April 15, 2022

It has been a long time since Melissa has had a new puppy, so we are both having to relearn how to be parents.  Like any proud parents, we have been checking videos and websites trying to discover the best way to train Zena.  The first thing we discovered was she is a puppy.  Like a human child, there are some things she can comprehend, and others she is not yet old enough to grasp, even though we would like her to.  The other problem, like the “terrible twos” for a child, is there can be a difference between what we want Zena to do and what Zena wants to do.  We are determined to use the trend of positive reinforcement to train Zena rather than punishment.  This is not too far different than Dr. Spock’s recommendations on child rearing.

When I looked online, I found Benjamin McLane Spock (May 2, 1903 – March 15, 1998) was an American pediatrician whose book, Baby and Child Care (1946), is the second best-selling book of the twentieth century, after the Bible.  It sold 500,000 copies in the six months after initial publication in 1946, 50 million by the time of Spock’s death in 1998 and had been translated into 42 languages.  The book’s premise to mothers was that they “know more than you think you do.”  Spock was the first pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand the children’s needs in relation to family dynamics.  His ideas about childcare influenced generations of parents to be more flexible and affectionate with their children and to treat them as individuals.  Spock’s recommendations and advice revolutionized parental upbringing in the US. 

Spock advocated ideas about parenting that were considered out of the mainstream, but over time his books helped bring major change.  Previously, experts told parents babies needed to learn to sleep on a regular schedule and picking them up and holding them whenever they cried would only teach them to cry more and not to sleep through the night.  They were told to feed their children on a regular schedule, and that they should not pick them up, kiss them, or hug them, because that would not prepare them to be strong and independent people in a harsh world.  In contrast, Spock encouraged parents to show their children affection and see them as individuals.  At the time, his books were criticized by conservatives for propagating permissiveness and an expectation of instant gratification, a charge that Spock denied.  I am glad I was able to grow up as a child rather than the little adults of the previous era.

THOUGHTS:  One area where we have had success with Zena is getting her to go to her cage.  We started when she came in from going “outside” by saying “cage”.  She learned to go into the cage to get her treat for going outside.  While she still struggles with extended time in the cage, especially with the door closed, she freely enters and lays down.  Now she even goes into the cage on her own when she is exploring without being asked or in expectation of a treat.  Most researchers say much of human behavior is learned, and from a very young age.  Parents have the responsibility to train their children to be good stewards of both the earth and others.  The best way to do this is to let your child learn behavior in your own actions and words.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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