A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Be Happy Challenge that we introduced in our house to help Beaver feel more secure. Daddy Pig and I agreed to ‘rule’ by calm reinforcement. Beaver and I had our own reward charts. If Beaver was good all day I gave her a sparkly sticker and if Beaver decided I had been happy all day, she picked one for me.
So, how did we do?
Well…the reward charts sort of died a death after Beaver announced one night (when she’d been good all day) that she didn’t want a sticker. ‘You can have one though,’ she said encouragingly. As if she didn’t want to let me down.
The thing is, reward charts have never really motivated Beaver. We’ve tried them several times but after a few days the novelty wears off. It doesn’t matter what we promise her at the end of the 10 stickers, she’s just not that bothered. I kind of see her point. Life is one long treat when you’re three years old.
But we’ve carried on regardless, without the incentives. Being happy, that is. Some days go without a hitch. Others leave me planning imaginary trips to far flung places. On my own. I don’t always remain calm but I no longer lose it and even when I feel a bit cross I convey it with a manic smile. I have swapped anger for patience. Someone saint me now.
Things have changed beyond recognition in our house. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s not likely to be with two toddlers in the house. For all our efforts, I can still take Beaver somewhere and she’ll behave hideously but I’m learning to react differently to her. And therein lies the difference.
I’ve stopped comparing her to other more mild-mannered children. She’s always going to be wilful and there’s no point fighting that. I actually don’t want to because I know it will stand her in good stead in the long run. What is it they say… every dog has its day.
Beaver has responded by being more affectionate, more maleable and more understanding. Very occasionally she reflects on her behaviour, aware that she was being unreasonable and will say, ‘Sorry Mummy,’ without me prompting her.
At her triplet friends’ party on Sunday, as she was rooting through the party bag, she came across a chocolate Freddo. ‘I’m not allowed chocolate,’ she said handing it back to my friend. ‘It makes me crazy.’ Who is this child, I wanted to ask and what have you done with Beaver?
There are so many moments with your child when you wish the ground would just swallow you up whole, their behaviour reflects on you so badly. Then there are moments like this one when you couldn’t feel more proud that the polite child is yours.
That night, as we were getting ready for bed Beaver said she didn’t want to wear sleep-pants anymore. I was dubious to be honest as they’re usually wet come morning but Daddy Pig and I agreed to give it a go, especially as she’s never asked before. I slept fitfully that night waiting for her to call out. The call never came. The next morning her pyjamas were a little damp but nothing much to speak of. This morning they were completely dry.
I cannot pretend I’m not amazed by this sudden development. Because I am. But I’m grateful for it beyond it being just another milestone achieved. To me, it’s the most tangible sign that Beaver is feeling secure again. And that means everything.
It turns out that being happy all day long has a dry side after all.