In a plastic bag shoved behind the bedside table in our spare room lies a little girl’s dream treasure trove. Unceremoniously bundled together is the pound shop’s finest – bubbles, stickers, tattoos, whoopee cushions, coloured pencils, fairy wings and pirates’ eye patches all waiting patiently to be gifted. Except, unfortunately, they’ll be waiting a long time. My husband acquired that bag of garbage in one enthusiastic sleep-training phase the last time we tried it – or was it the time before? When she stayed in her bed all night, we’d grab something from the bag on the way into her room in the morning and drop it by her fairy door. She was always delighted with what the fairies had brought her, but also slightly nonplussed at how quickly it broke / why it didn’t work at all. What can I say? Fairies in Hackney are cheap. Just as we were panicking that we’d need new supplies, the staying in bed all night came an aprubt end (who knows why now, it’s usually one or several of the following – monsters, going on holiday, tonsillitis, just don’t fancy it anymore). And the bag of crap has been gathering dust ever since, while its intended owner snuggles into her parents’ bed, not bothered in the slightest that she’s missing out.
It’s hard when you have a child who is totally oblivious to bribery. When we potty trained her, everyone advised giving her a sticker or a chocolate every time she did a wee on said potty. She couldn’t have cared less. “Do you want a chocolate button?” I asked her, desperately, as she cheerfully weed through her new Peppa knickers. Yes, she did! But no, forget it if it came with a condition, it was a shrug and on to the next thing. Same with staying in bed all night – no mere sticker on a chart ever stood a chance. And I never would even dream of attempting those behaviour reward things. I just don’t know where she gets this stubborn streak from.
All this means for us is the rewards are pushed to one side, only to emerge when we’re feeling especially charitable (if Dory strolls downstairs sporting a huge pink flower tatt on her arm I know she’ll be followed by my husband guiltily bounding after her with damp flannel and scissors). On reflection, having a strong-minded daughter covered in tattoos is cute at three, but may be a problem when she’s fifteen . .