Channel 4’s show Train Your Baby Like A Dog raised concerns before it was even aired – and it certainly proved to be divisive.
The one-hour programme followed Jo-Rosie Haffenden, a psychologist and animal trainer, as she applied techniques which work on animals to children who were struggling.
Earlier this week, it sparked a petition on Change.org to prevent it from being broadcast, which got over 26,000 signatures – but Channel 4 decided to air it last night anyway.
“If everyone parented the way we train dogs, we would end up with more confident, compassionate and curious human beings,” said Haffenden on the show.
What did other people think, though? Quite a few were so appalled by the title that they refused to watch.
Most people are sensible and rationale, right?? Most people know not to train a child like a dog, right? RIGHT?! Are people going to actually try and do this now?? Is this a THING now?! Please don’t let it be a thing now #trainyourbabylikeadog#imwatchingmindhunterinstead— Mrs Wood (@Mrs_Woods_World) August 20, 2019
I am still glad I didnt add to the viewing figures of #trainyourbabylikeadog I couldn't bring myself to watch! What I'm reading on this thread is just so awful- poor boy. Silent children- who wants that?!? #notadog#cuddlesnotclicks— Aimee Stephens (@AimeeInEY) August 20, 2019
Others felt that, title aside, the show demonstrated how to respond to your child’s needs – and that the fuss was “unnecessary” and an “overreaction”.
Did anyone actually watch it? All this hysteria, when the programme was about showing children empathy, compassion and understanding. Engaging with them and giving proper attention. Nothing wrong with it. #trainyourbabylikeadog— boo (@LBo99) August 20, 2019
I've been rather impressed w/ #trainyourbabylikeadog - the title & advert made it look dehumanising but it was the exact opposite.— Liz Marshall 🌈 🇬🇧 (@The_LizMarshall) August 20, 2019
It teaches parents to look at a child's behaviour when they can't communicate issues, do positive reinforcement & teach independence.
#trainyourbabylikeadog— Rebecca (@Beckicornwall) August 20, 2019
Huge overreaction at this TV show. Clicker training maybe a bit too far but using positive reinforcement is hardly extreme- it is something that is done by parents and schools daily and is shown to improve behaviour of dogs & humans.
I was expecting the worst, but it wasn't that bad. No time outs, no naughty steps, no punishments at all. Just rewards for good behaviour, confidence building & hugs instead of leaving the baby to cry it out. Is that really so awful? It seemed to work. #trainyourbabylikeadog— FreedomLover (@SianEvans66) August 20, 2019
Watching #trainyourbabylikeadog and its BRILLIANT. The title doesn't do it justice . More about positively reinforcing good behaviours and getting better communication with little ones as they learn to Express themselves. Take the dogs out of it and you've got really great ideas— Katy Lukehurst (@BearoftheWorld) August 20, 2019
The most controversial inclusion, according to viewers, was ‘the clicker’ – a device used with dogs (and sometimes autistic children) in Applied Behaviour Analysis therapy. This intended to alter children’s behaviour when they heard the click.
In the show, it was used in conjunction with chocolate button rewards, which – as the element that most resembled dog-training – a lot of people were unimpressed by.
Irresponsible broadcasting by channel 4— politchic (@politchic1) August 20, 2019
Why? Techniques like ABA routinely used in America to make autistic kids ‘seem’ normal, to answer speech, make eye contact. Sucking the joy and life from the child.
Even dog trainers have dismissed this method.#trainyourbabylikeadog
Any childcare practitioner with an NVQ or a bit of work experience could tell you that positive reinforcement is the way to go... BUT... Children are NOT animals and should not be "TRAINED" with a clicker and sweet treat. PRAISE, LOVE & VALUE. That is all. #trainyourbabylikeadog— Roxy Sachdev (@RoxyHotSocks) August 20, 2019
There was also heavy use of Jo Frost (a.k.a Supernanny) GIFs, which is proof that even eight years after going off air, it’s still many people’s parenting show of choice.
Conclusion: They should probably make more Supernanny.
Prior to the show launching, a Channel 4 spokesperson said: “The programme explores a new approach to childcare, grounded in positive, science-based motivational techniques that are used widely by parenting coaches and animal behaviour experts. Throughout filming and broadcast, the welfare of all contributors in the programme is of paramount importance and the process is supervised by qualified child psychologists.”
HuffPost UK has contacted Channel 4 for an additional comment since it has aired and will update this piece if they get back to us.