I often think that a child's attention is a lot like an unruly puppy that needs to be trained. The puppy wants to play and run wild, but in order to enjoy the puppy to the fullest, you just have to have some training. Given something unpleasant to do like memorize multiplication tables, or do a lesson before an afternoon of fun, my kids minds will do just about anything to keep from doing the work. This really upsets them and often they get frustrated and think they are not capable of the work rather than just having difficulty dealing with their unruly mental puppies.

If there are ways to do the lesson in a fun way, by all means do that! Yet, sometimes you just have to get through an undesirable chore, lesson, or other event. At those times, it is good to be able to focus and get through it. I call this puppy training. They have to train their pups no matter what kind of tricks they pull, and believe me, they can be very cunning.

Tricks their puppies use:
  • Distraction: Their minds jump subjects or their bodies feel twitchy. Sometimes they think of a million things they need to be doing right then.
  • Pity: I think of this as that sad puppy dog face. Why are you doing this to me? What did I do bad?
  • Anger: If they fall for the pup's tricks, they get mad at themselves and then they really can't think. It's just another puppy trick! When they are mad, the work is avoided. 
  • Resistance: Sometimes all the pulling in the world won't make a stubborn puppy cooperate. Best to use a treat. Make a promise of a reward if the pup will get let them get their work done.
The kids like thinking of this side of themselves as a trainable puppy. They would never be angry with a puppy for just being a puppy, but they also know they have to figure out the best way to get the puppy to behave so that they can get the results they want. Keeping this degree of separation allows them to not take it so personally and to treat themselves a little nicer, like the sweet pups they really are. 

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