I think the Dog Whisperer is really onto something.
Last year our family got a kick out of watching this show on Netflix. The narrator’s tone alternates between puzzled and judgmental as he describes the current family’s difficulty with their dog. They show the dog acting up, the owners struggling, and then Cesar Millan driving up in his green jeep.
The narrator quickly takes on an “everything’s gonna be okay now” tone as they show Cesar striding confidently up to the owner’s front door.
He sits down with the owners and they alternate between expressing tender attachment and tired frustration with their pet. They don’t understand what’s wrong with their dog! They’ve tried all kinds of things but this is just how this dog behaves, no matter what they do.
Cesar patiently listens and asks some questions, very diplomatically.
For the viewer it slowly becomes clear that the problem is not the dog.
With the perfect combination of tact and directness, Cesar begins instructing the owners about what is actually going on for the dog, and how their behavior is creating more tension and less responsiveness in the dog. He has various tips for them, like regular walks and such, but ultimately it comes down to one thing.
Calm, assertive energy.
Much of the dog’s (mis)behavior is a response to the energy of its owner.
There are all kinds of things I’ve tried as a parent; some have been very effective, others not so much. But as I head into my second decade as a mom, I’m starting to think that all my various words and behaviors are far less important
than the energy behind them.
The dog owner may be saying the
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right commands, holding the leash the right way, and keeping appropriate boundaries in place. But if the owner is weak, fearful, angry, or anxious the dog will know.
Sometimes when Michael and I are in the heat of it, and I’m talking in my very calm controlled voice, he says, “I hate it when you talk to me like that! I’d rather you yell at
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He hates it because even though I’m using the right words, and exercising self-control, he can tell that there is exasperation, condescension, and anger beneath the surface. And beneath that is a need to control and get my way. And beneath that is fear, anxiety, and sometimes confusion or helplessness.
The trouble is, changing our words or behavior is a lot easier than changing our energy. This requires really paying attention to what is going on for us as we parent, and choosing to face the reality of our internal world with honesty and humility.
I believe it also takes spending time in the presence of the One whose energy is all love instead of fear, overcoming instead of despairing, all redemption instead of regret.
I was reading an article about Dallas Willard, an author and professor who passed away recently. Someone described him as being “soaked in the presence of Christ.”
My heart leapt and I thought, “That’s how I want to be described!” I want to radiate the kind of joy, groundedness, and deep peaceful confidence that comes from contact with the Divine. I have a long way to go!
How can we foster, live in, and exude this kind of energy as moms?
© 2012 Standing on Peace