One of the things I love about my kids at this age (currently almost 4 years and 2 years) is that their most favourite treat in the whole wide World doesn’t cost me a thing.
Each week when I do the grocery shopping they are told that if they behave they will get their treat, and as soon as they step out of line I make threats that involve the total absense of it in their life. As this would make life not worth living (apparently), this results in instant behaviour modification for a few minutes.
My supermarket of choice has nice wide aisles and tends to have some of the friendliest mums shopping with their kids. On two occassions now I have encountered mums who also gave birth to little dinosaurs, and we’ve revelled in the camarederie this brings. While we wandered the aisles filling our trollies and chatting like kindred spirits, our offspring were running amok and terrorising anyone with a nervous disposition with their fearful roars. We had fun at each others expense by deliberately hanging back, or sneaking down another aisle when the other wasn’t looking so that they would get all the filthy looks bestowed on them for having so many unruly children. Oh how we laughed and joked about the lack-of-humour people. These were great times.
And then, to my great disappointment, all subsequent shopping excursions were marred by a complete lack of dinosaurs and their mums. My kids tried to encourage any other children they encountered to morph into dinosaurs, but after they traumatised a little boy who had obviously never encountered a dinosaur, I had to put a stop to it. Thus the reward system was implemented.
I’ve had parents laugh at me as they bribed their children with chocolate and toys, then watch in amazement at how distressed my kids were at the thought of not getting this most wonderful of treats.
“Does that really work?” they’d ask.
Why yes, yes it does. For now (if I haven’t completed jinxed myself by writing about it).
And what is this amazing thing that I’ve found, that can command my children to obey me? What could possibly be so wonderful that they’d rather do my bidding then live without it?
It’s a cardboard box of course!
Once we’re through the checkout they get to choose their box to take home. Then they have a week to play in it, on it, under it, sleep in it and transform it into anything they want. Once it has been destroyed it goes out in the recycling and they get to choose a brand new one.
It’s their delight in the simplest of things that makes this parenting gig so worthwhile.