"It's the energy" is what I always hear from Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer TV program, but I never truly understand what he meant until I received this "big" puppy about 3 months ago .....
This photo on the left (or on top if you are using mobile phone to view this) is a Belgian Shepherd puppy; though I always mistaken him as an adult dog because of his size. (Oh, he is only 5 months old by the way, so he is in fact still a puppy!)
Since he is just a puppy, I have been having a lot of troubles with him because he bites, he scratches, he jumps and he creates mess to the house too! So I begin watching Cesar Millan's program and I also read some dog training article online. And what keep popping up while learning about dogs is the word 'Energy'. I didn't quite understand what it meant until I had a 'fight' with my puppy.
So, as usual he was trying to play with me but his play is biting and jumping which can be quite painful at times because he is big and his teeth are as sharp as an adult dog.
In order to prevent myself from having more injuries (which I already have), I began using my strength to push him away and attempt to use authoritative tone to stop what he is doing; but it didn't work. What I was doing made him used more of his energy to "fight" me back; and that's when the word "energy" pops up in my mind.
At this moment, I begin paying attention to how I am feeling and I realized the aggression that I was experiencing by trying to push him away and letting him know that his behaviour is wrong. Therefore, instead of trying to push him away, I put all focus to my heart to calm myself down and bring my attention to something else instead. I hid my hands behind my back and calmly walk away from where I was standing without having any eye contact with him. And surprisingly, he stopped jumping and biting me; but sat down to look where I'm going instead.
So at that very moment, I understand what ENERGY actually meant! It's me; it's how I am projecting my thoughts and feelings outwards that creates the same respond from a person; in this case, from the puppy!
This led me to think that perhaps parenting would have been the same, as our children can sense how we are feeling.
Because the first few years of their development, their language skill is not fully developed yet, so it's only normal for them to NOT fully understand what we adults are trying to say or explain. So how baby or toddler make sense of our world is in fact through parents' facial expression and emotional experiences. They are very much attune to the emotional tenor of their caregiver; which make them sensitive to how parents feel.
I witness this when I was having dinner with my friends who brought their adorable 2 years old son along. So, when dinner was served, the father began feeding this little boy; but this little boy was playing with his toy; making sound, moving his hand, creating visual and sound effect to his own imagination. Then, the father became irritable because the boy is not chewing fast enough, or he did not open his mouth when the spoon was right in front of him. Eventually, the father became very angry and shouted "Sit still, stop playing and finish your meal!"
And toddler being toddler, he only stop for a while and continued playing. So the father became even more irritable; and that's when the boy closes his mouth every time the father attempt to feed him. And my friend thought that his son no longer wants to eat; yet the bowl is still full.
This is the moment I step in and asked, "Would you like me to feed him so that you could eat"? And my friend gladly accepted my offer to help. So I happily feed this boy and even engage with him in his imaginative world. I also reminded him to chew, so that I can feed him more yummy food. He agreed and he showed me (proudly) how fast he could chew; and continue to take the next spoonful by opening his mouth widely.
My friend was surprised and he asked me why his son would eat when I am feeding but NOT him. I said:
"That's because you are irritable when you are feeding him. He is feeling the irritability radiating from you because you are his father. When your mother is angry and shouting at you, would you enjoy your meal?"
My friend replied that he has been feeling very stressful at work lately and that he couldn't control his temper.
Doesn't this happen to many of us? We unconsciously lash out our stress to our own kids who are innocent and doesn't have a clue of what's going on. Isn't this unfair? We are only teaching them irritability or aggression when we are feeling so because parents are the ROLE MODEL for their children. Children learn how to behave and react from parents because parents are their first teacher; they follow parents example to set their attitude and behaviour within the family and in the outside world.
If your toddler has been misbehaving lately and you find it difficult to handle him/ her, try to sit quietly and reflect on just two things:
(1) How have you been feeling lately? Stress? Unhappy?
(2) How have you been teaching your child? By scolding, screaming and hitting?
If the answers to the above questions are yes; it is only normal that your child is misbehaving because he/she doesn't understand what he/she has done wrong; yet he/she keep sensing your frustration and anger. Sometimes, when toddler or young children couldn't express themselves, they will misbehave or throw tantrum to release their negative emotions; this is basic human survival instinct.
So it is very important that you find ways to de-stress and learn how to feel calm within you if you want your child to behave and grow up healthily.
Children do not have the knowledge, skills, wisdom and experience like we do because their days on earth is still short as compared to us. So be their guide - teach them, show them, support them, assist them and they shall grow up healthily without creating too much hassle to your life.