Sometimes as a parent, it’s necessary to play the part of Hercule Poirot in order to get the bottom of your kid’s misbehaviour. You may try out a fake Belgian accent if you like and grow a small moustache, but a little detective work can go a long way.
Let me tell you the story of the last few days and a bit of context to show you what I mean…
- I, a Woman Less Ordinary, sprained my ankle last week and Mr L.O. has been taking excellent care of Billy (our very-almost 5 year old) and me, in addition to holding down a professional job. It has stretched him to the max because he has been trying to put in the hours at work, take Billy to and from school and do all of the things that I would usually accomplish.
- Billy has some unstructured and unsupervised time to himself each morning.
- Billy is usually a lovely, well behaved child. (If that sounds smug, please let me reassure you that that doesn’t mean that he’s faultless / perfect / beyond reproach! Our parenting gig is every bit as tough, unpredictable and sometimes annoying as yours!)
- There are some leftover chocolates from making a Chocolatebread house at Christmas within Billy’s reach. And let’s face it: everything is within a 5 year old’s reach!
- Billy’s behaviour is suddenly terrible.
So, Billy’s Dad and I are left wondering what is up with Billy?
We routinely remove the layers of routine misbehaviour, allowing us to reveal the truth behind each new or unusual misdemeanor. My belief is that every kid will try out new behaviours on us, their parents, to see what we will do about it.
The layers of misbehaviour that are easiest (ha ha ha!) to remove are…
- Your kid must be getting enough sleep
- They should be eating well
- You need effective behaviour management techniques in place (such as Time Out or Consequences)
- And you should know who they really are
So we set to work with our sleuthing:
Our first thought is maybe he’s just tired or ill. So we have the laziest weekend possible with a young child. Plenty of playing in the garden, healthy food, lots of stories and a strict enforcement of bedtime to ensure that Billy gets over whatever it is. Unfortunately, there’s no improvement in his behaviour, despite an excellent sleep and no apparent illness.
Our next thought is that maybe he’s trying a new round of pushing our buttons. So, Mr L.O. works hard on following through on consequences every time, uses some positive techniques and distracts Billy with plenty of attention. Improvement in his behaviour only occurs with maximum effort so we’re baffled.
Fast forward to the truth as I get up to make breakfast on Monday morning:
- Billy looks suspicious.
- Salt has been spilled on the kitchen counter near to the container which holds the chocolates.
- Billy says that he’s not hungry.
- The opaque chocolate container is looking emptier than I remember.
I challenged Billy. He denied it at first, but then admitted that he has been helping himself to a lot of chocolate when his Dad and I are not looking!
We knew that this day was coming eventually. Only a few weeks ago, we were remarking about how well the Christmas chocolate was lasting! What is remarkable to me as a first time parent (despite my teaching experience with older students) is the fast change in cognitive abilities. Billy has only been able to lie semi-convincingly for a month or two. All of a sudden, he is able to carry out a chocolate heist under our noses! If the container wasn’t opaque, he may have carried on for a few more days. Perhaps this is giving him too much credit, but he picked a time when his Dad was extremely busy and I was out of the picture / sluggishly returning to active duty. He’s one cunning kid.
So, what did we do about it?
We used consequences. Billy had already eaten enough candy for at least the equivalent of 2 desserts, so that was how many desserts he was going to be excluded from. Until a few hours later, it was revealed by a younger friend of Billy’s that he had a stash of chocolate hidden in his room. We decided that as he had not confessed to this straight away that he would now miss 3 desserts. We have also made it clear that the number of missed desserts will accrue over time: if he does it again, next time it will be 4 straight off the bat.
Of course, we expect him to try this stuff (and indeed, I did the same to my own parents. Mr L.O. claims he didn’t) but Billy needs to learn to manage his greed. 1 or 2 chocolates would go unnoticed, and would not have the detrimental impact on his behaviour that the large amount he had that morning so clearly did. It’s pretty shocking to see what a massive impact on behaviour diet can have. This morning, following a normal breakfast Billy is back to normal!
He has certainly learned two important lessons.
1. Parents notice everything.
2. Mum and Dad keep each other informed!
A Woman Less Ordinary lives, parents, purchases and thinks differently. With 10 years of teaching experience, she has many effective techniques for managing kids’ behaviour (and a lot to say about finance if you’re interested) BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT!