Apr 11, 2016

    The Mummy Chronicles I want to remain mum, not scream

    WHEN I want my six-year-old son to do things, like putting away his Lego or taking a shower, I usually do it by having a calm discussion with him in which we talk about our expectations for his behaviour and about why it is important that he does what I request him to do.

    No, I lied. I try to get him to do things by nagging at him.

    I can't help it, I'm a mother.

    So, "Pick up your Lego from the floor," I'll say.

    Ten minutes later, I'll tell him: "The Lego, pick it up."

    Another five minutes later: "The Lego. Off the floor."

    Nothing happens. It's like I'm talking to a brick wall. Except, they say walls have ears and my son acts like he has none.

    So I often feel obliged to check on the existence of his ears by asking: "Oy, you hear me or not?"

    But I must have said that way too often, because one night, before I could even open my mouth to say "Oy!", my son, bored by my one-note performance, drawled out a very blase "I heaaaar youuuuu."

    He didn't even deign to look up. Epic fail.

    Okay, so nagging does not work. This is because in The Child's Guidebook To Annoying Your Parents (which every child possesses a copy of), rule No. 23 states that a kid should strive to ignore his parents when they are not saying fun things like "Anyone wants chocolate ice cream?" or "Do you want to help me cut watermelons using this dangerously sharp butcher's knife?"

    But nagging also fails because my son has heard my moaning so often that it has become acoustic wallpaper, something which he may have heard, but which definitely has not entered the part of his brain that processes auditory input.

    Which is when I start shouting. Raising my voice works. It helps my son develop a superpower in which he can clear the floor of Lego in 20 minutes flat.

    It is possible that children's ears are biologically programmed to not detect sounds below a certain volume.

    But also because, as we all know, the significance of the message being conveyed to a child increases correspondingly with the decibel level.

    So, "go take a shower" is only a suggestion which he can feel free to ignore, but "SHOWER! NOW!" implies that if he didn't go take a shower right then, there will be consequences (such as me shouting even louder).

    Parenting experts say shouting at a child is a no-no.

    It can diminish the child's sense of security and self-esteem, they say. It also makes me, the shouter, look like Exhibit A in the court of insanity (my words, not theirs).

    OK, fair enough.

    While my son appears to be undamaged by my hysterics, I myself may have gone slightly mad from all the nagging and shouting I do.

    One morning at about 6am, I woke my husband up by yelling at him to "Go to bed! It's very late already!"

    He was wondering why I was waking him up to shout at him to go to sleep. Then he realised that I was, in fact, still sleeping myself and was shrieking in my dreams, ostensibly at our (unhearing) son.

    It's a sad day when all the nagging and shouting I do enters my subconscious.

    So I am now trying to adopt a more peaceful stance in which I set my son a time limit to get tasks done instead of expecting him to act on them immediately.

    He has to clear his Lego off the floor by 9pm, say, or take a shower before his cartoon starts.

    It seems to work, so this new approach may help me not end up in a padded room wearing a straitjacket.

    No-shout parenting is good. I will be calm and zen.

    I will no longer scream.

    That is, until I next step on the Lego that my son didn't pick off the floor because I forgot to set him a time limit.