Friday, June 19, 2015

Raising Children and Pets

Recently my wife and I had to put down a beloved pet that had been in our family for over 13 years. I recounted my memories of her character in a 14-page document, complete with pictures I’d taken over the years. The pet was my wife’s dog so I presented the document to her as a gift two days after having to put the dog down.

Writing this document reminded me that there are those who take exception to comparing pets to children. I have both raised children and owned pets. So my perspective is based on experience and not lofty idealism. Both children and pets have similar behavioral challenges that need to be met. Both look to you for approval and rewards. Yes, it is true that children will grow to an age where you can finally reason with them. However, if the parent hasn’t taken the time over the years to consistently teach the child how to reason correctly, the supposed asset (of the ability to reason) becomes a huge liability when the child is disobedient and rebels. 

This brings me to another comparison--that of discipline. Many parents I see today do not understand what real discipline is. It is NOT the switch (a whip made from a branch) or the belt. That doesn’t teach anything except “might makes right.” Jesus is perfect example of the correct method of discipline. And what makes it even more astonishing is that he applied it grown men (his disciples who were forever arguing who was the greatest among them). In watching “The Dog Whisperer,” I realized that I had allowed corporal punishment to dictate my reaction to bad pet conduct. He (Cesar Millan) recommended much gentler treatment to which the animals actually responded to favorably.

The same is true of how we raise children. Harsh physical punishment rarely has long-range positive effects. It may stop the bad conduct at the moment, but the anger, resentment and negative feelings will continue until they explode sometime later. While it takes more effort and time, steadily, consistently reasoning with the child has much greater and long-term benefits.

So to me, those are the similarities of raising children and having pets.

(Yes, I am aware that the Hebrew/Aramaic scriptures in the Bible talk about severe corporal punishment meted out by parents on their children. However, Christ taught us a much better way.)

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