I’m not talking about the tactical use of withering sarcasm that I employ with my husband.
Nor the “If you bite me again I will bite you back harder,” zero tolerance technique that I try on my son. (It’s zero tolerance only in the sense it seems to have zero effect on him).
No, I’m talking about the deeply entrenched and successful Happy Face system for my daughter.
The rules are simple. When she’s good, she gets a Happy Face on a chart. When she’s bad, she gets a Sad Face.
I say chart. It kind of started off that way, but now it’s just in my head because usually I’ve run out of paper, printer ink, or both.
Ten Happy Faces = £2 pocket money on a Saturday. One Sad Face is allowed. Two means no dosh.
It works pretty well. They use something similar at her special school, where if she earns enough points she gets “choose time” or rewards.
Usually, if I’m struggling to get her to listen to me, the threat of that second Sad Face is pretty much guaranteed to grab her attention.
She’ll sometimes squirrel the money away to save up for something big. Or at the moment she’s throwing caution to the wind and insisting I buy her a magazine (If she was more aware of the value of money, I’d swear she was doing this just to get a subsidy as most of these gimmicky kid’s comics are £3.99, anyway).
She’s recently swapped from Dr Who, her favoured publication, to Hello Kitty Magazine.
Yesterday, I found the note pictured at the top of this post. I've assumed it's a draft of a letter my daughter will no doubt shortly ask me to help her send to the editor of that august publication.
And do you know what? Discovering it, reading it: that gave me a Happy Face.