Discipline #Fail

One of my abiding memories of childhood is coming home from primary school one day to find our Mum had put all our untidy toys into black bin bags and chucked them out of the window into the garden.

We were given one hour to put away anything we wanted to keep. Otherwise it would go in the bin.

Age has given me a WHOLE new perspective on this story.

Flea is – in many ways – a wonderfully easy person to get along with. She’s polite, she does as she’s asked, she has a good sense of humour, and she’s really easy going, so I don’t have to deal with tantrums and the like.

But good God, the child tears through our house like a tornado some days, shedding toys and clothes and comics wherever she goes.

I do not deal well with mess. To say the least.

I explain to Flea that I have limited free time, I don’t want to spend it tidying up. I explain how if things aren’t tidied away, it’s harder to find them next time you need them. We talk about how much more fun life is when you can walk up the stairs without navigating the entire cast of Toy Story 3.

And Flea nods and tells me she’ll try harder.

It doesn’t work.

So last week, I told Flea that each day the house was untidy at bedtime, Flea would lose her favourite toy for 24 hours.

Flea cried, because “even the thought of it makes me sad.”

But I was resolute. Kids need discipline, I told myself.

Yesterday, I finished work and went to gather Flea’s uniform for beavers before collecting her from school. Her trousers weren’t in the wardrobe. Her shoes weren’t in the shoe basket. My mood wasn’t improved much by the soft toy rabbit collection enjoying a puppet show performance in the middle of the sodding dining room.

At school, I explained to Flea that because she hadn’t tidied away her clothes, I was going to take away her new DS video game for 24 hours.

On the way home, we decided Flea probably shouldn’t go to Beavers because she was crying so hard that her Beavers jumper was – to be frank – a bit soggy. She cried all the way through dinner. Then she went and sat on the stairs and cried some more.

She got up briefly to pass me a note that said, “Dear Mummy, I think your punishment is unfair because it makes me sad. PS I am ever so sorry. Love Flea xxxx”

Then she went back to the stairs and cried.

After coming downstairs to write in her diary, “Today was experiment day at school and it was meatballs for lunch and then I went home and Mummy was frustrated with me, which is not the same as being angry,” Flea went up to bed, still sniffing.

Then my ex called.

“Just to let you know I’ve got Flea’s Beaver uniform,” he said, cheerfully.

Typical.

And that, readers, is how I officially became The World’s Meanest Mummy.

The question is – do I tell Flea?

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.

31 Comments

  1. 9th May 2012 / 9:39 am

    Oh my, I sucked my teeth at the end of this post, and until then I didn’t really know what teeth-sucking was all about. I feel your pain. Personally I’d tell her – she’ll likely forgive you in a heartbeat and relish the opportunity to be gracious, plus you get to model what a heartfelt apology looks like. The ex clearly needs a suitable punishment though…

    • 9th May 2012 / 12:19 pm

      Ha! I told her this morning. She didn’t mind in the slightest. Bless her.

  2. 9th May 2012 / 9:42 am

    Children can be so dramatic! You are not the meanest mummy at all, and as you said it wasn’t just about the beavers uniform. I remember my mum never promising something that she couldn’t follow through including punishments. She would cancel whole days out just to keep to her word and we quickly learnt to do what she asked! She wasn’t mean at all, just wanting some respect I think.

    Hope flea is tidying up more now. (and good luck sneaking the uniform back in!)
    the mummy adventure recently posted..Icandy Cherry ReviewMy Profile

    • 9th May 2012 / 12:20 pm

      I know – she was just so SAD. But yes, I do think you shouldn’t ever threaten what you won’t follow through on. Admitting weakness opens the gate for all sorts 😉

  3. Jayne
    9th May 2012 / 9:47 am

    Dont tell her.

    I don’t do lying to kids but the chances are, Flea will have learned something from this. I you admit to being wrong, all this will give her is a lesson in mummy being fallible and a future point of contention if you try to punish her again.

