Before I was a stay-at-home mom, before I was a paralegal, I was a dog trainer for a few years.  I have always had a deep passion for animals but cannot deal with being in the veterinary field.  I am beyond squeamish and I would spend my days crying even though I know most of the job would be spent with animals and helping.  However, when I was propositioned with being a dog trainer at a large pet store retailer I was working for I was overjoyed.  I got the best of both worlds, working with animals and helping.  Although putting up with pet parents is NOT always easy.  During my days of dog training I learned in detail about positive reinforcement.  Instead of “punishment” you focus on reinforcing and rewarding good behavior.  I learned this in my college psychology classes but it’s nice to see it in application.  During puppy classes, I taught the basics:  sit, down, stay, come when called, take it, leave it, drop it and walking on a leash.

Now as a mother I see many of the above overlapped with teaching my toddlers.  Seeing how my babies take to correction, such as saying the word “no”, I see that this just doesn’t work.  The key to saving my frustration has been distraction and redirection and rewarding good behavior.  I found while dog training that even with puppies and the same holds true for children is that negative attention is still attention and they will repeat the behavior to get the attention.  Also, me constantly repeating “no” makes me frustrated beyond belief.  Do I think it’s important for a toddler to know the word “no”?  Absolutely, do not get that mistaken.  But saying “no” to every little thing takes away the gravity of the word, in my opinion.  My favorite thing to explain to people in dog training was to NOT repeat commands.  Every single day I would hear people say, “sit, sit, sit, sit” never giving the dog to process the command and it would drive me bat shit crazy.  This is how I would explain it to people:  if you constantly repeat the command the dog then things the command is sit, sit, sit, sit, sit and it will wait for you to say sit 5x times before sitting because they then think that the command is sit, sit, sit, sit, sit.  Instead say sit one time and one time only, give the dog a few seconds to process what you are saying and to make sure you have its attention.  If they do not sit after that start over.  The look on people’s faces was one of bewilderment and surprise but also amazement.  They had never thought of it that way.  Well, in my opinion it is the same for kids.  If you are constantly saying no it loses its luster.  If you are saying no save it for something that could put them in danger that way they know that no means no with no ifs ands or buts about it.

So far in my journey I have taught the toddlers variations of what I went over in puppy class.  Let me explain:

  • Take it.  I have in some way taught the kids to take something for me.  Usually it is when I am handing them their sippy cup or bottle.  Also, when I take a toy away from one baby after they robbed it from his brother who was playing so nicely with it.  You know you have been there if you are a twin momma.
  • Leave it.  Oh how I have used this one.  It is usually for some fuzz ball that they have found living underneath the rocker or some dried up pea that they had flung off their tray from earlier in the day that disappeared somewhere beyond my sight but of course they would find it.  There are only three things on my lower level that I have not yet baby proofed, which is a corner where I have my last end table, a floor lamp since we don’t have wired lighting in the ceiling and of course the cat food and water.  Those are the things I have left to saying the word no for or a variation of leave it.  I hope I can alleviate some frustration with this one this week as I have finally ordered a baby gate for that corner and an outlet box for the cords to the floor lamp.  Oh, I hope!
  • Drop it.  Well this one goes along with take it in the baby world for me.  Drop the random floor crumb you found or the piece of cat litter you some how found even though I just swept two seconds ago.  Drop the toy you stole from your brother, etc.
  • Come when called.  I find this one to be very useful when I am being lazy.  Remember when the kids just sat there and cried?  Well, now my toddlers can walk over to me so I can comfort them when they are throwing a hissy fit for one reason or another. HA!  No, but seriously you will be telling your kid to get over here for the next 18 years.  This “command” is a must.
  • Sit/Down/Stay, my boys haven’t really learned these yet, but it will come as they are moving about more of this I am sure!
  • Walking on a leash.  I know people have opinions about these but this is my opinion and you can take it or leave it but I’m not debating it.  If you think I am above putting my kids on those back pack leashes you are so mistaken.  It hasn’t happened yet because they have only been walking for the last month or so.  But for a big outing like our crowded zoo or something of that nature, I will very much utilize these for their safety.  It does not take but a second for a kid to wander off and if I am by myself I will be outnumbered.  Maybe I will feel differently when we get to that point but for now I can see this happening.

Many times when I am tackling something new in the baby world I will relate it to how I handled issues with my training for dog training.  Of course, not everything applies but the basics of positive reinforcement are heavily seeded in human psychology so the basics are very much the same.  I can appreciate my training as it helped prepare me for motherhood.

I could also relate my job as paralegal to motherhood as that was glorified babysitting but I won’t go there. HA!

Has anyone else had a non-traditional job that prepared them for motherhood?