In the film, Buck often compares the process of training a horse to parenting a child. Both require an ability to stay calm in the face of out of control emotion, (at least your teen can't literally bite your head off) and an ability to understand the underlying issues that are driving behavior. Is the horse/teen bucking out of fear of what's to come, or because they like their freedom and don't want to be controlled. This is important to know. Though the end goal (getting the saddle on/getting your teen to follow-through on whatever) is the same, the process by which you get there will be different. There is nothing more important in a relationship than being understood, whether animal or human. Here are some lessons from Buck I learned about understanding from this film.
- Don't be overly critical with the horse, they will just shut down. Teens are the same way way. Maybe your teen comes home with a bad test result. How you respond to that information can make a huge difference in a future outcome. If you say: "Well, if you had studied harder, and not wasted so much time, you would have done better," feeling criticized they will deny, get angry and shut down. If you ask them how they might study differently the next time, you might open a discussion about study habits.
- Respect isn't fear, respect is acceptance. You can punish, yell and metaphorically try to whip your horse/teen into shape, but that will not change behavior.
- Build on pride, make him feel good about himself. Watching Buck work with these enormous headstrong animals is amazing. Rather than expending his own energy being negative, he would look for even the small positive gains the horse was making and pet and talk sweetly and reinforce movement in the right direction. If only a horse could smile!
- I'm not mad at the horse when they don't do what I want. I have to control my emotions. Yelling does not help a situation. Save the emotion for the serious stuff. Keeping your own emotions in check during a heated situation is what commands respect.
- Blessed are the flexible as they will not get bent out of shape. There are always more than one way to reach a goal. It's not a choice to do it, just how to do it. My way or the highway encourages rebellion.
- There is a difference between a firm hand and a hard hand. This was one of the most amazing parts of this film to watch. When he wanted to get the horse to move in a particular way he didn't yank, he used a gentle, consistent pressure until the horse "got it". "Do it cause I said so" is a hard hand, "I need or would like you to'" is a firm hand.
- Whenever you're ready. I'll just wait. This guy had the patience of a saint. He had clear goals, he knew what he wanted from the horse, but never got into a power struggle. When the horse understood that he could come to it on his own time, he did. Power struggles delay, patience will pay.
This ability to "read" a horse is what makes Buck so successful at what he does. Be your own parent whisperer!. And watch this movie, it is life changing.