Why is it that new puppy owners won't hesitate to sign up for obedience training? They know that it is the easiest and best way to get rid of unwanted behaviors and to establish clear rules and boundaries with their puppy. They attend classes or hire a trainer to learn techniques to make life with their puppy consistently enjoyable.

Why is it that stepparents, or parents for that matter, do not, as a matter of course, sign up for training? Is it because we believe we already know the answers? Or, perhaps, it is the belief that we should know and that there's something wrong with us if we admit that we don't really know the best ways to parent our kids or stepkids.

Parents do their best with what they know. And, they tend to get results based on how they choose to parent. So do puppy owners!

Our 8 month old Samoyed let us know we needed to take obedience classes when he started not coming when we called him, took off and ignored us, and pulled so hard on his leash that he almost took off my arm! The books we purchased helped, but only went so far. We decided to get some real training.

# After researching different options, we found a model of obedience training that is actually very similar to how I work with blended families! The underlying principles are the same: Reward the behaviors you do want
# Encourage voluntary attention
# Smile and be positive
# Use Life Rewards - where the dog (or child) must earn things that he wants by giving you the behaviors you want
# Make yourself irresistible - where the experience in being with you is fun and positive
# Avoid correcting negative behaviors and instead redirect and engage in positive behaviors

The main ingredient in all of this is to BE INVOLVED with your children (or puppy). I have to tell you that results are dramatic and immediate! We went to our first class on Thursday. We then applied very simple strategies to engage in eye contact and reward the behaviors of which we want more. Within a day, we had the new behaviors firmly in place, AND, even better, our puppy wanted to be more engaged with us and was much more responsive to us when we called him to come back on our walks.

Just by giving him some focused, individualized attention and positive reinforcement, we now have a much better behaved and enjoyable puppy to be around! Before the class we had begun to question our choice of getting a puppy because he was so unruly and "headstrong". Many stepparents contact me when they are at the end of their rope and very unhappy with the unruly behaviors they deal with daily with their stepkids.

Once we realized that we were the ones who needed the training and got it - everything changed! Our enjoyment of our dog has greatly improved, as has our enjoyment of each other, because we're not nearly as frustrated and harried dealing with things we don't want!

Action Step
Take some time to reflect on how you are parenting. Are you punitive and focusing on what's not right? Is your approach more "hands off" and allowing your kids to get away with whatever they want? Most importantly - are you getting the results that you WANT?! Notice what is working for you and what is not. Notice what behaviors are the most consistent in your kids and look honestly at how you are actually reinforcing those behaviors.

You may discover that you want different results than the ones you are getting. If so, I encourage you to consider investing in some individualized support in creating a parenting program that works for everyone in the family! Visit our marriage coaching page and contact us from there to schedule a coaching session.

Author's Bio: 

I have a Masters Degree in Social Work and am trained as a marital and family therapist. I also have a Bachelors Degree in Child Development with an emphasis on Adolescence. Most of all, I learned in the trenches what works and what does not by being a stepmom to two teenagers! I perform "open heart surgery over the phone" with my coaching clients. I help them to be present to what's in front of them and I celebrate strengths. I bring out the best in the people I work with and I bring back the joy you want to experience in being a family and as a couple.