Thursday, March 22, 2007

What can we learn from the Dog Whisperer?

One of the most watched shows in our house is Cesar Millan's The Dog Whisperer. I believe that parents can learn a great deal about parenting from this show. There are certain similarities between getting along with a child and getting along with a dog.

The first principle of getting along with a dog that Cesar so beautifully illustrates in all of his shows is, "To get along well with a dog you have to be the leader!" If you do not lead the dog, he/she will try to lead you. Life with a dog who tries to tell you what to do is most unpleasant.

Good parenting also boils down to leadership. If a parent fails to lead, often a child will attempt to fill the leadership void. Life with a child as your leader is also most unpleasant. However, the consequences of failed parental leadership for a child are even more grave. Children require an understanding of parental authority in order to develop moral reasoning ability and impulse control.

Last night one of my Child Development students discussed her boyfriend's childhood. Father left the home when her boyfriend was 6 and his younger brother was 4. Mother was devastated and never recovered. When father left, he told his eldest son, "Now you are man of the house." Since mother abrogated her leadership role, the family is still lead by my student's boyfriend.

Hearing this story, I said to my student. The outcome of this situation depends on the amount of inborn impulse control a child has. A child with a lot of natural impulse control, will become a leader and a care-taker in this situation. However, this situation will rob the child of his childhood. For children with average to poor impulse control, parental abrogation of authority has dire consequences. These children develop antisocial behavior and/or addiction. My student said, "Wow! That is my boyfriend's younger brother." Even though the eldest son tried to provide leadership and love to his younger brother, being parented by another child was inadequate. The younger brother failed to develop impulse control and moral reasoning. He has been arrested multiple times and is addicted to drugs.

Single mothers can have difficulty in the area of leadership. Many women have not had training in leadership. Many women also believe that their role is to nurture and love as opposed to lead.
Single mothers need to develop leadership skills and deal with any barriers to leadership they might be experiencing. Anxiety and depression interfere with a mother's ability to lead. Since these disorders are very common in women, these disorders pose a threat to child well-being. Recent studies reveal high rates of antisocial personality disorder in the sons of depressed mothers.

If you are a single mother consider this information carefully. If you suffer from depression, get help. There are now very good treatments for depression. You can also learn leadership skills and better lead your family.

1 comment:

Sadie said...

Thanks for writing this.