Confess, at least once this Christmas season you’ve thought about asking Santa for a bark collar for your kids. Just imagine, they’re all the way across the house, you’re yelling at them to stop beating up on their sibling, they don’t listen, and “Zzap!” you hit the button on a remote and they get buzzed. Instant obedience.
Now, we all know that, as good an idea as it sounds, it would probably land us in hot water with Child Services. So, enjoy the daydream, but please don’t attempt to use it.
For dogs though, it works great. I’ve read the shocking kind is best reserved for professional dog trainers, but the ones with vibration that are activated by remote are a wonderful training tool. (I researched the kind that goes off with loud noises and decided that in our house it would just be going off constantly, whether or not Po was barking.)
Our Goldendoodle can get loud sometimes. He’s a “small” which means that he weighs 35 pounds, thinks he’s 60 lbs and sounds like it when he barks. He is also a bit clingy. His two “mommies” take him everywhere they can, and when he has to be left behind it upsets him.
They had been attempting to train him to lie quietly at their feet at the table while we eat. Mostly it was working, except for the once or twice a day when someone would dangle food a bit too near the edge of the table and, like Moby Dick, Po would breach and snap the food before anything could be done to stop him. After the time when the last Hawaiian sweet roll had been fought over and divided between the winning children, only to disappear down Po’s throat, I decided that we needed a little space between us and the dog while we were eating.
We looped his leash on the newel post at the foot of the stairs so he could watch us and not get too lonely. And bark. Loudly. In between chewing on the foyer rug and trying to eat the Christmas garland I have wrapped around the stair railing.
I was frustrated, but my eldest calmly went and got his bark collar. We hadn’t used it for a while so I didn’t think it would work. She put it on him and he instantly settled down. She was right. He knew what it was. I sat there through the meal with the remote in my hand and didn’t have to push it once.
The next day, Po was getting too wild in the backyard, barking and chasing my five year old, who didn’t like it, and I put the collar on him again. Like flipping a switch, he calmed down and sat in the middle of the yard, no longer interested in causing mayhem.
The downside though, is that Po knows when he is wearing the collar. He’s not learning to not bark or not chew. He’s learning to not bark or chew when a black device is strapped around his neck. Take it off, and all bets are off as well. He’s only good while he knows that he can be disciplined.
My kids are like this as well. As long as I’m in the school room, standing over them and watching what they are doing, they diligently finish their work. But if I have to walk out? Poof! It’s like magic. Half of them disappear, and the other half get into a fight over who gets the green pencil. The younger ones at least. The older two are almost completely self-taught. They have reached the stage where they manage their own time and learning and finish their work without outside pressure.
I think this is every parent’s goal. We want our kids to be self-motivated to learn. The threat of us hanging over them will only get them so far. If they only learn to work hard when someone is watching them, holding that bark collar remote, then they’re not really learning anything.
It takes time. I can get discouraged when I waste ten minutes searching the house for a missing 6 year old who managed to disappear in the five minutes it took me to answer the phone, but then I remember that her older sisters used to be just the same, and look at them now! I’m always tempted to increase the level of pressure or supervision, but if I remember my goal, that I want them to be self-sufficient, then I can give them the space to make mistakes and hopefully move closer to the day when I can go the bathroom and not come back to World War III.
So, this Christmas, when your kids are going crazy, remember that this too shall pass. They will soon grow out of this phase, and if we’re patient and consistent and give them opportunities to control themselves, one year, we’ll all have a peaceful, quiet Christmas.
Ok, I can dream, right?
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!