How to get your child to do what you ask (Be Happy)

The title of this blog is grand.  And probably misleading.

So before I start I would like to sign a disclaimer to say the following:

  • I have no qualifications in this field (especially not Godivy, 15 months and Beaver, three)
  • I am not the best mother I know.  I’m not even close
  • I genuinely have no idea what I’m doing or how to achieve the above

Brilliant, I hear you say.  Let’s hear more.

BUT I am in the midst of an experiment with Beaver.  I have called it the ‘Be Happy Challenge.’ It basically involves me being happy ALL day, regardless of whether Beaver is flushing teapot lids down the toilet or asking for the tenth time whether she can eat that piece of chocolate. Hence, the ‘Challenge’ part.

Why are we doing this?  Well, Daddy Pig and I had a meeting at nursery to discuss Beaver not doing as she is told.  I expected to discuss some ways of dealing with this.  I did not expect to be told (very sensitively) that actually Beaver, a very strong-willed girl is having some insecurity issues which stem from her worry that ‘Mummy is sad’ or ‘Mummy is cross.’  There was an accompanying picture, which is quite heartbreaking and which I will share when it comes home.  If I’m brave enough.

We discussed that Beaver needs to know that I am happy so she feels secure.  That in turn will help her behaviour, as she will respect me as an authority figure and (hopefully) do as she is told.  

And so the Be Happy Challenge was born.

Daddy Pig and I have agreed to ‘rule’ by calm reinforcement rather than the tense and vocal way we so often do.  Usually, because we are late and trying to get out of the door.  We often expect a fight on our hands when we ask anything of her and I think that she senses it. Children smell fear, don’t they?  They hang on that slightly squeezed tone in your voice that reeks of desperation and they think, ‘I’m going to have some fun here.’

There are incentives too.  My lovely stylist friend has made me two sticker reward charts.  One for Beaver and one for me.  We each have a box of sparkly stickers.  If Beaver is good all day I give her one and if Beaver decides I have been happy all day, she picks one for me.  It gives Beaver some positive control and it builds the correlation between her being good and me being happy.

Stylist friend was quick to point out that I am not allowed to shout and swear ‘#!*%£^’ if Beaver says I haven’t earned one.  Not that I would of course.  Instead I have to say ‘I will try harder tomorrow to be happy.’

Sounds excruciating?  Yes, it is a bit.  But you know what it’s working.  It hasn’t been a perfect two days but I’ve noticed a difference.  I can’t believe Beaver has changed that much in such a short time so it really must be me.

I’ve completely changed the way I react to her.  I’m calm when I ask her to do something and when she doesn’t do it the first time, I calmly ask her again and she does it.  When I’ve had to raise my voice, usually to save her sister from attack, it’s had an instant effect.  And I do it all with a smile (grimace) on my face.

I haven’t lost my temper once.  Whenever I’m tempted, I think of Beaver’s picture.  That stops me in my tracks.

AND I’ve got one gold star to show for my efforts.  So far.

I intend to get lots more.  And probably die trying.


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    11 thoughts on “How to get your child to do what you ask (Be Happy)

    1. Mama and more aka Zaz

      This is so touching and sure it will resonate with lots of people. We all have times of being short and sharp and stressed. I love the idea of reciprocal gold stars! Best of luck to you! Popping over from BYOBH

    2. Rachael Jess

      I love this, not that your little one is security issues, but you get gold stars.

      Kudos for staying happy I don’t know how I’d feel if Max turned around and said nope, no star for you.

      Keep it up, its obviously working for her 🙂

      Great Post

    3. EmmaMT from

      I love this idea. I always forget that it takes more than 10 minutes for my girls to put their coats and shoes on so we are always running late! Whenever I plan ahead and give them enough time I’m not stressed so they’re not stressed! Life is SOOOO much easier that way!

      Brilliant plan. Good luck. I want a sticker chart now!

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        Thanks Emma. I have got 4 stickers so far and am exhausted. I have overlooked so many things the past few days that I wonder if I’m actually just encouraging bad behaviour. Beaver is happier though. Well, she would be wouldn’t she!

    4. Mrs Teapot

      If there was ever an opportune moment to find this….
      We are most certainly at the ‘testing boundaries’ stage in our relationship & I am ending up increasingly frazzled! Was considering trying reverse psychology – I wonder today if I had asked Little T to post my engagement ring through the gap in the floorboards, if he’d have put it back on my bedside table instead, for example?!
      I will now be undertaking my own ‘Be Happy’ challenge! Thank you!

    5. Verily Victoria Vocalises

      What an absolutely fantastic idea. I love it! I stopped the reward chart for Grace a while ago but was thinking of bringing it back. I am constantly accused of being grumpy so I wonder if a chart for me for Grace to give me a star for being a happy Mummy would help? By the sounds of things I think it might just help. Ross thinks its a good idea too :). Thanks for sharing this with PoCoLo, and for linking up again Amy 🙂 xx


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