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The Kid Whisperer

I often get asked about where parents can find resources to assist them in the journey of raising their kids.   This is going to sound strange, but I think a dog behavior show might be the most valuable resource available.   Seriously.


My family and I love to watch The Dog Whisperer.   Have you seen this show?   It’s a show on National Geographic TV, and it features Cesar Millan showing up to help solve dog problems.   It’s quite a sight to see these disruptive dogs become well-behaved members of the home.   He uses a few different techniques, much of which includes simply taking charge of the dog.   Go figure, huh?   He says he “rehabilitates dogs and trains humans.” I think what he does is super applicable to parents.

He is constantly warning dog owners to not let emotions dictate how you treat your dog.   He always references humans feeling sorry for the dog, and he says that prevents us from dealing with the dog in a dog-appropriate way.   Parents, can you see this coming?   As parents we can easily be swayed to give our children things based out of our guilt, fear, or both at the same time.   While emotions are a valuable part of any relationship, when raising children we need to stay in the clear.   For instance, let’s say your kid steals something from a friend at school.   He’s caught red-handed, and confesses right away.   Do you back off on any consequences because he’s so upset about his own bad choice, or do you make him face that consequence?   I’ve seen parents be so swayed by the emotions of a situation, that they fail to provide a strong covering of discipline for their kids.

The Dog Whisperer also points out that dogs live “in the moment.” They respond to strong leadership and require “rules, boundaries and limitations” to feel secure and part of the “pack.”   I feel that I could exchange the word dogs, with children.   Am I alone? As a person that works with other peoples kids, let me tell you that this is lacking!   I often hear parents say, “My kids are so much better behaved for you than they are for me.”   I’m not casting magical obedience spells on their children, I just treat them like a dog.   That sounds bad, doesn’t it?   I meant to say that I provide strong leadership and require rules, boundaries and limitations.   Does that sound better?

Cesar always begins the show with an observation of the relationship between the dog and their humans. He often finds that the humans are the ones that must learn a different way to handle their pets.   I have three kids, and each kid forces me to parent them in a different way.   While there are certain standards that are the same for every one of them, I also can’t expect the same reaction out of each of them.   For example, my daughter requires more rules than my boys.   For some reason she seems to want to push the envelope on things and the boys just take it as it comes. Different methods for the same overall goal.

While these lessons learned on The Dog Whisperer are great for parents, but I also want to add that the snapping, shushing, and finger pointing can come in handy with kids as well.   I’m just sayin’.

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Starr · September 5, 2009

    We use the principles of the Dog Whisperer more on our kids than we do on the actual dog. The kids are super well-behaved. The dog…not so much.

  2. Lindsey Whitney · October 22, 2010

    Very true. I’ve always secretly seen myself as “an expert” on child-raising. Nine months ago, we had our first child. All my expertise is now gone.

    Already, I can see how things are much tougher with your own kids. Our daughter likes to pull the plugs out of the outlets and then proceed to try and electrocute herself. Obviously not a stellar behavior. When I move her or take the plugs from her, she cries. Who wants a crying cutie? Not me! And yet, I know… crying is probably better than getting shocked by electricity.

    Love your line, “I m not casting magical obedience spells on their children, I just treat them like a dog.”

    The tough part is consistency. When you’re tired. When they are cute. When you’ve done “your share of parenting and now it’s dad’s turn” etc. etc. etc.

    Thanks for this post!