Like many parents trying to promote good behaviour or stop poor behaviour I have tried many traditional methods such as reward charts, naughty steps, threats (you won’t get your pocket money if you don’t stop that) and bribery (you’ll get extra pocket money if you stop that) with varying degrees of success. As I discovered though sometimes you need to think outside the box.
The Donkey of Happiness (sometimes known as The Donkey of Peace) has featured in our house for as long as the kids can recall and I would be lying if I claimed to remember the first time she (yes she) made an appearance. I do know it was when the kids were still very young and after another long day of tears and tantrums (mine and theirs) nothing was working to calm two bickering children.
In desperation and for want of any other ideas left in my arsenal, I dropped to all fours (which immediately caught their attention), hee-hawed and asked them to climb aboard the Donkey of Happiness. Scowling faces were replaced with shocked and then smiling faces as they climbed on my back and we ambled across the room, resulting in us heaped on the floor in fits of giggles, all thoughts of previous fights or grudges forgotten.
Throughout the years the Donkey has made regular appearances to calm fraught situations or cheer up children distraught from a bad day at school or a siblings teasing. I don’t do it too often after all that would ruin the element of surprise and fun and of course the children are getting bigger and the donkey older but it’s still effective.
Other similar techniques have meant popping our favourite holiday tune on full blast (sorry neighbours) and demanding everyone stop fighting and start dancing, actually no demanding is required, as soon as the opening strains of Chocolate (Choco Choco) fill the house it takes a pretty determined child or parent to remain in a huff, don’t believe me try it.
Sausages also loom large in our family, whether it’s for dinner with mash, or cooked and then eaten cold as we wander round Edinburgh Fringe Festival (another odd tradition we have adopted) but for the purpose of distraction techniques just as a funny word one or other of us will shout out in a silly voice to interrupt an argument and which has almost become a code word for “ok let’s all just calm down, cheer up and start again”, shorter, easier and of course funnier.
So when you are ready to tear up the sticker chart and time out has become more frequent than time in, why not be like Monty Python and say, and now for something completely different, and do let me know how it goes!