Saturday 8 December 2012

The Sunday Parenting Party

Taming the Goblin

Its the Sunday Parenting Party. We had some awesome posts last week so I am really excited to see what everyone links up this week. If you do link up please grab the button and display it either on the post or in your sidebar - or hey why not go crazy and do both! This week I am linking up the following:
(Goblin is 38 months)
I don't usually use the threat of going home to try and get Goblin to do what I want. To be honest its one of those empty threats that makes me roll my eyes a bit when I hear other parents use in the park or at the pool. I always secretly think "really, you are going to pack up all your stuff and cart your kid off when you have only just got here - I think not". 
But this week I discovered that this threat can actually be used extremely effectively if you genuinely mean what you say - and maybe I should start giving those other parents a break. What's more it doesn't have to be delivered as a punitive threat. It can be explained as a natural consequence in a sympathetic but factual way. Of course thats not how I managed to do it because I'm not that well internally disciplined, but its worth a thought.
So here is how our day went down. I decided to take Goblin to the zoo. I should have realised it wasn't going to be a smooth visit. He'd woken up stupidly early and bounced around the house for the best part of the morning but by the time I'd got my act together to leave it was nearly 11am. Instead of putting him down for an early nap I decided to proceed with our planned outing figuring that as we have season tickets it didn't really matter if he only lasts an hour.
Well an hour was optimistic. Within minutes of arriving at the zoo Goblin was asking to be carried. He is now extremely heavy and I try not to carry him as it hurts my back. I certainly didn't plan on carrying him all round the zoo. So I firmly said he needed to walk. This was the start of a series of meltdowns which occurred over the next hour at regular intervals as we walked from one end of the zoo to the other.

By midday we'd both been up for over six hours and I was getting pretty frustrated and tired off the wailing that was accompanying our activities. So I did something I don't usually do. I threatened going home.
As I explained earlier I don't use the "going home threat" unless I absolutely mean it. But Goblin was obviously struggling with keeping it together, he was tired or hungry and going home would actually have been a sensible solution. So I used it, meaning to follow through. Our conversion took place with Goblin lying in the middle of the path leading up to the elephants enclosure screaming at me.*

"Goblin, you can carry on wailing and we can go home because you are obviously very tied. Or you can stop crying and we can go and eat something and see the elephants. But if you want to see the elephants you can't wail any more today or we will go home straight away".

Goblin seemed to understand that I was serious and he had a choice. He stopped crying immediately and started walking towards the cafe.
What was even more amazing was when we reached the cafe he made a bee line for the ice cream, (no thats not the amazing bit, that's the very predictable bit) I explained that he needed to have a sandwich first (real food) but if he ate his sandwich he could have an ice cream. I could see we were about to have another power struggle so I just added "Remember you can choose to wail and we will go home, or you can choose to eat a sandwich first and then an ice cream." (This is the amazing bit) Despite being really tired and wanting an ice cream he wandered across to the sandwiches and chose one.

Goblin didn't wail for the rest of the day. And after some food and a sit down he was a new child and we had a lovely day. We stayed until dark and were the last ones to leave the zoo as it shut.

*For the sake of the story I skipped straight to the bit where I offered a sensible choice - a natural consequence. However for the sake of honesty and to illustrate that I am human and not a programmed robot super-parent I should confess that before the sensible and calm conversation about choices and going home, there had been a significant amount of screaming and shouting on my part as well as Goblin's which is what had led to him lying in the path in the first place. Positive Parenting for me is definitely a work in progress. 
Here are my top five picks from last weeks link up:
Practicing honesty when receiving gifts by Puddle Wonderful Learning
15 ways to get kids to listen by Picklebums
Establishing Boundaries with your Tot by Lisa Nolan's Confessions of a Montessori Mom 
Real Life Wednesday by The Messy Organic Mum
Parenting by the book part 2: Controlled crying (humour) by Mummyology
And now to the linky 

I'm sharing this with
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


  1. Bravo! My mama would say "Well done"!

  2. I was an elementary school teacher and I found that threats were definitely part of my "bag of tricks". The thing is that, like you said, threats only work when a) they are not empty and I mean consistently not empty and b) they are presented as a list of a number of choices that are available to a child. The part that I find amazing about your story is that it worked while he was tired! Well done, mama!

    1. i was pretty amazed it worked too. I'm glad it did. after he'd eaten he really did cheer up a lot.

  3. I love the choices thang! I used to use it as a teacher but have not had the chance to use it as a parent yet. We only have an 11 week old. I love the honesty of your post and you sound like a teriffic parent...positive parenting in progress or not. Love the title of your blog too.

  4. What an honest post, and you are fortunate to have such a sensible little 3 year old too. The idea of choices was one that we, as teachers, were told about by a behaviour 'specialist'. His point was not to back children into corners (or yourself) but to give them a choice so they are in control. Thanks for linking this one up too - you are a star! Kierna

    1. Thats a really good point about choices. All too often the "choices" I give aren't really choices they are more ultimatums dressed up as a choice. I need to try and give more choices that genuinely allow Goblin to take some control.

  5. When you don't use the "going home" card often it can be very successful. We use it but only occasionally, same with anything. We don't threaten unless we are going to carry through, occasionally they test us and we have to carry through but next time the threat works! I do remember a sad occasion of an expensive ice cream being taken off one of ours by Daddy and thrown in the bin, child in question was warned but continued to niggle his brother or wail or what ever it was (I don't remember that bit just the waste of expensive ice cream!) but the follow through is important!

  6. I used the going home option when my son was very young, or the five-minute time out in the car option. Both worked because I established them early and never gave an empty threat/option. My son grew to learn that mom means what she says so I better listen to mom. Now that he is eight, and too big to carry, and out growing time outs, I can use other options.

    Thanks for the feature last Sunday! I'm going to put a feature link with your button in my blog!

  7. great post - can relate... to all of it ;)

  8. What a wonderful post! I loved the honesty about the bit that led up to his laying down in the middle of the pathway. It's great that positive parenting turned around a bad situation.


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