I was introduced to my Cranky Old Man by his dog.  Brutus had adopted David about six months before wandering up to where I was sitting on a beach called Kismet.  Brutus s sat on my blanket and David had no choice. Our marriage had been arranged, if not by the fates, at least by Brutus.

David owned a dog training business at the time, but  Brutus  trained David.  Not the way it should be, but worked for us.    I had hopes once what Brutus did,  I could do.  Ha.  When Cranky Old Man says I am the boss,  his pants  flame.   As I have said before, if I am  the boss, how come Cranky Old Man doesn’t do  the dishes.  End of digression.  But not really a digression.

Now before some person starts cranking about thinking children are dogs, we are talking about a process–teaching right from wrong and the process is the same for dog or child, horse, or elephant.  There is someone in charge and someone expected to obey. Training dogs is all about who is  the boss.  The boss is the one who rewards and punishes.

One of the main things dog trainers must do is dominate, be the boss.  Often easier said then done.  Brutus was considered untrainable, that’s why David loved him and it wasn’t that he was untrainable, the dog had a very good sense of what was right and what was wrong.  He’d obey if your command made sense. He knew what mattered and lived according to that. Meant one Thanksgiving he ate the who turkey my grandmother left on the kitchen table.  Sharing food was not his thing.

He was also a dog who would not bite to get his way.  Hurting someone was forbidden.  Pushing, growling, threatening was allowed. We compromised a let.

Talk any length of time with a dog trainer and they will complain about owners who compromise all the time. they are like parents who can’t say know.  If you have read more than two or three of my posts, you know I rant about the push to turn parents into therapists, at least before values are taught and the kids in their teens.

The idea is that if a child feels understood s/he what you want when you want it.  Not true.  The younger the child, the more s/he will need training otherwise like David, the child only obeys when in the mood.  Teenagers who have been trained know right from wrong and that is when parents can let “Natural consequences” do the teaching.  Scary for parents, but less scary if the early years are spent training the child in four basic rules: don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt others, respect property, and obey rules.


I have been criticized  for using the words “don’t, “obey, ” and “punishment.”  The main idea behind such criticism is that if you catch the child doing something right, you praise.  You ignore when the child does something wrong.  This approach supposedly allows children to  bloom and blossom without parents having to deal with tantrums or disobedience.  Just not true and let me teach you something about punishment.

Punishment is defined as pain after a behavior.  Child dumps glass of grape juice on white rug and smiles with delight at soft hearted Daddy who always just praises.  Not while looking at the purple spotted carpet. Child feels hurt, unloved, and mis-understood.   Isn’t that punishment?  Seems so to this Cranky Old Lady.

One whine of most adults casting back on their childhood is about not being praised for one thing or another.  I remember being offended when my parents praised my A’s but asked what they could to do help me do better in math.  And I whined.  Now I crank, then I whined.

Dog trainers know you have to do both.  You carry some treats and give one when puppy sits.  You have puppy on a leash and if he or she doesn’t sit, you give a tug on the leash and a push on the bottom half.  Punishing is not abuse, not the same as abuse.  Thinking punishment is the same as abuse is not helpful.  Abuse is wrong. Proper punishment of un-acceptable behavior is caring.

Moreover, let me repeat–not rewarding is punishment.   So power leaders, you are the boss because you are expected to show the way and that means having rules in place, training or teaching what is expected, praising the good and punishing the bad.

One last thought.  Studies of what makes for a happy marriage is the ratio of four good moments to one bad moment.  Works with dogs and children.  Smile more than  frown, pet more than jerk,  treat more than punish.

STAYING STRONG TIP  We all love being able to do what we want, but that is not the way life works. When we can’t we have three choices:  Wallowing in our unhappiness, getting on with what needs to be done, or work to improve the moment as best we can.  Work is called work, because we are paid to do it. School is called school because it was where we go to learn, childhood is called childhood because we have to be taught to become an adult.

Improving the moment is a concept of Marsha Linehan, you can go here for her self help workshop.   I was once told, I stole my Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises from Linehan.  Didn’t.  Great minds often are on the same path.  I am proud to be compared to her. Click here to go to my home page and learn some quick ways to improve the moment.  These are ways that can be taught to children also.

I developed my program for those we therapists  call the worried well so is easier to learn and practice.  If if helps you great, if not, you might need a bit of coaching, counseling or therapy.


If this has been helpful, of given you a little laugh or some food for thought, push the like button or share, like, and care. Will make me less cranky, make husband less cranky and gets may get you some brownie points with the Kindness Fairy.

IMAGE BY:  WalkingTheDog_tnb.png

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