I’m developing a theory about children and animals and energy.
My theory is that children and animals are bundles of untamed – and continuously generating – energy, and that energy portends chaos and consternation for the would be parent or pet whisperer. (Anyone who has witnessed a toddler meltdown or an incorrigible dog knows what I’m talking about) Unless! The parent/whisperer figures out what to do with that energy. As far as I can tell, you’ve got a few options:
- Dissipate the energy: Cesar Milan suggests taking your dog for two 1- hour walk/run sessions. Every Day. I can state with confidence that this strategy works. Shortly after getting our puppy, we took him on vacation with us, and every day of that vacation, he got a good long walk/run in the morning and one in the evening. And, during our vacation, that puppy did not chew on furniture, he did not torment the other animals or run away, and he did not destroy anyone’s shoes or clothes (that we know of). Of course, he was too pooped to do much of anything in between his walks. I suspect this strategy (taking them for two 1-hour walk/run sessions every day) would work on my kids as well, though I haven’t actually tried it on them. I have had more luck with option #2.
- Direct the energy: It’s taken me 2 cats, 3 kids and 2 dogs to figure this out (though, to be fair, I’d say that starting with cats put me at an unfair disadvantage). Children and small animals like to have a job, a purpose, a goal. Having a job gives the energy somewhere to go AND does good things for their self-esteem. Don’t worry if the job is a bit unorthodox. My dog’s job: make people happy. He is an expert, bestowing kisses, playing games and adding humor to our lives (sometimes by stealing sandwiches), cuddling up with whichever child needs a friend the most. It doesn’t look like a typical job, but, once in a while, I’ll see him come into the family room while everyone is watching television, and he will purposefully check in with each person in the room before settling himself down. He knows his job, and he does it well. I’ve heard and read stories of ‘incorrigible’ dogs being reformed once they started agility training or once they started helping people in need. Similarly, once my husband and I started assigning chores to our kids, they actually surprised us with how well they performed them. Their ‘jobs’ made them feel useful and productive, and this made all of us happy.
- Do nothing. Yes, you can choose to do nothing with that energy. In small children and animals, doing nothing invites chaos. That energy needs to go somewhere, to express itself. If you don’t manage that energy, you get animals and children that destroy stuff or make bad decisions that get someone hurt or argue with each other. You get tantrums (kids) or unstoppable barking (dogs) or unfortunate ‘accidents’ (cats. though’ we know and they know that they’re really not accidents)
What does this have to do with you (especially if you have neither children nor small animals)? Well, as with kids and small animals, we, as adults, are bundles of energy. (You may not believe it the day after Daylight Savings Time, but it is true.) I think our internal longing and passion to follow our calling is a source of energy and chaos. As with kids and small animals, we can choose to dissipate that energy – perhaps by doing 2 hours of exercise per day – we can choose to direct it, or we can do nothing.
I’m no doctor, but I think as adults, when we ignore our passions and our calling, when we do nothing with that energy, instead of having tantrums or destroying things or barking at the neighbors, we turn that energy inward. Then, the energy/chaos manifests as stress or tiredness or crabbiness. Better: We can dissipate the energy with exercise and physical activity. Best: we can direct the energy. And where better to direct it than by actually doing the things that bring us joy?
What do you do? Do you dissipate or direct or do nothing? Are you still trying to figure out what your calling is? Wherever you are in your quest, take a little time to try, do, experiment. And let us know how it goes.