    Just my twopenneth.

    • 9th May 2012 / 12:20 pm

      I just said “You uniform is at Dad’s but that doesn’t change the fact you didn’t tidy up and I asked you to. And you need to remember to bring things home from Dad’s after you visit him.”

      There. Reasonable and fair. And she was fine with it.

  4. 9th May 2012 / 10:01 am

    I’m told I’m the meanest mum ever at least five times a day. But to make up for it I’m told I’m the best mum in the whole world probably three or four times a day. And best mums are worth ten mean mums, so that’s OK.

    I’d tell her – she’ll still have learnt something. Maybe. And, does she do reward charts? Every tidy-at-the-end-of-the-day gets a sticker, a whole week gets a toy? Or something. I must make me some sticker charts, actually – toilet training and attitude to combat here (in two separate children, I should add).
    Tasha Goddard recently posted..Parents ‘more involved in children’s schools’: Are you involved with your children’s school?My Profile

    • 9th May 2012 / 12:21 pm

      Aw, Flea never really comments on my parenting. I’m sure she’s just storing it up for her memoirs.

  5. 9th May 2012 / 10:10 am

    I don’t think you are the meanest mummy you were doing what you thought was right. I think you explain that things have to be tidied and the rabbits weren’t put away but her daddy had her uniform so you took daddy’s game away instead. It’s hard to find that balance. I’m sure Flea will understand.
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    • 9th May 2012 / 12:21 pm

      Well quite. Wonder what i can take off her Dad, though 😉

  6. Suzanne
    9th May 2012 / 10:34 am

    Oh my goodness, being a mummy is hard isn’t it?! I think you should stick with the whole punishment over not putting toys away but the beaver uniform…..just fess up, kids love you for being honest. Good luck! She sounds like a little sweetheart. My daughter writes me notes too 🙂

    • 9th May 2012 / 12:21 pm

      I think that’s sterling advice, thanks.

  7. 9th May 2012 / 11:26 am

    Tell her because her dad might mention it and then you’ll look like a liar as well. The punishment was about being tidy and there were still toys lying around. I don’t think a few stuffed bunnies on the dining room floor is such a big deal but then 24 hours without your digital watsit shouldn’t be such a big deal either – especially as you are only at home and awake not eating for about three of those hours. I think you both need to lighten up a bit.
    Midlife Singlemum recently posted..Dancing In The Rain: Through The Garden GateMy Profile

    • 9th May 2012 / 12:24 pm

      Well, I think given Flea’s never really been punished before it’s a big deal to her – she hates to feel she’s done something wrong, and I can relate to that. But I’ll certainly let her know you told us to lighten up.

  8. 9th May 2012 / 11:42 am

    You so have to tell Flea. Parents make mistakes and kids need to know that. You can put a spin on it such as “well you know you’re disorganised and messy and so consequently I thought you had lost your uniform. I was quite clearly wrong on that count and I am truly sorry. However, the lesson to be learnt is that if you weren’t disorganised and messy in the first place, then you would have known it was at your dads?!”
    Super Amazing Mum recently posted..Letting go….My Profile

    • 9th May 2012 / 12:25 pm

      I did. But punishment stood for all the OTHER messiness.

  9. 9th May 2012 / 1:00 pm

    Glad you told her. Injustice is a real sticker when it comes to children’s memories. I’m not suggesting you were unjust, but you probably don’t want to create a memory that goes “Mum punished me for leaving something at Dad’s house” either.

