Friday, 28 October 2011

The Bribery Act

A couple of weeks ago, bedtimes for Little E were becoming unbearable. He would play up, stall for time and he even began throwing big tantrums at every step of the bedtime routine. Generally, he made everyone's life a misery and we all started to dread getting ready for bed.

So, I resorted to bribery.
I promised him that if we had 10 really good bed times in a row, he could have a Toy Story DVD. Toy Story is his favourite film and he has coveted the DVD for months. I figured that for a four year old, ten consecutive good bed times was enough to be a challenge, but not too much for it to be too much hard work. I also told him that if he had one bad bed time, we would have to go back to the start and build up another ten nights.
The plan has worked like a dream (excuse the pun). Bedtimes have been a real pleasure for the last 9 nights. Every time he even hints at messing around, a small reminder about the DVD has nipped it in the bud and he's been compliant again.
I considered doing a sticker chart for him, but we didn't - partly because it seemed too formal and also because he doesn't seem to need a visual reminder, a verbal nudge has sufficed.
Even better, his behaviour during the day has been exemplary too. The other battleground - meal times - has also seen huge improvements. So, at the beginning of this week, I added a further incentive. Good behaviour during the day as well as at bedtime, would result in him getting the box-set (it was on offer and only £2 more expensive than getting just one).
If all goes to plan, and I think it will because he is incredibly focused on the prize, he will get his DVDs tomorrow.
I have always been a bit sceptical about bribery. I imagined a number of problems:
1) he would expect rewards for good behaviour, rather than good behaviour being the expected norm.
2) once he had attained the prize, he might revert to bad behaviour again
But, I figure that this exercise is teaching him a valuable lesson about working hard to get the results you want (in his case, he has to work hard to get the DVD). And, I have already warned him that if he starts messing around at bedtimes again, I will have to take the DVD away from him. Classic carrot and stick.

I have also tried to instil in him that you don't always get material goods in return for good behaviour, you also get less tangible benefits, such as a much happier mummy and daddy and the knowledge that you are teaching your little sister really important life lessons.
I'm hoping that I won't have to resort to bribery too often. I don't want it to become a habit. But I think it's been useful in the context of resolving a particular issue.
And, much as I really enjoy good behaviour, I think it is healthy for children to overstep boundaries and misbehave every now and then, so they understand where and what the boundaries are and that actions have consequences. Also, I don't want an overly compliant child. Little E is always eager to please and I hardly ever have to formally discipline him, but I want him to learn that in adulthood, sometimes success comes from challenging the norm - after all, without challenging the status quo, how on earth can you innovate and improve?
I'd be interested to hear others' experiences of discipline and the use of bribery.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Uniform - does it stifle or help self-expression?

Little E is extremely excited at the moment, because he has a new nursery jumper.
When the children go into the top class at nursery - pre-prep, they are allowed to wear the nursery jumper, although it is not compulsory.
At first, I was reluctant to get him one. I see clothes as a way of expressing one's personality. And I reasoned that he will have to wear school uniform from next year anyway, so I wanted him to enjoy his last year of wearing what he wants for nursery. However, he was adamant that he wanted to get a jumper, so we bought him one.
Since it arrived, he has wanted to wear it non-stop. Anyone who comes to the house, has to be shown the new jumper, particularly the badge. I went along to the nursery 'Harvest Assembly' last week and he very proudly showed the badge to his friend - as if to say, "Look, I've got a new nursery jumper, aren't I grown up?"

It got me thinking. Was my reluctance to get him a new nursery jumper, me inflicting my not wanting to have to conform all the time on him? Why couldn't I see, that this jumper, with its all important badge, was a signal that he belongs to the top nursery class tribe? It's the thing that sets him apart from the children lower down the nursery. And, perhaps for Little E, who lost most of his best friends to school this year (he is a September baby, so has to wait another 12 months), it is a symbol of how close he is to going to big school.
I do 'agree' with school uniforms. I believe they help put everyone on the same level (regardless of background and income level). I also believe they help instil the school's values in a child. And isn't the choice of school often down to its values? After all, the reason I hope to send Little E to a Catholic school is because I want the Catholic values reinforced through his education.
I think perhaps my reticence was a fear that this would be the beginning of him wanting to belong to other 'tribes' marked out by branded clothes. Maybe it is. But I hope I am able to share with him the importance of self-expression. And, whatever clothes we choose to wear, big brand or unashamedly, contra-big brand, clothes are an extension of our personality. Like it or not, we often judge people by what they are wearing.
I think I just want him to be aware that clothes don't change you, they merely reflect your personality and values.
Or maybe I'm reading too much into the school jumper thing.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

