I read an article today called The Good Enough Parent is the Best Parent. Feel free to take a look. The gist of the article is that perfection is a bit of a curse.
The author, Dr. Peter Gray, writes (quoting another…gets complicated here…) “Perfection is not within the grasp of ordinary human beings. Efforts to attain it typically interfere with that lenient response to the imperfections of others, including those of one’s child, which alone make good human relations possible.”
Dr. Gray goes on to say:
“The belief that perfection, or even something approaching it, is possible in parenting promotes a tendency to blame. The perfectionist reasoning is this: If problems arise, then they must be someone’s fault. Parents seeking perfection blame themselves, or their spouse, or their children when things are not just right”
So you know what I’m thinking? Maybe…dog trainers could learn a thing or two from this line of reasoning.
What do we expect of ourselves? What do we expect of others? What do we expect of our dogs? And as we expect more of ourselves and others and our dogs, do each of us end up a little more kind, a little less kind or somewhere in the middle?
I see unhappiness, guilt and a lack of kindness towards oneself among dog trainers who think they’re not good enough. Not attentive enough. Not positive enough. Not always willing and able and enthusiastic about dropping everything they’re doing to do what their dog might like “best” or benefit from “the most”.
And sometimes I see that those who are “excellently attentive” to their dogs have a tendency towards judging others who simply cannot or will not or choose not to be quite so awesome all the time. Some of these people seem to lose all sense of self; their right to have a positive existence as a unique individual with rights and desires of their own gets lost in their service to others. In short, sometimes their dog’s needs significantly dwarf all else and that leads to unfortunate ramifications for all of us.
Where do you fall? Are you the “close to perfect, living your every moment and breath in the service of others, including the dogs?” or the “I’m not even sure why I got a dog since I truly don’t care about trying” or somewhere in the middle? Maybe “Doing my best today, but have other considerations as well, and recognize the need and desirability of considering all interests – my own, my family, my community and…my dogs?”
I think about this a lot. I want to see society change to a kinder and warmer place, and I think how we train animals is a key part of that possibility. At the same time, I think about blame and pressure and shaming others, and how easily and thoughtlessly we do it in our pursuit to be even better ourselves.
Once again, perspective.
Maybe read the article and think about who you are. Are you too caring and involved and perfect? Excellent at what you do? Then you need to watch yourself for judging and blaming and expecting too much of other humans and your dogs – to the widespread detriment of all. Or maybe you are on the other side of the spectrum; too relaxed, self-involved, or self-centered? Then you need to watch yourself for a selfish disregard for the rights of other living beings.
Somewhere in the middle? Good for you. Work hard to stay there; and revel in your balance. Appreciate what you’re doing right and forgive what you don’t manage – in yourself and in others. Try to stay in the middle and you’ll do the most good.
And if you can’t figure out where the middle might be? Consider decision making as an exercise in perspective. Consider the stakeholder’s needs and give each a fair weight. Maybe that will help you accept the tradeoffs that are inherent in all decision making – without guilt, shame or blame for others who come to different conclusions.