I don't want a 'well-trained' child – here's why

‘It’s giving shock collar vibes.’

‘Like a Black Mirror episode.’

‘Train your kids?? Are they dogs? Like smart idea but they are not animals.’

The comments on Vada Stevens’ TikTok video certainly didn’t hold back – and I could see where they were coming from.

Because, although the social media post was entitled, ‘Today we are dog training’, she wasn’t talking about her pet pooches. No, it’s her two daughters, Stella and Serena who are the stars of this particular show.

I’m trying to read it in a jokey tone, but hearing someone referring to her daughters as animals just isn’t tickling my funny bone.

And that’s only the first controversial part about this particular video.

In it, she shows herself attaching Apple AirTags – a tracker device advertised on the Apple website as ‘a super-easy way to keep track of your stuff’ – to her daughters’ wrists.

Not only is it a great way of tracking them, she explains, but you ‘can train your kids to come when they hear the beeping noise’ that the device makes.

Understandably, numerous viewers have been up in arms about this particular parenting technique.

I get, in today’s world, children are particularly vulnerable and it is crucial to know where they are.

Indeed, Vada herself defended herself against the backlash, telling Today.com: ‘I am extremely paranoid about everything safety. I thought the bracelets were genius.

‘My two-year-old doesn’t pay attention and runs off so if she happens to get lost, [the AirTag] is a perfect way to find her… it just takes one second to look away from your kid and they’re off in a crowd somewhere.’

Today we are dog training 🐶 Outfits: @Kailani Kids Mom genius: @Lacey Johnson 💓

I totally agree with her – all parents will, I’m sure. I still remember the blind panic I felt one day during lockdown when, on one of our daily walks in a local park, I’d bent down to cover Immy up with her blanket and when I’d looked up again, Theo, then two and a half, had vanished.

It was an empty park, save a handful of people, he was wearing a bright red hoodie, yet, I couldn’t see him anywhere. I was terrified.

It was probably only about three minutes before he stepped out from behind a particularly large tree at the sounds of my screams, but still, I was already imagining having to go home and tell my husband Tom I’d lost one of the children.

It wasn’t a particularly serious incident, but that feeling of pure fear has never left me.

Since then, I have explained to my two children, Theo, now five and Immy, three, how important it is to stay close to Mammy and Daddy when we are outside and what to do if we get lost.

They know our names and address to pass onto another Mammy if they can’t find us and I’m sure when they’re old enough to go out alone with their friends, we’ll get them a mobile phone so they can stay in touch with us.

So while I personally wouldn’t track my children – for me and my husband Tom, we feel it’s a step we don’t need to take to ensure our children’s safety – I can understand why some people would. Like the same way people have apps so they can see where their partners are.

From a safety point of view, it makes sense.

But training her children ‘like a dog’ to come when they hear a beep? Yikes. Is that giving anyone else Sound of Music vibes? You know, when Captain von Trapp tries to give Fraulein Maria a whistle to call for his children – and expects her to answer to one as well.

‘I could never answer to a whistle. Whistles are for dogs and cats and other animals, but not for children and definitely not for me. It would be too… humiliating,’ Julie Andrews’ character answers, shocked.

Her refusal pretty much sums up how I feel about Vada’s post. Her whole language is concerning. Yes, some people love their animals like children, but children are most certainly not animals.

They are people in their own right who deserve to be shown respect, not ‘trained’ to blindly listen and react to ‘beeps’ and orders and commands.

In the TikTok video, when Vada presses the beep, her two children come running into the room, asking, ‘You beeped for us… what did you need?’ Is it too much for Vada to actually go and see her children if she needs them? Or even shout for them by name?

Maybe I’m reading too much into it but seeing those two gorgeous little girls run to their mum’s… well, not even her beck and call, rather her signal, feels demeaning to them.

How we treat children in their formative years determines how they will expect to be treated for the rest of their lives – and how they will treat others. And, as their parents, we are their ultimate role models. Our behaviour and attitude become theirs, without us even realising it.

So if we want to raise respectful children, then surely we need to treat them with respect in the first place? If we want them to have good manners, we should show them good manners.

Alternatively, if we treat them as animals, used to answering to signals and being referred to as ‘dogs’, even in jest, well, that’s what they might expect in life.

And it leads to the question, do we even want ‘well-trained’ children? I know that I don’t. I expect good behaviour, yes, but I want them to think for themselves, to question and challenge, not just me but the world around them. I want Theo and Immy to be independent and have self-respect.

And for that you don’t need to answer to beeps or whistles. 

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