Dog-Train Your Toddler in Three Easy Steps!

Isabella's toddler behavior has always been a bit Sybil-like. When we're out in public, she's usually extremely well-behaved, charming, and obedient. Her behavior at home? Not so great.

Of course, every toddler is prone to meltdowns, defiance, and whinyness. I'm under no delusions that my daughter should be able to sit and read quietly in the corner while mama takes a two-hour nap, or that she eat every vegetable on her highchair tray with nary a grimace.

But when Isabella has a tantrum at home, she has a tantrum, and there is nothing subtle or controlled about it. When she's upset, she starts by taking off running. This is usually accompanied by a long and drawn-out whine.

Then, she either hurls herself onto the couch, throws herself face down on the floor...

...or she contorts her body into the downward-pointing dog yoga position and holds in there for a good long time.

Sometimes, it takes a concerted effort not to laugh at her as her theatrics play out. Perhaps this is how Dakota Fanning got her start?

A few weeks ago, my mom was in town, and I was talking to her about Isabella's volatile little personality. My mom sees the little bugger only about once a month, so she refused to believe me when I told her that her precious princess and only grandchild was hell on wheels when pissed off.

Until she saw the little darling in action.

Then she came up with a fabulous idea.

My mom is a big fan of Cesar Millan, otherwise known as the Dog Whisperer. He has a show on the National Geographic Channel, and his schtick is that he helps dogs with extreme behavioral issues and their humans relate to each other. Through a series of pretty interesting techniques, he "rehabilitates" the dogs and helps their humans learn how best to control them. Bottom line: I think he saves a lot of dogs from being "dropped off" at the nearest animal shelter and then quickly euthanized because dogs with serious behavioral issues generally meet this fate.

One of Cesar's techniques is to quickly stop any bad dog behavior, be it an aggressive stance, growling, lunging, etc. with a quick and sharp "Tsst!" noise. The dogs generally stop and back away. He repeats it as much as necessary, and pretty soon the dogs he's rehabbing become used to hearing the noise as part of their training.

Check out Cesar using the noise with the former Mrs. Charlie Sheen's dogs.

Okay, can you see where this is going?

My mom thought we should try the technique on Isabella the next time she started one of her meltdowns. The next time Isabella started to go berserk, my mom looked her in the eye, made a two-fingered version of The Donald's "You're fired" hand motion, and said "Tsst!"

And guess what?

It stopped her in her tracks.

The whining stopped. The hysterics abated. She simply froze and looked at as if to say "WTF was that??"

And it has worked every time since.

Of course, the little smarty pants has started doing it right back to me, which is nothing short of hilarious. But at this point, I'd rather have a pisser for a kid than one waking me up from a nap on the couch with her fourth tantrum of the day.

11 Responses to “Dog-Train Your Toddler in Three Easy Steps!”

  1. # Blogger Jesser

    Oh that is awesome!! I will have to remember this. I'm sure we're headed for these days. ;)  

  2. # Blogger beagle

    I think you are on to something! LOL

    Now, in order to make this point, I have to admit something shameful: I watched Wife Swap last night. There I said it.
    (I was just killing time waiting for American Idol to start!)

    The one mom in this segment had been a zookeeper prior to moving in with her boyfriend/husband and his ten year old boy. Her parenting approach was all based on "training" and she asserted numerous times that children and animals where quite similar in that regard.

    So there's a child care book that has yet to be written!

    (Isabella is as cute as ever, even in yoga repose.) We'd love to see the photo of her version of "Tsst!"  

  3. # Blogger Marie

    My comment went poof!

    This is hilarious & incredible! We need a video clip of you & Isabella!  

  4. # Anonymous Amy

    Another thing that works is start whispering to your screaming toddler...I swear this works every time. They're so curious about what you're saying they'll stop screaming and then just forget why they were upset in the first place.

    Your mom's idea is way funnier, though.  

  5. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I love this and fully intend to employ the technique, although judging from my dog's abysmal behavior, I cannot imagine I will have much luck.  

  6. # Blogger Mom24

    Too funny! Whatever works. For the record, laughing out loud is not a bad idea. That used to stop ours in their tracks too. I think it made them realise they were not getting the desired effect, so to speak! I love your stories about Isabella, she sounds so cute.

    Four more if you didn't know!  

  7. # Blogger Editorgirl

    Wow! As a fan of Cesar I had no idea we could take his dog behavior adjusting ways and adapt them to other parts of our lives. Very interesting. Maybe for your next freelance gig you could become - dare I say it - "the baby whisperer" - you KNOW there's a market for this!  

  8. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    You know what was running through my mind as I watched the video? The whole situation was a lot like what's been happening on the playground at Hannah's school, with Maddie playing the role of Sonny and Hannah and her crew being the pack of dogs. And did you get what he said at the end? Control Sonny's behavior and you can control the rest.

    I'll have to try this technique at home. Somehow, I don't think it will work with a 6 and 8 year old, though! (at least not mine)

    I just did it at Bridget (who is currently having a meltdown), and she laughed at first and then got SUPER mad. She's pulling me away . . .  

  9. # Blogger Mom24

    Enjoy a great weekend. If you want something to work on to keep your mind busy, I just tagged you!  

  10. # Blogger Damselfly

    You may be onto something! It's all behavior therapy, I suppose....

    I love your carpet!  

  11. # Blogger Shannon

    snort... that is too funny!  

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