There’s a store in my neighborhood that I walk by regularly called “Doggy Style.” It sells organic, raw, and freeze-dried pet food, and features a wall full of toys. There’s a dog-sized Halloween costume—of a dinosaur—in the window.
The bakery I like to shop at has dog treats in the vitrine alongside people treats.
I’ve had students in the Creative Focus Workshop planning dog-centered podcasts, writing “dog parenting” books, and who post more pictures of their dogs than themselves.
I have friends who’ve skipped parties and dinners and trips to care for their tender rescue dogs.
In the last 20 years or so, it seems we’ve come to a cultural consensus: dogs are to be cherished.
So when you train your dog, what do you do?
Do you whack it with a rolled up newspaper?
Do you lock it in a cage and ignore it?
Do you scream at it and tell it what a terrible, worthless, hopelessly screwed up dog it is?
We may not have known this 50 years ago, but we know now that the best method of training dogs (and raising children, by the way) is by using kindness, love, and patience, combined with firm limits scaled to their ability to achieve success.
When you’re kind and firm, and you reinforce positive behavior instead of punishing negative behavior, your dog (or kid!) learns faster and uses internal motivation to behave as you want them to.
(Yes, of course there are dog-parents and people-parents who don’t get this concept, and who treat their loved ones like dirt. I’m not talking about, or to, those people.)
So, if we all agree that punishment and cruelty don’t work on others…
If you wouldn’t beat up your labradoodle, why will you willingly beat yourself up?
When you blow a self-imposed deadline…
…or feel too overwhelmed to face your creative work and instead zone out with Netflix,
…or find you can’t actually function well on 5 hours of sleep a night (wow, really??)
…or it turns out you can’t actually pick up your kid at the school bus, be at an important meeting, and work on your novel simultaneously (what, no personal worm-hole generator?)
…what’s your reaction?
Do you step back and look at how you might put together a more reasonable calendar for tomorrow that acknowledges the limitations of your human body, attention, and the time-space continuum?
And please, please PLEASE. This article is not an excuse to beat yourself up for beating yourself up!
Try to imagine you’re watching one friend light into another for some promise unkept. What would you do?
Would you intervene and tell the abuser to knock it off?
How would you show empathy for the person who “messed up” and feels horrible about it? How would you tell them that you love them, and that you know they can do it, and that you can help them do better?
How would you help them actually do better?
Let me suggest that you consider setting new goalposts that are scaled to engineer success instead of failure.
Remember: We’re kind to dogs and children not only because making them happy makes us happy…but because it WORKS.
October 30, 2018 at 12:52 am
I’m posting this article in my online discussion group for people who grew up in the same religious cult. The messages we got growing up were developmentally self-destructive wrapped in woo woo as you can imagine, so your simple analogies of what actually works here are refreshing.