Relax moms - this article isn’t intended to make the assumption that training dogs is the same thing as raising kids. Cesar Millan, the well-known dog behaviorist actually stresses the importance of treating dogs like dogs instead of humanizing them (you know like painting their nails and carrying them around in Louis Vitton purses). For obvious reasons, kids shouldn’t be treated like dogs either. No one is suggesting you should teach your baby to roll over on command, but many of Cesar's techniques are directly related to parenting.
Through various platforms such as TV shows and books, Cesar goes beyond basic dog training methods and shows us that the problem isn’t our crazy dogs – it’s us. By rehabilitating dogs and training people, he teaches us how to be good pact leaders so we can live happily ever after with balanced dogs.
I was a dog person long before I became a mom. The year before getting pregnant, my hubby and I adopted a Goldendoole (aka our goofy, giant teddy bear). Even though we still have a long way to go, Cesar's advice has helped us reorganize that when we're not on our game as pact leaders, our dog is on his worst behavior... and the same is true for parenthood.
Raising a puppy has been a challenge, but having a kid was a game changer. Since I had my son ten months ago, my life has completely changed (definitely for the better, but also for the crazier). With Cesar's voice in my head, I find myself realizing that so many of his principals completely apply to raising kids. Curious why? Here are 15 Cesar Millan Tips That Will 100% Work On Kids.
15 Be The Pack Leader
In the dog world, there’s always a pack leader. Someone who’s boss. If you don’t take on that role, your dog will run the show. By providing direction and setting rules (and actually sticking to them), you become the one in control. Obviously, the same is true for kids.
From a very young age, babies learn to manipulate people and get their way, but you have to make it clear that you call the shots – what mama says goes, whether you like it or not.
Like dogs, kids want to please us and they need direction on how to do that. It’s important to let kids figure things out for themselves, but as parents, it’s our job to fulfill their needs and guide them in the right direction.
It’s so hard to say no to puppy eyes and an adorable smile, but never forget that you’re the boss and you lead the pack.
14 Energy Is Everything
Ceasar always talks about energy. We all respond to other people's energy, but since dogs don’t use words to communicate, energy is everything to them. Dogs mirror the energy we project, so if you break down in dance, your dog will get into play mode, but if you’re vegging in front of the TV, you’ll quickly have a cuddle buddy.
Since babies don’t use language either, they feel our energy the strongest. Energy is contagious, so whether you’re calm, anxious or exited, you can be sure your baby feels it. When I just became a mom, I felt OVERWHELMED (in capital letters) and the best advice I got was from a nurse. She told me that children feel our frustration, so when they drive us crazy (which they will sometimes), it's better to put them down in a safe place and take a few moments to ourselves to recharge.
Part of parenthood is feeling overwhelmed, but it's important to be aware of the energy you bring to the vulnerable ones in your house.
13 Be Calm And Assertive
Once you understand that energy is everything, it’s key to know that the best energy to project is calm and assertive energy.
We love our dogs and we love our kids, but they can both be a pain in our badonkadonks. I have a dog and a 10 month old and I don’t know which one is worse when it comes to ruining my stuff. The reason calm and assertive energy is the best approach is because our little ones will never follow us when we're losing our bananas. Which is why it's always easier to calm a crying baby down when you feel relaxed.
Whether your dog ate your fav pair of shoes or your toddler colored on your big screen TV, when you scream, yell and act like a crazy person, you’ll never get through to them. There is a lot more power behind a single look or a “that’s enough” when the right energy is behind it.
When you feel calm and assertive, you can handle your little rascals with ease.
12 Practice Patience
Whether it’s training a puppy or raising kids, patience is key, but it often slips through the cracks. The key to patience is empathy, so when you take the time to listen, observe and understand, you can correct and guide the right way.
Even though it seems like Cesar walks in a room and magically turns the worst pup into a well-behaved dog with one correction, he reminds us that there are no shortcuts to changing bad behavior.
As a parent, you are ultimately a teacher and teaching requires a lot of patience and repetition. Don’t lose your cool when your kids make mistakes or behave badly. Growing up can be frustrating and it's important to remember that everyone learns at different rates. Pay attention to your little ones, be calm and give progress a chance.
