Timing is important.
It’s important with dogs and it’s important with kids.
The guideline that I normally give my clients is that dogs only understand feedback that comes within three seconds of their behavior. That’s right, just three seconds. So, when your dog poops in the house while you’re out with the kids and you try to shame him when you get back, he doesn’t get it. Your dog may give you “sad face.” You may swear he “knows.” But, he doesn’t. Really!
He just thinks sometimes you come home and you act crazy. He may even understand that you act crazy when you see poop. But, he definitely won’t understand that he should not poop in the house any more because that is bad.
So that’s an example of where the timing is really critical to achieving behavior change.
With kids, timing is important too.
If you don’t want your toddler to hit your baby in the head (not that I would know anything about that!), then timing, in the form of immediate feedback, is critical.
I find giving feedback with kids much more difficult than with dogs.
With dogs, you can just praise and treat what you like, and “eh, eh” and redirect what you don’t.
With kids, you’ve got to use your brain to verbalize what it is they are doing and then give feedback.
Me: “I see you are moving fast toward your brother. It seems like you might have a lot of energy right now. I can’t let you be energetic around your brother. You could use your energy to race up and down the hall…. Let me put your brother down and I can chase you up and down the hall. Ready? Go!”
And, then of course, being ready to block a test-smack before it makes contact…
Having great timing is a brain workout for sure!
And, just like any heavy lifting in the gym, after awhile, your brain muscles will get tired!
Parenting kids and dogs requires a brain that is focused and “on” much of the time. This will ensure that you are parenting with adequate timing to help child or dog in your care
Take the above, toddler test-hitting baby scenario above. What if I didn’t give immediate feedback and she came at her brother with “high energy” (aka cranky, tired, hungry, and looking for an outlet)? Then, she hit him. After that, the timing for positive/neutral feedback is past. Timing in that situation is so critical for developing the relationship you want with your kids and dogs.
This is one of the reasons that kid-friendly and dog-friendly areas are so important.
They give you kids and dogs a safe area where there is no “no,” and your brain can take a much-needed vacation!
A dog-friendly room is a room or crate without kids where you dog can just be a dog. There should be plenty of safe chew toys, maybe a bully stick, some water and a cozy bed. In this space, your dog can’t make the mistake of jumping on the counter to finish off the last of the mac and cheese (not that this ever happens at my house!).
In our house, this is our gated off family room or a crate for our German Shepherd, and it is our gated off laundry room for our small dog.
Likewise, a kid-friendly room is where your kid can just be a kid. She can climb the securely anchored furniture. She can run and jump and play to her hearts content. There are no babies tempting her to pinch them. No dogs tempting her to pull their tails. And no power tools, cleaning chemicals, or other adult no-nos to get into. She is free to explore, test her environment, play, and be a kid!
In our house, this is her bedroom or the park (we love the park!).
And, the best part is… Your brain gets a vacation!
Timing is so critical. It’s exhausting, but oh-so-powerful when done well.
Set yourself up for success by having kid- and dog-friendly spaces so that you don’t always have to be “on.” Then, shine like super mom when your well-rested brain nails perfect timing. You’ll pause your mac and cheese stirring just in time to intercept a toddler in mid-march to grab your German Shepherd’s tail.
Great job mama!