I was saddened to hear the news today that Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and former chief executive, has passed away following a battle with cancer. He was just 56.
Steve Jobs will be remembered by many as one of the greatest technological innovators and as being a charismatic visionary.
My condolences go to his family.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes, I forget why we decided to leave London three years ago and move to the coast.
But today's unseasonably hot weather reminded me what it was that enticed us down to Devon.
I took the children down to the beach, and aside the cost of an ice cream each and a couple of rides on the pier, it didn't cost me a penny.
We made a packed lunch and walked for ten minutes to arrive at this:

Little E and little B played in the sand together.
Little B had a fantastic time.

We met up with some friends and spent some time on the pier, playing on the rides

and admiring the view.
It's amazing to believe that this is Great Britain, in October and people were swimming in the sea!

We had a quick paddle, but it was pretty cold!

"Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea."

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Only Devon knows how they make them so crunchy

This week I went to my first CIM regional event. It was at Burts Chips , the Devon crisp manufacturer, in Plymouth.
After arriving, we went on a tour of the factory.  We saw first hand the manufacturing process from where the potatoes arrive through the frying process to where the flavours are added and then to the bagging and packaging. At various stages of the process, we were allowed to even try crisps, or potato chips, straight from the production line.
We were then invited to eat and drink and watch a presentation about the company.
Most of my marketing knowledge is service industry-based, so it was really interesting to learn about a manufacturing company and brand.
Of particular interest was a discussion on the value of the 'Devon' brand and the decisions that were made regarding product expansion: through white label, for Tesco Finest and Eat; co-branding, with Nando's; diversification (through Anita's); and extending global reach, particularly to the Netherlands.
I really look forward to seeing more of the Burts brand and following the company's progress.
So thanks Nick Hurst (Burts director and co-founder) for opening your doors and letting us share your story.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Random Veg

Last night, after hashing, I went to a village 'Harvest Auction'.
I bought a seasonal veg box (what else would I be buying at a 'Harvest Auction'?).
In the box is a random vegetable I have never seen before.
I think it might be a squash, but I'm not sure. Can anyone identify it and suggest how I might cook it? Recipe ideas welcome!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Birthday Cake Show Off

Little E celebrates his fourth birthday this Saturday. He is a massive fan of the Octonauts.

I've just finished making his cake - over a couple of glasses of wine at my very talented friend's house.

I'm not very talented in the baking department, although I try hard. I'm certainly not the most artistic. But I am very proud of my Kwazii and my seaweed, pebbles, shells, starfish and fish. Friend S did everything else (include bake the base and provide the wine!).

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

MMR and the ticking timebomb

I took Little B for her MMR this afternoon. She's already had German Measles (Rubella), despite the fact that children are supposed to have been immunised for years and I thought it was an illness that was almost consigned to the history books. My poor baby got it just two weeks after having Chicken Pox at just 7 months!
Beatrix when she had Chicken Pox

Even though she has already had German Measles, we were still advised to have the triple MMR.

Coincidentally, the MMR appointment came on the same day that I became aware of advice from the UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA) for students to ensure their vaccinations, particularly the MMR, are up to date before returning to university this year.

Many of today's students are the same children who were not immunised by their parents due to the scare over the since disproven link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Rather more worrying, many students don't even know if they were immunised as children or not!

It seems to me that the usual stories about meningitis outbreaks among freshers at university will tragically be accompanied by stories about students being taken seriously ill and even dying from illnesses they should have been protected from.

Already this year there has been double the number of reported cases of Measles compared to last year (777 to the end of July 2011 compared with 374 for the whole of 2010).

If you know anyone about to return or even start university this year, please get them to check if they have been vaccinated and make them aware of the early symptoms of both meningitis and measles.

Meningits symptoms include vomiting and a headache, often accompanied by a stiff neck and dislike of bright lights. Some meningitis infections can be accompanied by blood poisoning, which can be identified by a fever and a blotchy rash. Press a glass against the rash and if it doesn't fade call for medical assistance.