    I wonder if the picking-up gene is just there, or not there. You could be fighting a lot of nature with your nurture. I speak as someone whose children simply do not see a pair of dirty socks on the floor, unless you point them out at close range. Children who have had years of training in the issue. I guess you’re either born with the spotting-dirty-socks ability, or not.
    Iota recently posted..Back to schoolMy Profile

  10. 9th May 2012 / 4:46 pm

    I’m always full of useful information in situations like this. Clearly you need to buy her a new DS game and a very large chocolate cake. Simples.
    Rosie Scribble recently posted..Worrying timesMy Profile

  11. 9th May 2012 / 6:49 pm

    If it’s any consolation, Dexter was HYSTERICAL last night because he can’t go to a party on Saturday because he’s staying with his Dad. Bearing in mind he only got the invite yesterday. He cried solidly, snot everywhere … for 30 minutes, until I suggested we had a stick fight in the garden and he was right as rain. Kids. Who’d have em.
    Kate, WitWitWoo recently posted..Brilliance in Blogging Awards – FINALIST!My Profile

  12. 9th May 2012 / 6:54 pm

    One of my clearest memories from childhood is my Dad getting angry that we hadn’t tidied away and throwing our toys in the bin. He took them straight back out again, but the memory of seeing my My Little Pony sitting in the bin remains crystal clear, it made a huge impression on me. Flea’s punishment wasn’t just about the uniform, and hopefully it will have got the message across (and being without the game for 24 hours isn’t the end of the world!).
    Jennifer recently posted..I’m away preparing for the zombie invasion…My Profile

  13. 9th May 2012 / 7:52 pm

    I never own up to my children because then they’d suspect I’m fallible and that would undermine their essential childish security! 😉 My daughter, who has much in common with yours tells me that she wishes she could tidy up but she’s genetically incapable of it. It could be an evolutionary thing…
    Middle-Aged Matron recently posted..How (Not) to Woo a MillionaireMy Profile

  14. 9th May 2012 / 7:56 pm

    I think I want your daughter… I have a mini diva here who stomps and strops at every given occasion and isn’t really very polite at all and hardly ever does as I ask…..
    sarahmumof3 recently posted..Living Streets – Walking challengeMy Profile

  15. TheBoyandMe
    9th May 2012 / 8:15 pm

    Just read that you did tell her, and I was going to say that I would do. She’d appreciate your honesty that you made an honest mistake far more.

  16. 9th May 2012 / 8:20 pm

    No I’m sorry but I am officially the worlds meanest mummy and I have that on good authority from at least two of my children. Tough love I think some call it and I oftentimes think its tougher on us mums than it is on the kids.
    Nikki Thomas recently posted..My First Justin’s Jokes Book Review and GiveawayMy Profile

  17. 9th May 2012 / 8:38 pm

    After reading your post and your comments, it sounds like you handled it really, really well. Sure her dad had it, but there was still a lesson in there. I think you can downgrade (or would it be upgrade?) yourself from World’s Meanest Mummy. After your chat Flea seems to think so, too.
    Life of an Expat Parent recently posted..Ta-may-toe, Ta-mah-toe: ExcitementMy Profile

  18. 9th May 2012 / 9:13 pm

    Oh dear, bless Flea, she really sounds to be a lovely little girl. My son (age 3) is a horrendously messy child but his way of solving the problem is by telling me I am wonderful at tidying and then persuading me that it would be better to tidy up the toys for him!

    I’m a big fan of the removing a treasured toy if things aren’t done that need to be or for misbehaviour, works every time.
    Ramblings Of A Suburban Mummy recently posted..What I’m Wearing for #Cybher 2012My Profile

  19. Emily O
    10th May 2012 / 1:35 pm

    My Mum did that trick with the toys and belongings too. Mean. Despite having three small children and a husband I still remain the messiest person in the house so I can’t ever get at anyone for being untidy. In fact the children are quite tidy, completely unlike me. Yes you’re mean but maybe just give Flea an extra hug instead of admitting it.

  20. Vic
    10th May 2012 / 1:49 pm

    Nah! What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

  21. 10th May 2012 / 10:03 pm

    Awwh Flea will understand and if not she will be on Question time debating it !

    I tried J going to football once he just retorted “How can you stop me doing something I love”
    Claire Toplis recently posted..Blossom #snaphappybritmumsMy Profile

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