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‘Spot’ the Difference?

Sam Macbeth

There was outrage this week at a new UK TV programme on Channel 4 - ‘Train Your Baby like a Dog’. In the documentary, animal behaviourist, Jo-Rosie Haffenden treats young children with a variety of issues including temper tantrums and violent outbursts.

One of the methods used included ‘clicker training’ which is also employed sometimes when training dogs (the click signifies that a treat has been earnt for good behaviour). Various child-related bodies and societies have suggested that this is potentially disturbing and dehumanizing.

Whilst I don’t want to get into the moral and ethical issues of how and when kids learn right from wrong, I do think that the behaviourist has a point. In its simplest form, the clicker training is trade or basic negotiation. Putting to one side the dangers of not being specific – in essence, the trade is ‘behave in a particular way (parents are, I believe, still the bastions and role models of good behaviour) and then you get a reward. This basic premise parents (and kids) use with continued sophistication over time – as I write this my 8-year-old son is doing 15 minutes of garden weeding (quality to be approved) for pre-arranged time on the PS4.

Now whilst some might consider this a little harsh, the truth is that whilst there are always times for selfless acts if we give things (money, time, items etc.) away for nothing and don’t value them, why should we expect the other side to value it? The same is, of course, true in our business lives with customers, suppliers and colleagues. Once we start to recognize issues of dissimilar values, we can start to look at the trade as a potentially enabling interaction. This I would suggest is quite the opposite of ‘dehumanizing’ style behaviour.

I actually think dogs are very much like kids. They can both try and make big demands, both have selective listening, both don’t see no as the end. Negotiating is very much a life skill, although leave the sophisticated bits out for the dogs!

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Photograph reproduced with kind permission from my daughter Colette and Loki & Lily - the Dalmatians.

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