About four years ago, as we prepared to adopt Libbie, I had an insatiable appetite for dog-related books. I wanted to be prepared. What I learned, mostly, is that if you give a dog food treats while she’s doing what you want her to do, she’ll do that thing more often and sometimes even on command. How great is that? So simple and, as we’re finding out with our kids, so applicable to other situations. Even people situations.
Like, say, a family with a dad who would love to spend Sunday watching football but who has two little girls who would rather not. Little girls generally aren’t known for their love for football. Even our kids, who would watch grass grow if it were on TV, don’t sit and watch football well.
Enter classical conditioning for kids.
In our family, classical conditioning must be done with food treats that are extra special. In dog training, these are called “high value” treats. For our pooch Libbie, it would be salmon skin, cut up hot dogs, chicken…you get the idea. Her very favorite treats. For the kids, it’s processed snacks that they don’t get any other time. Today it is Chipotle BBQ potato chips (the Boulder kind), although pretzels or crackers with smoked salmon dip or salt and vinegar chips work just as well (as long as nobody has cuts on their fingers — then it turns into a salt-in-the-wound screaming fit).
So far, the classical conditioning seems to be working. The girls don’t love football yet, but they are asking questions about the game and they are sitting still while they watch with their dad. I’m pretty sure that with enough tasty treats they could actually grow to love watching football. THAT, my friends, would be a major victory around here.