Can I clicker train my kids?

Well, it finally happened. We got a new puppy. If you missed out on the story of how my husband finally agreed to it, you can check it out here.

As anyone who has brought home a puppy knows, the first few weeks are spent in sleepless nights and training. I am happy to say that after a week, Sandy is able to sit, shake, high five, beg, lay, play dead, and roll over. She has been with us almost two weeks and sleeps through the night. She is also starting to go to the back door to let us know she needs to potty.

Impressed? I have to say that clicker training has been the key here. It’s actually been  harder to keep my kids from smothering her or fighting over her than it has been to train her. I found myself reflecting on my success in training the dog and how I feel I fail in “training up” my kids.

Why is that?

Well, the dog training is behavioral training used with only positive reinforcement. See, the clicker marks the behavior that you want repeated and is followed by positive reinforcement or in other words a treat. When it comes to my kids this translates: point out the things they are doing right or the behaviors I want them to repeat and then reinforce it positively with kind words, hugs, etc. 

The frustrating part is that I know this. I know this as a teacher in the classroom and as mother at home. It seems that I was much better at it when they were young.  As they have aged I guess I just expect the good behavior and fail miserably to point it out. However, when they are disobedient or smart mouthed or have a bad attitude, I’m the first one to say something and usually assign consequences for. 

I’ve joked with my girls that I need a clicker for them. But seriously, if keeping that little clicker on my wrist would remind me to intentionally be on the lookout to catch them “being good” so that I could point it out and reward it, then maybe I should.

Everyone likes to hear that they have done a good job or that they are on the right path or that there’s just something about them that you love. Especially kids. I know I need to work harder to catch them at their best.

My fear is that if I don’t do a better job of this my kids will grow up feeling like they never live up to my expectations so why even try. And I can’t help but feel like leaving our kids feeling hopeless is part of what is meant by “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children.” 

Sandy has been a great reminder that there is always more I can be doing to be a better parent. 

So, why does it seem to be so much easier to spot the bad behavior and punish it than to find the good behavior and reward it?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Mark Allman

    I think you are Shelly. This is something we should definitely be doing all the time. I know it impacts me when someone says that I have done something good. I do know it has to sincere but I doubt we would get to the point where we are doing it so much it is not. :) I try to do this and I am trying to plan a day to celebrate each of my children. I want us as a family to go out to eat and for one of the children I want the evening to be about them where each one of us tells them what we like about them; the things we think they do great and how much they mean to us. Our family took my wife out recently and thanked her for doing her 25,000 load of laundry. We praised her for all of her work that mostly goes unnoticed because she works at home.

    Every once in a while and most of the time this occurs when we are on a trip we will play the thankful game where we will pick a family member and even sometimes a friend traveling with us and we will go around and say what we are thankful for about them. We keep going round and round until we run out of things to say.