I don’t want to be one of “those” people that claim having a dog is the same as having a child. But some aspects of keeping a dog do resemble having a two-year kid. Others are completely different.
For example, the kid will eventually grow up beyond the cognitive age of two most dogs are stuck at, and stop relying on your help. Dogs, on the other hand, will need your support for life. Therefore, they are, in some ways, a bigger challenge for their “parents”.
But this is not a competition between children and dogs, both of which are among the most rewarding life experiences a person can have.
Those that have either children or dogs will concur, and those that have them both at once will agree that shared experiences with children and dogs together have delivered some of the brightest moments of happiness in their lives.
Maximum enjoyment in those experiences requires growing a parenting backbone.
Consistency in Parenting and Dog Care
Although there are general rules that count for everyone, no one can tell you how to raise your kids or behave with your dogs. But small kids and dogs do have one thing in common: they require a consistent parenting style and setting firm rules.
You may as well know that dogs become apprehensive and confused when you change their usual daily schedule. Children also grow anxious when the boundaries are too fluid.
In fact, for healthy personality development, it is not as important what you teach your children but that you do it consistently.
For kids, consistency in parenting means better habits and behavior, for example, establishing a balanced sleeping pattern.
Consistency is even more important for dogs, especially in dog training, when using training cues, and creating feeding rituals. If you own a dog, you know how anxious it can get when it doesn’t get its meal on time, can’t get out to go potty, or needs to suddenly travel if that’s an unusual occurrence in its life.
Consistency, not a Military Style Discipline
However, a consistent parenting style doesn’t mean being overly rigid and following a military discipline. Life is not that simple and your kids may need to break some rules when they grow up.
Under certain circumstances, breaking the rule will be more beneficial for them then respecting the rules at all costs.
It is important to be open enough for your children to be able to talk to you about rule-breaking.
Sooner or later, they may need to do that in life with other authorities. You don’t want to raise 100-percent obedient children that never use their own head and rely on external authorities all the time.
They have to be able to develop and possess a personal, intrinsic, and intuitive set of values for distinguishing what’s wrong from what’s right in social relationships.
The point of boundaries and consistency is not so much about imposing a moral system of values but reaching your kids to trust you and to trust themselves later in life.
Consistency is great for self-confidence. A major benefit of consistency is stability in emotional self-regulation, which has better chances of developing healthily when grown in certainty.
If you think that consistency is about “tough love”, you are right, it often is.
As far as dogs are concerned, people often make the mistake of thinking that dogs can tell what’s best for them and what they like. Therefore, they become overly accommodating to their dog’s whims. It’s good to be able to differentiate between meeting needs and accommodating whims for dogs. Meeting needs is more in the domain of tough love.
Finally, if you ask most parents, they will say that consistency is a tough battle. It is. Even grown-ups are not that determined all the time and self-sabotage themselves with immature behaviors.
The thin line between how consistent and how flexible you need to be with someone you set examples for is shaped by a trial and error process. A great part of that shaping trajectory is about how secure, confident, and “a man/woman of his/her word you are”.
This eventually comes down to how well you know yourself and avoid making promises you cannot keep.
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