Symptoms of measles include a fever, cough and rash.

Developing Relationships with the Local Media

Much of my job involves raising the profile of the organisation where I work. I'm lucky that it's a very easy sell. I work for the University of Exeter Students' Guild and we are one of the UK's leading students' unions with some of the most engaged students in the country.

Often, my problem is that there's too much going on. This means I have to prioritise items according to our longer term strategic objectives or the interests of our local media outlets.

Building and maintaining relationships with the student and local media is an important part of my role.

Today I held a 'Media Lunch'. The event began with a small presentation by me and the four sabbatical officers who are elected each year to run the Guild. The presentations outlined our plans for the year and identified some of the more newsworthy items. We then allowed time for questions before sharing lunch and networking.

The event seemed to be pretty successful. There was lots of networking, although the student media and the sabbatical officers seemed to keep to themselves and the local media ended up chatting to me and the University Press Office, who were also invited. I even got one of the sabbatical officers interviewed for a news story.

Unfortunately, not many of our local media outlets turned up. It seems that lots of cost cutting and centralisation means that time out of the office for journalists is seen as a luxury, rather than an essential part of the job.

I wasn't too worried as I've met most of those who couldn't make it today before and so we already have that relationship. But it just seems such a shame that much of today's local news is made up of stories that are fed in rather than from journalists actively seeking out news.

Photograph thanks to Will Conley's Random Things Album on Picasa.

Monday, 19 September 2011


Tonight I am going to my third 'hash'.

I only came across the sport a month ago when I was chatting with some mummy friends. I'd decided to hang my rugby boots up, but still wanted to do some sort of sport.

Hashing has its roots in Kuala Lumpar, where British expats got together on a Monday night to run off the excesses of the weekend.

Basically, a hound sets a trail using flour or sawdust and then the hounds follow the trail. False trails are also laid, marked by check points, which allows slower runners to catch up with the faster ones.

Each hash begins and ends in the pub. There is then a social afterwards. All hashers are referred to by a hash nickname. I don't have one yet as I've not been around long enough to have done something silly enough to deserve one.

Hashes are generally off road, so I get the mud and the camaraderie of the rugby game without the fear of injuring myself and being unable to care for my two young ones.
It's great fun - more mentally and, I'd argue, physically challenging than road running, with a real social culture too.

My local hashers are the Teign Valley Hash House Harriers. And tonight we're meeting at the Smugglers Inn, Holcombe. So, if you're local, why not join me.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Belt tightening and the cost of working

Mr B received our nursery bill today and went white - so we're now on an economy drive. Packed lunches for the rest of the month and no shopping until we've emptied the contents of the fridge, freezer and pantry.

How long exactly does turkey stock, frozen last Christmas, last?

Unfortunately, things are not helped by the fact that both Mr B and E (my son) have birthdays this month.

Mr B and E - Birthday boys in September
The problem is that I went back to work at the beginning of the summer holidays and E only gets his free nursery hours in term time, so I have effectively been paying to go to work for the past two months. It's even more gutting because I only went back part-time because my full time wages wouldn't have covered full time nursery fees.

Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with the children, and I'm glad the finances worked out that I could have the best of both worlds by going part-time. I'm equally grateful to my employer who granted my request for flexible working. But it is incredibly demoralising to work in the knowledge that you are actually paying for the privilege of the hard graft you are putting in.

So - I am looking forward to creating lots of home-made gifts and cards for the boys in the family over the next few weeks. Although, I'm not quite sure how that will square up with E's opinion that the Argos catalogue (particularly then Fireman Sam and Playmobil page) is ideal as the basis of his birthday wish list.

If nothing else, our current situation is giving me the boot up the backside I needed to actually set up doing freelance work on the side.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


I got a lovely surprise in the post today. A certificate from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) as 'evidence of development' under the Chartered CPD Programme.

This means that I can achieve Chartered Marketer status if I complete another 35 hours of study over the next 12 months, pass the remaining modules of my Professional Diploma in Marketing and upgrade my membership of the CIM.

I'm studying for my Diploma with the Cambridge Professional Academy and the course is mainly distance learning one intensive two-day workshop for each module. I have never studied alone before, but I have already passed one module, so I'm feeling a lot more confident about my prospects.

I'll keep you all posted about how I get on...