Some parents are masters in the art of kids currency and they have children eating out of their hand, but how do they do it?
“OK kids, if you are really really good I’m going to give you an invisible point ok?!” says the voice from somewhere down the back of the yard. My best friend’s husband was trying to entertain 10 kids while their mothers took a little breather to shove a quick sandwich down their throat before heading back to the yard to referee.
Before I could even snort “invisible point, as if that will work!” all 10 children snapped to attention and asked him what was an invisible point and what could it do? And just like the Pied Piper who mesmerised children with his magic flute, my friend entranced the children into playing nicely and sitting quietly while eating their lunch, all with the hope of earning more invisible points than the next kid. By the end of the play date all the children proudly boasted to their mamas how many invisible points they had earned that afternoon and do you think they could earn more tonight if they were good!
Let me make this very clear. They didn’t get any other reward other than the invisible points. Not even the offer of a sweet treat if they received 10, 20 or even 30 points in a row. They simply got the reward of knowing that somewhere floating in the atmosphere was an imaginary blackboard with their name on it and underneath it a tally of points. Ingenious.
I realised my friend spoke their currency, kids currency, and it was refreshing to see that they didn’t need a packet of Tiny Teddies or Smarties waved in front of them to bribe them to be good.
In the years BM (Before Millie) if I noticed a desperate parent bribing their writhing child on a supermarket floor with a Kit Kat I would have thought silently to myself as I arrogantly stepped over them, “I will never have to bribe my children”. Now that I have been educated by a new little tantie-thrower of my own, I’m eager to learn the tricks of the bribery trade, because whether parents admit to it, or like it, we all bribe our kids…um…daily. Even a one-year-old who has decided to let me know, loudly, that she does not want to be in her car seat any longer. Sweet ‘car biscuits’ stashed in the glove box are fixing that problem for me for now, but I’m not exactly going to be mother of the year when all her teeth rot and fall out of her head from one too many car biscuits.
So is it possible to reward, bribe, or ‘positively reinforce’ good behaviour without the offer of sugar, food, cash or, well, stuff that actually costs money? The answer is yes and here are a few ideas I was impressed with.
Christmas was particularly educating, especially with new technology at our fingertips. Free Santa apps with naughty or nice meters flashed about on an iPhone straightened up a kid up in the middle of a meltdown quick smart.
On the website celebrity-babies.com Jennie Garth revealed she bribes her kids with the offer to eat dinner from a huge special spotty plate. Every night a different child gets the reward.
Finally the Treasure Chest. Get an old shoebox and fill it with some of mummy’s old jewellery or daddy’s non-dangerous tools and when they have been good they can pick an item from the treasure chest to play with or wear for the day. Grown-up behaviour rewarded with special grown-up treats.
In a perfect world our kids will co-operate with us most of the time. And when they stray, a hug and a kiss would suffice. And then we wake up…
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