Its a funny old thing parenting…. we all have methods, things we do… from naughty steps and time-out to unparenting… we all do it differently. No right or wrong, we just do what suits us and our kids.
So imagine my surprise when I casually mention on my facebook page that Ava is on day 3 of 5 “tight days” and that its been tough going. Of course the questions are asked “what is a tight day?” and I respond… from that I am plunged into a complete onslaught of either praise for being tough or I am slammed for being cruel. Interesting. Actually, I am neither of those things… I need to put this in to perspective.
A bit about us first….
We live in a nice house in a nice market town. I stay home as a full time mum to our 3 girls and Matt goes out to work. He works very hard, and long hours. We barely see him during the week, this week we didn’t see him at all because he was working away. We don’t have a lavish lifestyle, but we want for nothing. The children are well clothed, well loved, well treated. We are a tactile and loving family. I am very hands on, my children don’t watch much TV, we do lots of things together… we have a mutual respect for one another and basically we live very good lives. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, almost all food is made from scratch. We eat organic fruit and vegetables, we enjoy eating out. We have a big garden with a trampoline and a solid wooden climbing frame that has 3 swings, a slide and a climbing wall. We spend hours playing together, chatting, reading, baking, playing hide and seek, playing games, doing puzzles and just enjoying each others company. We have a media centre with hundred of films on for lazy afternoons (although these are rare!), they have a large dedicated playroom where we spend a lot of our time together – they have my old iPod shuffle and we dance to One Direction, they have some limited time on the iPad (educational apps). I spend a small fortune at Yellow Moon… My children are my life and as a stay at home mum, I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility to get the very best out of all of them. Ava in particular, being the oldest, gets lots of other things… playdates, both here and at her friends houses, we take her to the cinema or out to eat (her favourites are Yo! Sushi and Loch Fyne), she goes to Rainbows, is starting swimming lessons (having decided to give up gymnastics), this term she is doing 2 after school dance clubs and a cookery course.
My children get it good, and I am happy for them to get it good on one condition; they are grateful, well behaved and well mannered. Seren and Violet are too young to be at this developmental stage but Ava (age 5.5 years) is completely able to understand her behaviour and what is expected of her. To date, her manners have been impeccable, and she has been a delight. Recently though, her attitude and her behaviour have taken a bit of a nose dive. I have had back-chat, I have had rudeness, I have seen her behave so ungratefully that I have been shocked and saddened. She has had hissy fits about not being allowed another turn on something, she has spent hours asking for more and more things “I want this” and “I want that” and “please may I have a drink” turned in to “get me a drink”. She was being deliberately unhelpful and grumpy and just generally throwing her weight around as if she ruled the roost – and as if the whole family should drop everything to do what she wants. Now perhaps a product of being spoilt? From getting too much? No, I don’t think so. Anyone who knows Ava knows she is a compassionate little girl, who can show empathy and understanding beyond her years – so I put it down to boundaries. Lines had been crossed. I had let it slip and all of a sudden everything was being taken for granted. Ava has no idea how lucky she is.
So… after threatening a “tight week” for about a week, she finally tipped me over the edge and she was put on 5 tight days (not even a whole week!). Tight days basically mean she loses her priviledges and all the things that she loves – she goes back to basics. This, I might add, is hardly a huge punishment if you look at our lives and how we live.
Basically, all technology is removed – no TV, iPad, no music… She is not allowed on any playdates, she cannot make a request to do anything on tight days. After school she goes to her room to play (she is not locked in or anything, her door is wide open). She is not allowed to do her clubs or activities, and this time she was not allowed on a sleepover at a friends house which was last night. On Friday she wasn’t allowed “Friday treats” where she is allowed to go and get some sweets from the local shop. She is not allowed to make choices where she usually might (puddings, requests for pancakes on Saturday, or any other more “luxury items”). You get the picture. Every time she asks for something or forgets her manners, during the tight days, its an opportunity to remind her she is on a tight day and why… we talk about children who aren’t as lucky as her, we talk about being grateful and remembering that there are a lot of people who aren’t able to do the things she does for whatever reason. When she is cheeky to me I remind her of what I do, of how hard I work for her and her sisters – how much we do together (during tight days I don’t play one-on-one with her, do baking, do any or her craft kits, draw, colour, play board games etc) to show her that actually, if she likes doing those things with me, then she needs to be nicer to me, to make me want to do things with her.
So bearing in mind all I am doing is removing the luxuries, and she is still in a nice house, with a loving mum, nice food, a lovely bedroom, loads of toys etc… is it so bad?! Excercise a little perspective. I doubt that Ava’s “tight” days even come close to how some people either choose to live or have to live. It is utterly ridiculous to suggest this is some form of cruelty!! During tight days I do not shout at her, I am not horrible to her – we have lots of chats and cuddles just like any other day.
We had already arranged to go with friends to the Newbury Show today so we still went. As Ava is on day 4 of her tight days she was reminded that unlike last year, she would only be allowed one go on one thing (that cost money), unlike last year when she went on loads of things, did a couple of craft activities (that we paid for), got some pick and mix and went home with a small toy. She huffed. I looked at her and said “well you are on a tight days still, so you can have one thing or nothing” she said “one thing please”. We arrived, we met up with friends, the kids had a great time and there was lots of stuff to see and do that was free. We got to the fair bit and Ava chose the helter skelter. One go, it was brief, and that was it. She didn’t ask for more, she said “thank you for my ride” and off we went. At the end of the day we got in to the car and were just driving out of the car park and Ava said “I have had a really good day mummy, thank you for taking me”. Job done… no theatrics over what she would have liked to have done, but gratitude for what she did get to do (and I saved a lot of money!). Her behaviour at home is getting better, her attitude towards me is getting better and oh my goodness is she looking forward to the end of her tight days. She can’t wait to have me back on full pelt doing stuff with her. And do you know what, I think she might be a bit more grateful going forward too.