Dancing, Pageants and Effective Leading

Some days I worry about the paths my brain takes. I admit I watch that genre of television called “reality.” Two particular shows give strong lessons regarding effective teaching and leadership that apply to humans, canines and many other species.

Dance show coach harasses, screams, picks on, torments, intimidates, and threatens children and parents. The children look like scared rabbits, then faun all over coach when she gives a small bit of praise. Their mothers subject them to this abuse. Woe to the child and parent if they do not take top honors every competition! Even if the girls do well, there is an insult or threat after the praise. Do you think the girls are happy? They smile and cheer but look at the emotional stress. Are they happy because they won or because they know a good job will lessen the bullying? Is it healthy to have a coach, a leader, who is a bully? The parents willingly subject the girls to this abuse and for what? Scarier still is one has a PhD in education and was a principal! Is this a healthy way to guide and coach? What will the lasting damage be to the girls?

Pageant show coach is a different leader. She sets up training scenarios for the girls to practice skills. If a child makes a mistake, she does not yell and scream. The child will be stopped, the problem addressed and the child helped through it. Even when pageant coach has to be firm, there is a kindness about her. If the child wins a crown that is great and everyone is happy. If the child does not, well, there will always be another and let’s see where we can improve. If a parent gets out of line, the coach steps in and intervenes for the child. The children are learning in a healthier way. Yes they get frustrated but their stress level is far less. The pageant coach works to reduce frustration levels instead of increasing it.

The science behind how species learn, at its root, is the same for all animals. Fear and intimidation based training may get behaviors you want, but it affects the relationship between the teacher and the student. The animal is learning to avoid bad things. This method of teaching can have dangerous side effects. Look at how the dance mothers respond – sometimes violently. Animals may respond to this kind of training with aggressions. I have seen dogs respond with violent bites to stop a punitive trainer.

You can be positive and kind with training without being permissive. You can effectively raise a child without spanking or trying to intimidate the child. You can effectively train a dog without leash corrections and “alpha” rolling. It does not matter what you are training for: protection, dance, conformation shows, pageants, football, scent work, gymnastics, or agility, puppy or child – positive training works the best.

For more information, please visit http://www.petprofessionalguild.com.

Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, a published author, wife, mother and the manager of a multi-dog, multi-species household.

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