Once upon a time it was possible to beat Smalls into shape, like a blacksmith hammering away at a shapeless lump of red hot metal until it became a well-tempered blade. These days that sort of behaviour is frowned upon. So how do was I supposed to transform my red hot, molten Small into a well-tempered tool?
To jump to a different analogy, to get the donkey to move you have to use a bit of stick and a bit of carrot. The stick I decided upon was the naughty step. The concept is not new, it has been around forever. In its rawest form think of the stocks where naughty people were locked in public view so that they could be humiliated or perhaps being made to stand in the corner of the classroom at school with the dunce cap on. The naughty step technique was much more subtle than that and wasn’t meant as a humiliation. It was more about providing Small with a place to go where he could think about the bad thing he had done (having first been told what the bad thing was, because Small was unlikely to think anything he had done was wrong – see Listening). The theory was that Small had time to reflect and, possibly more importantly, to calm down. It also gave me time away from him so that I could take a few deep breaths. Without the two of us shouting at each other things had some chance of resolving themselves.
Like a nuclear missile, after a few deployments the mere threat of the naughty step proved sufficient to correct bad behaviour. From an adult perspective this seemed rather strange because there was nothing wrong with the naughty step. In fact it was nice and peaceful. I found it to be a great place to go and sit if I wanted a quiet time to myself because it was the one place Small did not want to be. [Other good hiding places are the toilet and the shed.]
Another excellent technique I adopted to try and get Small to comply with my wishes was the count to five. I had to state very clearly what I would like Small to do and then say I was going to count to five and the thing had better be done. Strangely this seemed to work despite there not actually being any threat of sanction. It was probably because it was seen as a challenge and, being a competitive human being, Small couldn’t help but take it up. Of course, it could only be employed once Small had learnt how to count to five and stopped working once he had learnt about cunning and guile and could see that he was being hoodwinked. After the first time I received the response, “Or what?” I knew I would have to try some other form of coercion.
Or would I? According to some of the books and magazines I read, the ideal, modern parent did not need to resort to punishments at all. Their Smalls were brought up into perfectly balanced Bigs solely on a system of encouragement and rewards for good behaviour. Personally I thought that would be all very well for rhinoceroses but I didn’t have a thick enough skin to put up with all the bad behaviour in the meantime.
That said, reward charts work wonders for older Smalls but only really kick in after toilet training age. Although, up until that age the simple sticker is a great reward. It is amazing how much a Small will do for a piece of brightly coloured sticky paper. For instance, our Smalls potty trained by getting to affix a new sticker to the potty each time they successfully used it.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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