Why clicking won’t create a connection with your child




Last week, a controversial Channel 4 programme not only generated uproar among certain childcare bodies, it also caused righteous indignation throughout the judgemental moral policing brigade. Indeed, there was even the good old, fail safe, online petition being widely shared on Facebook etc., (ignored by me, but signed by over 30,000), hoping to prevent a TV show called ‘How To Train Your Baby Like A Dog’ from airing.

  Now for those who’ve been living on the moon and missed the whole hoopla, the show featured dog trainer Jo-Rosie Haffenden teaching parents to use a clicker and treat method, which is usually used to train dogs, to keep their unruly kids in line. Now, as a former TV producer/script writer, I have to say, congrats to Channel 4; this was TV gold. It contained all the ingredients needed to generate publicity and copious column inches. 

  However, as someone who has raised two kids (and two husbands) into adulthood, adopted seven dogs, and fostered quite a few, and, as I was head of education at the Dublin SPCA for many years, you can imagine I was glued to this programme. And, while I understand this dog trainer’s reasoning, especially when dealing with a three-year-old who, let’s face it, had pretty ugly and violent outbursts and the 18-month-old who refused to sleep alone; I feel her so-called motivational approach to childcare is a cop-out technique for lazy parents. Why? Because it allows them to dodge their responsibilities.

  You see, I’m someone who has trained dogs…yet I never used a clicker. I used the positive reinforcement method of offering my fur babies a small treat immediately after they performed my desired action…sit, stay, bed, etc., however, (when dealing with humans) I’d be highly sceptical of Haffenden’s strategy. 

  Look, don’t get me wrong, I know these methods work perfectly well with dogs because timing is of the essence when dealing with canine family members who have, quite literally, less than a second to associate their behaviour with receiving their reward. This means, if you, the pet parent, don’t come across pretty quickly with that delicious delicacy, your dog will move onto something else and will then associate their next behaviour with receiving the goodies…get it?

  However, kids, (as any parent with half a brain will tell you), can act up due to being tired, being hungry, being anxious, or by feeling ill etc., meaning a biccie’s not gonna cut it.

  And yes, it’s true, sometimes the little rug-rats are just plain bold, but the fact is, they depend on us, as responsible caregivers who are, (we hope), emotionally mature enough to shape them into responsible, independent thinking adults. This practice, (and I’m no parenting coach), is something which I believe will only be achieved by reasoning and conversation, and not by making clicking noises and shoving a fun size Snickers down their necks several times a day!

  Kids, in my thinking, need a natural outcome to their behaviours, be they good or bad; and while dogs thrive on positive reinforcement, young kids, who have high impulsivity and little self-control, will thrive on being allowed to make a choice. More importantly, they’ll flourish by being encouraged, (by you), to work out if that particular choice/behaviour they made was in their own personal interest.

  In addition, (and I hate to laud the qualification bit, but, like Haffenden, I’ve also studied psychology, so I’m just highlighting the similarities between our backgrounds), and I believe her parenting methods are in danger of creating a hierarchy of good and bad food; as in chocolate good…carrots bad. Ok, I concede, that yes, treats may provide temporary control over kids, but I fear they could, in the long run, sadly trigger a future resistance in them to take responsibility for their personal actions.

  My advice? When it comes to training your fur babies, concentrate on getting them to do what you want them to do, as opposed to what you don’t want them to do; they’ll thrive on it. When it comes to the kiddies, connect before your correct, because if they learn to always sit and obey you, they’ll likely become submissive adults and pathetic people pleasers unable to think or reason for themselves, and no parent wants that for their child.


Is Garda revamp the future of positive policing?


An Garda Síochána is set for a major revamp and, as speculation arises as to whether this restructuring will prove to be good or bad for the future of community policing, you’ll have to pardon me for stating the obvious when I say that only time will tell.

  However, as this new policing model will see a series of localised mini police forces cutting the districts down from 28 to 19, and having regional headquarters, á la the proposed new HSE structures, I for one am viewing this as a positive move. 

  You see, so long as the overhaul doesn’t mean job losses, the whole idea of Ireland, especially rural Ireland, having more community focused Gardaí is, as far as I’m concerned, very positive. Indeed, our very own community guard, (I won’t name him in case I embarrass him), is absolutely first class. He’s linked in with everyone on his beat, he waves to us as he drives by, chats with us if we meet him in the street, and he knows everyone and everyone knows him. Due to this visibility and his friendly manner, we all know our community guard is not only accessible, he is highly relatable, making him, in my opinion, the perfect example of what this county needs; and well done to him…he knows who he is!


Hold your nerve Ireland!

According to champion fist bumper Boris Johnson, the odds in favour of striking a deal with regard to the backstop are ‘touch and go,’ meaning he’s still hopeful. How pathetic!

  To this end, I want to be reassured that Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney have put in place the necessary intervention strategies needed to make sure we’re properly prepared for Brexit and the political instability that’ll derive from it. I also want to be reassured our government won’t fall for BJ’s slapstick bish, bash, boom, high octane, high energy spin.

  You see, from watching the whole pomp and bluster showcased during his recent whistle-stop EU tour, I’d have to comment that Boris sounded more like a football manager than a credible head of state and I’m now wondering just how disjointed his thinking is. I mean, is Boris so obtuse he’s prepared to play political chicken with his country’s future? Is British politics and British society so fragmented they’ve allowed their leader to convince them they can still get a deal through at this late stage?  

  My advice to Leo and Simon…don’t cave…hold your nerve, and wipe that grin of Boris’ face. You wait, he’ll break; he’s got to!