Are You the Leader of the Pack, or Is Your Child the Alpha Dog in the Family?

Posted December 4, 2009 by

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Believe it or not, parents are starting to use the wisdom of the Dog Whisperer as they raise their children.

At first, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. I grew up with animals and I love them, but my feathers get ruffled when people compare their dog to my child, or infer that you should treat your child like a dog. You know, one of those conversations where you're explaining how your kid is misbehaving and making you crazy, and then some well-intentioned soul pipes up with, "Oh, my dog does the same thing. I know how you feel." (Really? Because the last time I looked, your dog didn't have a frontal lobe or opposable thumbs.)

But then I read this article in the New York Times.

Apparently, moms and dads out there are having some success using Cesar Millan's advice when it comes to their kids. It mentioned how Brenna Hicks (a blogger and counselor from Florida) applies the "Always show your dog who's master" philosophy to raising kids. She maintains that you should always act like the "alpha dog" of the pack. (I guess that means that our kids will "smell the fear" on us?) But I do get that — being calm, assertive and confident with your kids goes a long way in getting them to respect you and the rules.

According to the NYT article and other interviews I've read with him, Cesar Millan says that parents ask him questions all the time about their kids. His philosophy? "In America, kids have too many options when they only need one: Just do it." He also says that in Mexico (his country of origin) "the elder is always the pack leader."

He's got a point!

Now if I could just get my barking to sound authoritative enough. Woof.

P.S. Be sure to check out James Lehman's upcoming article in EP about kids who want to be the "alpha dog" in the family.


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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