Always make patience a priority and when things aren't going as planned, don't be too hard on yourself or your kids.
11 Be Confident
Part of being a good leader is carrying yourself with confidence. Cesar always stresses that whatever we feel is projected onto our dogs and the same is true for kids. If we feel insecure and unsure, then how can our little ones grow with confidence?
We must own our role as leaders so the ones who follow us can feel safe and secure. It all starts with our intentions. When you make it your goal to be a good leader, your confidence level will automatically sky-rocket.
Cesar says that confidence is the most important quality in being a good pact leader. He explains that we gain confidence when we see results and let go of fear. Once you stop worrying about what might go wrong and focus on progress, you’ll gain trust and confidence.
As a mom, it's normal to always second guess yourself (I do it all the time), but trust that you're doing your best and your babies will thank you for it.
10 Don't Worry
Worrying is stressing about something that might happen (when usually, it never does). Ending worrying goes hand-in-hand with living in the moment.
Worrying is the result of negative thinking which changes the way we feel. We know that dogs and kids need calm and assertive leaders to excel (keyword – calm), so worrying is counter-productive. My dog used to bark at every person and animal that we passed by, but now he only does it some of the time. By being aware of how my thoughts affect his actions, I notice that when I stress about him going cray-cray, he gets tense and barks, and when I pass others without a care in the world, he stays chill.
Being a new mom comes with a lot of what-ifs and second guessing, but when you worry, your kids feel less secure. When you catch yourself wondering what could go wrong, bounce back to the present moment and just be happy that for now everything is under control.
9 Read Body Language
Dogs show their emotions through their body language. When a dog is relaxed with a wagging tail, they are showing excitement, but when they get tense are put their ears up, they might be showing signs of aggression. If you live in a home with both dogs and kids, it’s especially important to learn to read your dog’s body language.
Before babies learn to use words to communicate, reading their body language is a great tool to figuring out what they are trying to tell us. They might rub their eyes when they’re tired or suck their hands when they're hungry, which helps us know what they need.
It’s also important to pay attention to the energy behind body language. There’s a big difference between kicking legs out of joy and kicking legs out of frustration. As a mom, you get to learn your own baby’s body language pretty quickly and by paying attention, it makes everyone's lives easier.
8 Set Rules, Boundaries And Limitations
Cesar says that since dogs want to please their leaders, it’s important to let them know what we want from them (and don’t want from them). If we let our dogs get away with anything, then they aren't guided in any direction. Like dogs, a child without direction has the potential of diving into spoiled brat territory.
Part of being a good role model is setting rules, boundaries and limitations (and actually sticking to them). Rules show children what isn’t allowed (don't spit out your food), boundaries control where they can and can’t go (keep your muddy hands away from the formal living room) and limitations control activities (get out of the pool when I say so). From babies all the way up to teenagers, kids will always challenge the boundaries we set (so get used to it), but as much as they don’t like the word ‘no’, kids count on adults to provide direction.
It’s important to find the right balance between being too easy going and being too strict. Flexibility is key and it's fine if rules get broken at grandma’s house, but what's important is for them to learn that you call the shots.
7 Use Positive Reinforcement
Cesar explains that a big mistake people make is using positive reinforcement at the wrong times. Like giving affection right after your dog did something naughty. Kids also learn by cause and effect, so if they throw food on the wall and you laugh, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll do it again (and the second time you probably won't think it's funny).
Treats and prizes aren’t the only way to reinforce good behavior. Kids just want us to be proud of them, so it’s important to make cheering and clapping more valuable than a snickers bar. Just remember that while positive reinforcement is healthy, it’s still important to correct bad behavior. Like everything else, it’s all about finding a balance.
6 Be Consistent
Cesar explains that the reason consistency is important is because dogs learn by association. They learn that chewing on your slippers makes you snap, but putting their head on your laps makes you scratch their heads. When we break patterns, we confuse them. If you let your dogs sleep in your bed every night, but then get mad when they jump on your clean sheets, they are left feeling unsure of what you want from them. Set limits and stick to them.
