trinity of behavioral rules, and easy-to-follow guidelines are like crack for confused and confounded parents. But really, how much are we to gain by treating our children like dogs and positioning ourselves at the head of the pack? Is it such a crazy idea that it just might work? Is it demeaning and an oversimplification of human behavior? Could these Dog Whispering ideas be applied to a larger world? Global conflicts? Corporate malfeasance?
Would love to hear some of your whispering wisdom.