New Channel 4 documentary ‘Train Your Baby Like a Dog’ faces backlash

A petition has been set up to take controversial new Channel 4 documentary off the air, which compares the training of children to animals.

Train Your Baby Like a Dog, scheduled to air tonight, is presented by animal behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden.

One of the methods used in the documentary is ‘clicker training’, which is typically used to teach dogs to follow commands.

Jo-Rosie treats a three-year old suffering from ‘daily tantrums and violent outbursts’, alongside an 18-month baby who has sleep problems in the new documentary, but many are calling for it to be cancelled.

A petition on the website Change.org set up by Emma Dalmayne, CEO of Autistic Inclusive Meets, has already gained over 22,000 signatures out of a 25,000 signature target.

While the petition states concern for autistic children specifically, it also says, ”The children as far as we know in this show are not autistic, however NO child should be treated like this.’

In the petition, Emma wrote: ‘Children are not dogs!

‘There are also reinforcers used in clicker training, such as taking a child’s favourite object and using it to bribe a child into doing a chore or task.

‘If the task is not carried out it will be deemed as non compliance and a planned ignoring is undertaken by all care givers involved in response to any distress shown.’

Social media users have also taken to Twitter to share their thoughts on the upcoming documentary, with one labelling it ‘irresponsible’.

One mum said it was ‘damaging’ to both children and parents, while another wrote: ‘There are SO MANY things WRONG with this approach to childrearing. Truly unbelievable. Sad. 😠’.

Another suggested they should be promoting ‘compassionate’ parenting instead, saying: ‘Train your baby like a dog?! How about treating your baby as a baby, responding to their needs, loving them and showing them care and compassion.’

On today’s episode of This Morning, Jo-Rosie Haffenden responded to the criticisms of her method – in particular, the use of ‘the clicker’.

She said: ‘The clicker itself is a tool we use to mark and pinpoint and emphasise that a particular behaviour has been performed. So it’s not a cue for anything. So you wouldn’t say, ‘Go and get your shoes, click’.

‘You would put the shoes somewhere clear and obvious, and you would wait for the child to make their own choice to get the shoes – and if they were to pick them up, you would then click, and say, ‘Brilliant, now lets go to the park’.

Many other child-focused organisations have criticised the programme too. Liz Bayram, who is chief executive of PACEY, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, asked Channel 4 to reconsider airing the programme.

In an open letter on behalf of PACEY’s 25,000 members, she said, “Our understanding of early child development is vast and to ignore this and promote a discredited approach is irresponsible. Whatever your thinking was when you commissioned this, it was wrong and you should not broadcast a programme that suggests children can be trained like a pet,”

Melanie Pilcher, policy and standards manager at Early Years Alliance, also said: “Children should not be treated in the same way as dogs. Children’s social and emotional development is grounded in the way that adults respond to and nurture them. They need consistent messages, clear boundaries and guidance to intrinsically manage their behaviour through self-reflection and control.

Speaking about the documentary, a Channel 4 spokesperson told GoodtoKnow: ‘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.’

The documentary is scheduled to air at 8pm on Channel 4 tonight.