My love for dogs made me do things I never imagined doing, like scooping up poop from the driveway, reading manuals on how to raise happy puppies and yes, managing my anger. Owning dogs has so far helped me a lot in my anger management issues.
Our three-month-old GSD puppies, Gunther and Berta, can be pretty annoying at times — they chew on your ankles as you walk, nibble on your wrist while you groom them and follow you around even when they’re supposed to stay. One time my husband I needed to go downtown and we just can’t bring them. We were in a hurry and there was no time to take them to the garage, so I had to look for someone to hold them until after the gate’s been closed. My husband wondered why I had to do this when I can simply ask them to stay. I was perplexed. Ask them? He went down the vehicle, led the two fur balls to their place in the garden, looked them straight in the eye and said in a firm, flat tone, “Stay.” When they tried to follow him as he slowly backed away, he raised his voice one tone higher and repeated what he said, “Stay.”
And that’s exactly what they did; they just watched us as we drove off. Sometimes when they misbehave, my husband would reprimand them and they would go scrambling into their hiding place in the garden. When they feel that the human Alpha of the pack has calmed down, that’s when they start to come out and roll at his feet to be cuddled; their way of reassuring themselves that he’s not permanently withdrawing his affection.
My husband doesn’t yell or nag as often as I do but he is not having difficulty getting the puppies — and the kids — to do what he asks. There is one powerful lesson for me here and this lesson goes beyond raising and disciplining puppies. It is a lesson that applies in raising and disciplining children as well.
Parents of very small children are often stressed out and exhausted. When we are stressed, we easily get irritated and the next thing we know we are taking out our anger on the offending child, often in the form of yelling or spanking. As a career coach at a local public high school, I have often worked with students who were referred by their teachers due to misbehavior in the classroom and when I get the chance, I usually ask the teachers what they do in response to the student’s behavior. Most of them narrate a similarly sad scenario I sometimes find myself in with my own kids — only worse because they have the entire class for an audience.
Shaming a troubled adolescent in front of his peers can do more harm than good and can cause the child to resent the teacher and the school. Sometimes it helps to take a moment and remind ourselves — what is the true purpose of discipline? By reacting in anger, what am I teaching this kid? Am I modeling good behavior? I am trying to teach this kid to be respectful, but if I do what I’m about to do, am I modeling respect?
I am in no way claiming to be an expert in child (or dog) discipline, and like many parents out there I too am struggling with my own anger management issues and methods of disciplining children. Sometimes, I even find my self trying to discipline big old stubborn me (at work and in the kitchen). But this doesn’t prevent me from constantly seeking answers to questions and looking for ways to effectively raise happy and healthy children without resorting to anger.
Raising puppies and children, training them and showing them how to behave in society can be a monumental task but it can also be very rewarding. As Drucker pointed, no one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.
Parents and teachers are therefore in the best position to learn more about life because of the wide range of lessons they need to teach. They are not educating a child about a few specific subjects — they are teaching a child about life.
I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and insights on this. You can leave your comments below. Have fun!