We also have to be clear and consistent with our kids. Take sleep training for example. There are so many different methods, but no matter which book you read or who you listen to, the only rule that all methods have in common is to be consistent. Consistency is something many parents have trouble with, but with time and a lot of mistakes along the way, you eventually come to the conclusion that consistency is the only thing that really works.
Kids do best when they know what to expect, so do whatever works for your family, but be sure to be consistent.
5 Get Into A Routine
Dogs are adaptable and so are kids. It doesn’t take long for our bundles of joy to adjust to new schedules and environments, but they still strive best when they know what to expect. Our little ones like predictability, so whether you’re handling a puppy or a baby, it’s important to establish a routine.
Newborns eat, poop and sleep continuously, but as they grow it gets easier to get them into a routine. There are many examples out there of the perfect routine for every age group, but at the end of the day every baby is different and the only thing that matters is finding a routine that works for your family.
Kids are unpredictable and it’s next to impossible to stick to a perfect schedule, but having a general plan is key. Getting into a routine is not the same thing as following the clock. Kids just want to know what comes next. For example, first comes story time, then milk, then sleep.
When a puppy learns when to expect meals, he will stop barking for food in between feedings and when kids learn what to expect next, everyone is in a happier place.
4 Make Time For Exercise And Play
One of the biggest mistakes dog owners make is not taking their dogs on walks. When a dog has too much pent up energy, you end up with chewed up furniture and bad behavior.
These days too many people live sedentary lifestyles. Lack of exercise is a major cause of so much stress and health problems, but it’s important to keep our kids active from the moment they are born. From tummy time to taking toddlers to the park, exercise should be a routine activity that’s fun for the whole family.
Kids learn through play and they need exercise to build strength and grow into the healthy adults we want them to become. In the same way that taking your dog on daily walk is the best way to bond, exercise and play is a wonderful way to connect with kids.
Like animals, people were born to move. We all need exercise to live healthy, balanced lives so always make time for exercise and play.
3 Lead With Respect
It’s our job to provide guidance and direction, but we have to remember that we don’t own our children and animals. They might be teeny tiny and vulnerable, but they deserve to be treated with love and respect.
Leading with respect goes hand-in-hand with all of the other fundamental tools like leading with calm and assertive energy, practicing patience and being consistent. It’s also about knowing when to give space and let your little ones figure things out for themselves.
Sometimes we assume that being the big bad wolf will make our kids and dogs listen to us, but leading with fear just makes them feel fearful and anxious. When we lead with respect, our dogs and kids grow to trust us, respect us and love us unconditionally.
2 Keep It Simple
Cesar always says that life is simple and we’re the ones who make it complicated. Family is everything, and whether you fill your house with dogs, kids or both, it’s important to enjoy the company that our little ones bring us.
The amount of information out there on how to be the perfect everything is overwhelming, but when we zoom back into the present moment, life isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be. Instinctively, we already know how to be good parents and how to take care of others. When we trust our leadership abilities, we can let go of the details, follow our guts and keep life simple.
Instead of worrying about everything that might go wrong, focus on what is going right. The beauty of dogs and kids is they live in the moment. They only deal with what is happening right in front of them, and that’s a lesson we should learn from them.
1 Be Fully Present
From being calm and assertive, to providing rules, boundaries and limitations, none of it works if you’re not fully present. You can’t train your dog while cooking dinner and you’ll never master the walk if you’re on your phone the whole time. Life gets busy, but when you want your dog to follow your lead, you must be 100% present.
When it comes to kids, presence is everything. Toys, games and treats aside, the only thing kids really want is your undivided attention. If you’re too busy, they’ll find creative ways to grab your attention like throwing a tantrum or coloring on your laptop. Being a mom means tackling 50 million things at the same time, but it’s important to make time to be fully present for your kids. Take the little moments like giving a bath, and feeding them and make them count. Bond with your kids. Play with them, watch them, pay attention to the way their little brains work. Because if you don’t, you’ll miss out on the best parts of being a parent.