Baby Boy Sebastian survived his first Thanksgiving last week. Being the cutest kid to ever be born (I might be bias), everyone wanted to take a turn holding him. As he was passed from relative to relative, I quietly watched his facial expressions change as he was safely deposited in each new set of arms. (If only he would have screamed and cried for everyone equally, my job would have been much easier). I soon realized, though, that there was a definite pattern to his mood swings.
Call it confidence, call it “calm, assertive energy” (if you are Cesar Millan)…call it what you will. But babies and dogs alike can sense when someone is relaxed. More accurately – they can sense when someone is tense.
Dogs and babies don’t really know what the heck we “grown ups” are doing most of the time. The way we move and how we vocalize are virtual mysteries to them, but they both are acutely and instinctually aware when we are tense. If you reach out to Sebastian like you’ve been raising babies your whole life, he will mirror your calm and go to you with a coo and a smile. If you come at him with a secret fear that you are going to cause him a massive head injury (no matter how sweet and eager to hold him you are), he magically transforms into the screaming baby from hell.
Dogs are the EXACT same way. If you approach a pooch with body language that broadcasts how scared you are – they are going to be confused. Not only are they NOT going to trust you…they are going to be on edge trying discover the source of your anxiety. If you walk up to that same pup like you are the dog whisperer himself, that dog will take a cue from you and know that he can chilax.
It am truly amazed at how often I find myself using similar parenting skills with Sebastian as I used with Buffy.
(I think being calm, cool, and collected helps when dealing with other “grown ups” too.)