Children aren’t dogs, and dogs aren’t children

Dogs can be a delight to live with, or a horror. Untrained, they have a lot of nasty habits. They bark incessantly, jump up on visitors, grab food out of a child’s hand, barge out the front door and race off, pull on the leash, refuse to come on command, snarl at strangers, attack other dogs, and chase after cats and cars totally oblivious to traffic. Dogs like that are horrible. They are uncontrollable, exasperating and frightening.

Dogs can be trained, though. Their behaviour can be quickly and dramatically changed, by knowing how a dog’s brain works. A dog is a pack animal, so it responds happily and naturally to the rules of the pack. There’s a pack leader and a pecking order, which a dog instinctively accepts. He’s happy knowing who’s in charge, what’s expected of him, and he’ll behave in ways to please, because that’s the way a dog’s brain is wired.

It must come as quite a shock for a dog owner, then, when he showers love and affection on his dog, thinking that’s the key to changing and modifying a dog’s behaviour, but the dog still barks incessantly and doesn’t respond to commands. It seems odd that the animal doesn’t automatically try to please and obey when it’s loved. But it’s not love that governs a dog’s behaviour in the pack, it’s clear rules as to who’s in charge and doing what’s expected of them.

Some people who understand that about dogs may think that’s the way you train children too – that a child’s behaviour is also moulded and governed by strict rules, high expectations, and knowing who’s in charge.

But children aren’t dogs. Children are built to respond to love. Love does change a child’s behaviour. When a child is loved, enjoyed, encouraged and listened to, the change can be dramatic. He can be transformed from a snarly brat into an enthusiastic joy. And it doesn’t take much, either. Take the kid to school and have a good laugh along the way, and it does wonders for a child’s attitude in just minutes. Laugh with a child, joke with a child, hug and snuggle, rough and tumble and thrill in their growth, and a child in such an atmosphere won’t need rewards and punishment to make him obey. When a child is loved, he instinctively loves in return.

And where did such a radical idea come from? From God. “We love because he first loved us,” 1 John 4:19. When we know we’re loved, we love in return. Dogs aren’t wired that way, but we are.

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