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."