‘Please come and sit down for tea,’ I say.
‘No,’ says Rose and George in unison. ‘We want to eat it in front of the television.’
Oh dear. This is against the house rules. Theirs, that is. Not ours. (I’ve given up trying to persuade my husband of ten years not to have the odd sneaky snack in front of the box.)
‘But it’s much nicer,’ at the table,’ I plead. ‘I could read you a story.’
‘No,’ says George firmly. ‘We want Paw Patrol.’
I have to be honest here.
Much as I love helping out with my grandchildren, there are times when I find it very difficult to get them to do what I want.
Maybe it’s because of lockdown. There been quite a lot of features recently in newspapers about children being livelier and at times disruptive now they’re back at school. Maybe it’s a sort of de-mob freedom.
But I think there’s more to it than that. ‘They always get excited when you come over,’ says my daughter.
I’d like to take that as a compliment. But maybe it’s because I’m not strict enough. Rose and George know I bend the rules every now and then. So when I try to be firm about something – like tea at the table – they try to get me to change my mind.
Can you blame them? I’ve broken the important ‘c’ word. Consistency.
When my three were little, I was much stricter.
Back in the 80s, we had what lots or parents called the ‘naughty step’ for starters. I never really liked that idea but it did seem to work. When one of mine was particularly naughty – such as coming out with a rude word they had picked up from somewhere – they would sit on a small stool in the kitchen.
When they got older, I was very firm about homework and bedtime. But I have to say that I did become more relaxed when baby number three arrived. There’s only so much you can juggle!
So I’m intrigued to find out how today’s generation of parents discipline their children.
‘We’ve just started the one, two, three approach,’ says my daughter. ‘A friend recommended it.
‘If George or Rose do something they shouldn’t, I hold up a finger and say One to indicate they have two more chances. Then two to show they have one more. Three means they sit down quietly on ‘the thinking step’ for five minutes. Then they don’t have a particular treat, or perhaps have to wait for it.’
So far it’s working. I’m very impressed. It’s not that different from my naughty chair except that they are given an audible countdown warning. Apparently, the 1,2,3 has become all the rage. Not literally of course since ‘rage’ is exactly what it’s trying to avoid.
And of course, there’s one big snag in this method. What if the child won’t listen and refuses to sit down? I’d love to know your thoughts on that. Our email address is at the end if you’ve got some ideas.
The other trick to keeping children happy is to give them your undivided attention. I always remember my mother telling me that when my eldest was a baby. ‘Make him think you have all the time in the world,’ she says.
But it’s not that easy. During the tea versus Paw Patrol argument, my phone rings. It’s my agent with a question about the Zoom launch of my new book THE LIES WE TELL on June 30 (if you’d like an invitation, there are details at the end). She’s very understanding because she has grown-up children of her own.
But George and Rose take full advantage of the fact that I’m talking while watching them and cooking tea at the same time. So everything becomes rather noisy.
‘Do you mind if I ring you back?’ I ask.
Then I discover that the peas are burned so I have to make another lot. Oh dear.
By the way, just I case you’re wondering who won the argument about in the tea at the table or tea in front of the television, I’d say it was a sort of draw. I did persuade them to sit down, but they didn’t eat much. So when it was clear they weren’t going to have another mouthful, I let them watch Paw Patrol.
Then they got bored and began fighting with rubber swords.
‘One, two, three,’ I say. Then I realise I’ve said it all in a rush. So I try again.
‘One,’ I say putting up my finger. ‘Please put down your swords.’
They continue fighting.
‘Two,’ I say, holding up two fingers.
Still fighting but not with so much gusto.
‘Three,’ I say desperately.
They put down their weapons.
Yes! It worked.
‘How were they?’ says my daughter when she comes back.
‘Brilliant,’ I say. ‘Absolutely brilliant.’
Then I go home to practice the 1,2,3 on husband and dog. I’ll let you know how we get on!
So what do you think?
Thanks for your thoughts about whether children should be vaccinated or not. Here are some of the replies I’ve received.
Debs from Cornwall says:
‘My 14-year-old grandson has an underlying heart condition. I’d like to know more about the vaccination before he has the jab in case it interferes with the drugs he has to take.’
Alison from Yorkshire says:
‘I think it’s really important for teenagers to have the jab. My grandchildren are always out with their friends and don’t pay much attention to social distancing. It would make it safer for them and also us if they were protected.’
Next week, we’ll be talking about playdates and whether the virus has affected your opinion of them. A recent report says that children as young as five are scared to mix with friends socially because they’ve been so used to being apart from them. Do send us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grandparent Of The Week
‘I don’t look after my grandchildren regularly because both sets live several miles away. But when we get together we have great fun. Arabella and her cousin Arthur are both three years old so they’re good company for each other.
‘Arabella is about to have a baby brother which is very exciting! I was able to go up for her birthday last year and I saw her at Christmas. We also had lots of family chats on Zoom and quizzes which we hadn’t done before.
‘Before lockdown, I used to see Arthur every month. But then of course it all stopped. However, we celebrated the ‘new rules’ by having a little holiday in Wales a few weeks ago. We stayed at an ecological holiday park with wooden chalets. Arthur loves swimming and he hadn’t been able to go for ages – so it was a real joy to see the excitement on his face.
‘It was fascinating to see how he’d grown and developed during lockdown. His speech is much more grown up and he can catch a ball! The trip bought us all even closer.
‘The twins were nine and my youngest was eight when their father died. He was called John Arthur so my grandson is named after him. People sometimes say it must have been hard bringing up three small boys on my own but they were such lovely children – so it wasn’t as tough as it sounds.
‘They had enough memories of their father for him to be a role model. I’m proud of them for being such fantastic dads.’
Jane’s New Thriller
JANE CORRY’S new Penguin domestic family thriller THE LIES WE TELL is out now! When 15-year-old Freddie comes back one wet windy night and says he’s killed someone, his mother Sarah doesn’t believe him. Her husband wants to go straight to the police but in the morning, Saran and Freddie are gone. You can order a copy now from Amazon.
If you’d like an invitation to the launch and to meet Jane’s agent and the Penguin team, please email email@example.com.