I have been involved in raising three children. Sometimes they were naughty, or awkward, or uncooperative, or miserable, or annoying, or cranky, or crispy, or silly.
After much observation and experimentation, I came to the conclusion that nearly all of the time this undesirable behaviour stemmed from the child being in one of these six states:
- Needs a poo
- Done a poo
So much so that I made this up into a little saying, putting these things into pairs: Hungry or thirsty; tired or poorly; needs a poo, done a poo.
("Done a poo" only applies to the child who is still in nappies; the others apply through toddlerdom, and into early childhood, and who knows how long beyond that.)
Of course each of these six states has something you can do to get the child out of them:
- Hungry: Feed
- Thirsty: Give drink
- Tired: Send to bed
- Poorly: Give Calprofen (Ibuprofen in liquid formulated for children)
- Needs a poo: Encourage to do poo. Give warm tea. (In future ensure they drink enough so their poo doesn't get so hard.)
- Done a poo: Change nappy
and once that is done, the child usually cheers up rapidly.
So whenever the child would become naughty, I would think through the list of six things and try to divine if one of them could be the problem.
So for example in the morning we would usually give them a drink of milk. But if that was delayed for any reason, they would tend to be thirsty and this would make them naughty. But by giving them a drink, they would rapidly cheer up again.
One time my boy didn't get enough to drink after breakfast, and he became naughty and uncooperative. I realised what the problem was: thirst. But on this occasion there was a problem: he was now so uncooperative that I could not get him to drink anything. A vicious circle.
I decided to time how long things would take. It took … 45 minutes … to persuade him to drink something. He then drank a significant proportion of a glass of drink. I then watched to see how long it would take for the drink to take effect.
The time taken for the drink to take effect?
— after which time he was once again happy.
This was understandably frustrating at the time: to have to spend so long persuading him, when the drink had such a relatively quick effect.
But this experience proved to be gold dust afterwards. If ever he became "over thirsty" and uncooperative, I could always explain to him that he was cranky because he was thirsty and remind him that a drink would cheer him up in eight minutes. Because there was a concrete example to refer to, it would have a much better bet at punching through his uncooperative frame of mind.
I wonder how many parents do not realise that these six things are often what makes children naughty, and waste untold effort disciplining and sanctioning their children, when all that might be needed is a drink, or to feed them at regular intervals.