If your kids are behaving badly treat them like a dog, says Battersea Dogs Home behaviour expert
It's a common scenario for many a harassed mother - you're in the supermarket and your little darling starts playing up.
But forget the naughty step or cool-off corner.
The best way to handle misbehaving toddlers is to treat them like a dog, according to advice from a leading animal charity.
They claim that, because young children and animals are unable to communicate verbally, both need to be shown what is and is not acceptable behaviour.
Pat Moore, deputy head of behaviour at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, said: 'Becoming a dog owner or a new parent puts people under pressure.
'Neither puppies nor toddlers can be expected to immediately know how to behave in certain situations and need clear, consistent guidance.
'The key is to use more simplified verbal communication and distinctive body language.
'The tone of voice is key, along with your facial expressions.
'If you are giving a command, you don't need to yell and shout but you should make sure your voice is firm and your meaning clear.'
She claimed the key to training a dog - and a child - from running you ragged is 'positive reinforcement'.
This works on the theory that rewarding good behaviour - through verbal praise, physical affection or treats such as sweets and toys - is far more effective than punishing bad behaviour.
The charity's advice, which is revealed in next week's Paws magazine, adds that controlling how often these treats are given and matching the 'value' of the reward to behaviour is also important.
'When training the dogs at Battersea we use a mixture of rewards including tasty treats for really good behaviour,' the article says.
'If you use the best treats all the time - such as a chew - it loses its value and isn't so attractive.
''While we aren't child psychologists, it seems that parents should act in a similar way, keeping a range of rewards for different circumstances.
'Behaving well on a shopping trip may result in a trip to the playground or a packet of sweets - it wouldn't usually mean buying a very expensive toy.'
If a child is possessive about their toys, in the same a dog can be with a ball, the key is to distract their attention by exchanging the item for something equally tempting.
Attention-seeking behaviour also needs to be dealt with consistently.
One frazzled mother who worked from home found her daughter had a tantrum every time she was told to be quiet during a conference call.
Instead of bribing the girl with toys or sweets, the woman was advised to use dog handling techniques instead.
Alison Russell, another behaviourist at Battersea, said: 'When we have a dog, for example, that jumps up and barks to get attention, we try to avoid the behaviour in the first place by setting up a game with them well ahead of time.
'The important thing is not to interact with them when they are behaving badly as they will start to play up just to get your attention.
'Dogs mature far more quickly into adulthood than humans but both species have a "socialising" period and it is in this early stage that they form an impression of the world and how to cope with it.
'Child psychology and dog behaviour are, of course, complex and very individual subjects but there are also some startling similarities between them which can be tackled with simple behavioural techniques.'
Sue Atkins, parenting coach and author of Raising Happy Children for Dummies, said that - in basic terms - she agreed with the advice.
'It's an interesting question and I have laughed at times about the similarities between puppies and children,' she added.
'In the sense of who's in control and knowing what you want to communicate, I would agree with what is being said.
'Obviously you don't want to take the analogy too far, but on a basic level you can make comparisons.'
There's a good boy
Helen Tennant, 39, lives with her two-year-old son Archie in South West London.
She said: 'I was in the office at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home discussing the problem I was having with my son Archie, who was then 16 months old.
'Basically, he was very possessive over his toys and wouldn't give them up even when it was bed or bath time.
'It was becoming a real struggle to get his favourite toy, a digger, off him.
'One of the behaviourists suggested I try the same training methods they used, where they exchanged a dog's toy for something else.
'At bed time, I made fuss of an alternative toy - a teddy - and it worked like a dream.
'Archie lost interest in his digger straight away and insisted on taking the teddy to bed with him instead.'
Source: Mail on Sunday, UK