How to discipline a six-year-old.

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I don’t often need to chastise Flea, but today was one of those occasions.

A few days ago, we bought one of those weird hamster balls so that Mr Hamster could run around the house without getting lost. Flea was very excited but I asked her not to open the packaging until I had some time to put it together.

Then today I came into the kitchen to find the packaging open and most of the ball on the counter – except one piece is missing, and it’s nowhere to be found. And it’s quite a crucial piece, since it’s the lid that keeps the hamster in the ball while he’s toddling around.

I decide this is something I need to deal with, as a responsible parent. Flea needs to learn about doing as she’s told, and not touching things she shouldn’t. So I call her into the kitchen and explain that the ball has been opened, and part of it has been lost.

“If you were me, how would you feel about this?” I asked.

“I’d be cross?” Flea guessed.

Yep,” I said, looking stern.  

Obviously, I’m not THAT cross – it’s a hamster ball – but there’s a principle at stake and I feel that my parenting credibility demands that I take a stand, or something.

Well, we were going to the waterpark tomorrow but as I now need to buy Mr Hamster a new ball, I think I will use the money I was going to spend at the waterpark, and we’ll stay at home,” I said.

Flea looked a bit sad, but said quietly, “That seems like a fair punishment, Mummy.”

And then we hugged, as I silently congratulated myself on another sterling parenting moment. Except, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Flea smiling.

Is this funny? Do you think I'm kidding?” I said, trying to ignore the fact that actually, the comedy potential of a rogue hamster is quite high.

“No, Mummy,” said Flea, earnestly.

“So why are you laughing?”

“I was laughing because I just remembered a joke,” Flea said.

“Oh really. Go on then. Which joke?” I said, thinking, I’ve got her in a corner, here.

Flea doesn’t skip a beat.

“I was remembering the one where he says, I don’t want to go to school tomorrow, and the lady says, oh but you have to and he says, but why, and she says, well, for one thing you’re 36 and for another, you’re the head teacher.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed. The kid thinks fast. 

No wonder I have zero authority. 


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