Yesterday I posted this picture of my dog on Facebook (the caption below is the one I used):
Cute, right? I am the first to admit that my dog is super-cute but, since I’m not a general dog lover, I struggle to see how anyone else finds him cute….he is, after all, just a dog (a mantra oft-repeated in my house). However, the picture received 78 ‘likes’(ok…that’s a bit of an exaggeration….I probably don’t even have that many Facebook friends….or real life friends for that matter….ahhh!). It received more ‘likes’ than pictures of my children ever get. I happen to think my children are cuter than my dog. So, why is it that people love dog photos so much? (This isn’t a complaint by the way – I love that people find my dog cute, I just wonder why). I didn’t post the picture to show that the dog was cute. I was just showing that winter is finally here. Conversely, I firmly believe that all pictures of my kids are cute! (Yes, I know that’s a whole lot of bias).
A couple of people commented that he is like a dog they own or know (same breed and colour). So, in this case there is a point of reference. My kids, on the other hand, don’t look like anybody else’s kids. It’s easy to match a personality to an animal that looks like one you are familiar with. Labradors are known for being family friendly (as are many dogs) so an association is made. With children, you have to know something about their personality in order to find them cute. I’m sure you’ll agree, that despite ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ appearances, many kids are far from cute once their character is revealed! Of course, that isn’t the case with my kids – you can take it from me that the whole bundle is adorable (yep, more bias).
One friend commented that Maxi (that’s the dog) looked confused – there is something endearing about that. My kids, on the other hand, don’t generally look confused (at least not on photos but they have their moments!). If a dog looks confused, you just want to cuddle him up and make that tail wag. If a child looks confused they need explanations and conversation – basically more than a cuddle and a treat (although that would go a long way on the path to happiness).
Another friend offered sympathy for the dog. He is a pathetic sight in this picture, admittedly, but he’d just spent 15 minutes tearing through woodland having the time of his life! (And I am holding a treat right next to the camera to get him to pose). If the kids had done that, their faces would’ve been glowing, their smiles giving away the wonderful fun they had (and their hands reaching out for the treat). One friend, who knows Maxi and his winter walks well, recognized that the ‘mad hound’ was more than happy with his outdoor look. But, Maxi can’t show that in his face – the dog (and by that I mean any dog) is incapable of varying his expression and always looks pathetic and confused! Great way to get affection – there’s something in this ‘dog’s life’ business!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer the question in the title. I know my kids are cuter! I do wonder though, if you find dogs cute and why….
To finish, here are a couple of links to dog humour videos. Videos of kids are funnier if you know the kids, it doesn’t seem to matter with dogs.
The first one pulls off the confused dog look even better than Maxi!
This one is made all the more funnier by the giggling camera operator.
A cold, grey day, chilling out (literally…brrrr!), on the school field for “Super-team day”. This has to be one of the first events I’ve seen during my kids’ (ages 9 and 7) school life where competition and winning were mentioned – maybe even encouraged, by someone other than the kids! I find it amazing that at every hockey game, soccer match, or baseball competition the kids always know the score even though it hasn’t been registered. Adults encourage the “it’s just for fun” approach. I often find myself debating whether it’s best to encourage all kids by praising even those who are unsuccessful in a sport or to save the recognition for those who excel or at least engage and put in a consistent effort. Many times I hear parents exclaim, “Good job!”, even when the athletic accomplishment is far from it. I’m not saying this is wrong, I’m no expert in either parenting or psychology. What I’m wondering is whether this is best for the child or if we should be more honest. Every child has talents and strengths, perhaps we should focus on those and help them to understand that we can’t be good at everything. I can’t help but think about how this affects a person’s ability to deal with feedback later in life. If they haven’t endured honest, constructive criticism as they grow up, can they really deal with it as an adult?
I went digging around to see if I could find a psychologist opinion. This is a quote from Jim Taylor Ph.D from his blog “The Power of Prime”:
“What’s the problem with “Good job?” Well, it’s lazy praise, it’s worthless praise, it’s harmful praise. It has no value to children, yet parents have been brainwashed into thinking that it will build their children’s self-esteem. Plus, it’s the expedient thing to say.”
Click here to read the full post. (It’s an interesting read).
That said, it pulls at the heart-strings when your child returns from a race feeling defeated, (I know! It happened today!). The temptation to reassure with statements such as “It’s ok, you did well”, is almost overwhelming. No-one wants to face tears and a full breakdown (in the kid or the parent!). I don’t think it’s right to kick a man while he’s down – “look son, that was useless!”, for example is not going to achieve a lot either – and it most certainly won’t boost self-esteem. Kids are resilient. I like the idea of the quiet approach – they know when they have or haven’t done well. They’ll figure out how to deal with defeat and when to celebrate a win! I find my kids will get over defeat but like to hear about specific things they have mastered. This works for my kids, but might not be right for everyone. What do you think? Is it best to encourage with simple praise regularly? Should we be more sparing? What works for you?