Have you watched the Dog Whisperer? It is amazing to see these unruly dogs become well-behaved members of the home. The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, uses certain techniques and attitudes (he calls it "calm assertive energy") to gain control over the dogs. He says he "rehabilitates dogs and trains humans." I think what he does is also applicable to parenting.
The most important advice he has for humans is not to let your emotions get in the way. He says that we humans often "feel sorry" for the dog and that prevents us from dealing with the dog in the way that is appropriate for the dog, and us, to enjoy the relationship.
The Dog Whisperer also points out that dogs live "in the moment." They respond to strong leadership and require "rules, boundaries and limitations" to feel secure and part of the "pack."
He always begins his rehabilitation with observation of the relationship between the dog and the humans. He finds that the humans are the ones that must learn a different way to handle their pets.
Jo Frost, also known as the Supernanny, performs a similar function for families with unruly kids. What she most often discovers is that the root of the problems with the kids comes from the parents.
She usually begins her visit by observing the family in action. What she most often finds is a lack of leadership from the parents. They are failing to provide structure for the kids. In some cases, the home is total chaos from the parents' inability to assume control (or leadership) over the behavior of the children. The children do only what they want, do not comply with parental requests and treat their parents disrespectfully.
The Supernanny emphasizes that the home must have rules and there must be consequences for breaking the rules. Jo Frost also advocates maintaining a calm assertive energy when dealing with children.
Family rehabilitation usually starts with a chart for daily structure for the family and some specific techniques, such as "time-out" for the kids. You could almost say that Jo Frost "rehabilitates families and trains parents."
It truly amazing to see the difference in the family once Jo has helped the parents understand the importance of structure and leadership - the same concept as the Dog Whisperer's "rules, boundaries and limitations.' Neither dogs nor children can learn the structure or the rules, boundaries and limitations without the pack leader or parents formulating them and communicating them.
I find that with our very busy lives and our desire to raise our children and our pets with compassion and understanding, we have forgotten the important basic foundations of raising children and having pets. They both need structure and framework to give them a secure foundation. They need us to assume leadership so that they feel safe and cared for.
They also need us to keep our cool and be responsive rather than reactive. When your child is being disrespectful or just not doing what you want, it is common to get angry and lose that calm, assertive demeanor.
The next time your child (or even your pet) doesn't seem to be responding to you, ask yourself if you have provided the structure - the rules, boundaries and limitations -- for this particular instance. If you find you haven't, figure it out what you want, and then communicate it! Also check your emotions - are your buttons being pushed? Remember to maintain calm assertive energy.