sat 22/06/2024

Train Your Baby Like A Dog, Channel 4 review - an animal behaviourist tackles tantrums | reviews, news & interviews

Train Your Baby Like A Dog, Channel 4 review - an animal behaviourist tackles tantrums

Train Your Baby Like A Dog, Channel 4 review - an animal behaviourist tackles tantrums

Who's a good boy then? Children are just like dogs - or are they?

Jo-Rosie Haffenden with one of her dogs and her son SantinoPlimsoll Productions

Animal behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden, who lives in Spain, has some very good dogs (and a charming toddler, who knows how to sit). Can she transfer her training skills to three-year-old Graydon in Bristol, who has six tantrums a day, and 14-month-old Dulcie in Croydon, who has never gone to sleep in her cot?

“Kids are more like dogs than people think,” she says in Train Your Baby Like a Dog, a new parenting programme called “dehumanising” in a petition asking the network to cancel the show, signed by nearly 25,000 people this week.

But Haffenden’s approach, apart from the occasional clicker, which is more for novelty value than anything, is uncontroversial. It’s clear that it’s the parents who need training, not the children. And, she says, all kids need to be patted and loved. However the programme has too much of her theorising at home on her finca, not enough interaction between her and the parents – who certainly need help – and a lack of depth in the way her methods are presented.

Graydon’s parents seem self-centred and unimaginative, though we don’t see enough of them to get a clear picture. He screams and hits them a lot - like a bored dog, he’s aggressive. Haffenden, whose exemplary dog Tango listens quietly, explains that he needs fun and games and an emphasis on the good rather than the bad. She introduces a sand-timer to make games more challenging and uses positive reinforcement (yes, with the clicker) to encourage him to say please and thank you. He seems thrilled with the attention.

When Haffenden plays back videos of the previous family dynamic – Graydon hitting and screaming, his parents telling him not to – they’re mortified. “I thought I was concentrating on my child but I wasn’t even looking at him. That blew my mind,” says his mother tearfully. But she’s expecting another baby any day now. “Usually with dog owners I’d suggest they didn’t bring a new puppy home when they’ve got a dog with these challenges,” muses Haffenden. By the end of the show, they say they’ve rethought what it means to be a parent. And Graydon, now less insecure, is able to go off and play by himself.

Dulcie, like a frightened puppy, is afraid to be alone at night. Haffenden is not of the “leave your baby to cry it out” school but tells her mother to pick her up before she becomes agitated and not to leave the room until she’s settled, so she knows she’s safe. Hardly dehumanising. And for the first time, Dulcie falls asleep in her cot, lulled by a new womb-music sheep, though she takes half an hour to get there and it looks exhausting, picking her up and putting her back down again and again. Haffenden also revolutionises her diet, bringing tapas-style apples and cheese to the party instead of endless chips. Though she does use a clicker and chocolate buttons at bath time, previously a vale of tears, as positive reinforcement, which may set a dangerous precedent. But not very dangerous.


Her methods are called 'dehumanising' in a petition signed by nearly 25,000 people this week


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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