Editor’s view - Treating them like dogs

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The new Channel 4 programme, 'Train Your Baby Like a Dog', is emblematic of attitudes to young children that need to change.


Some ideas just shouldn't make it out of the brainstorming meeting – and many of us would argue that that is the case with the Channel 4 TV programme, 'Train Your Baby Like a Dog', due to air tomorrow evening (20 August).

As I write, Twitter is deluged with early years people voicing their outrage about the show, and a petition calling for it to be axed has been signed by thousands of people.

Really, there is so much wrong with this concept, which probably sounded like a surefire ratings success and twist on the usual child behaviour programmes – hey, let's get a dog trainer to use their methods on unruly toddlers!

Well, it got the green light and a one-hour pilot has been made, with plans for a series.

The implication that children should be 'trained' as a way to promote appropriate behaviour should make us deeply uncomfortable for a start. And worse, they should be trained like dogs, apparently. This says much about attitudes to our youngest citizens and their needs and rights.

The clicker training method involves a click to acknowledge good behaviour, swiftly followed by a treat. The children in the C4 show trailer seem to be given sweets as a reward, which is undesirable on several levels, of course.

Aside from the objectionable nature of this particular concept, I think that using children's behavioural problems as entertainment is inherently wrong in general. We see young children distressed and crying, hitting out, confused.

They have no say in whether they appear on these programmes, and no right to refuse. The public airing of their problems, will be available permanently in all likelihood.

But at least most such shows don't involve dog trainers as the main expert. Channel 4 claims that 'qualified' child psychologists have supervised the programme – better than 'unqualified' one supposes, although this kind of reward/sanction approach is surely not recommended by most.

'A new approach to childcare', C4 proclaims. Not one many of us would like to see!

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