Bribery, or a lesson in dealing with anxiety.
I love a good win and I got one today.
It was 7.30am and Bright Eyes was not dressed and complaining his head off.
"I'm not going to the athletics carnival. I'm Not. It's Rubbish. It's Poop. It's a garbage smell. I don't have to go. I Refuse to go. Blah blah blah, yada yada yada."
Now he has never been keen on sports carnivals and in kindy, year one and part of year two, he didn't go because I couldn't get him there. But this year we managed to get him to cross countryand he went on the school excursion, so I knew that it was at least theoretically possible.
First I decided to get him dressed using the path of least resistance and brought down his clothes and warmed them in front of the heater for him. So that was hurdle number one sorted out.
Then I tried the You Will Go approach.
"You have to go," I said. "You can't stay home today."
"I won't go," he said. "I will stay home."
"No. You have to. You're going."
"No, I'm not," he said. "I'm not going."
"You don't have to compete," I said. "You just have to be there to cheer for your school."
"No! I don't!" he said.
I could see tears starting to build up and I re-evaluated. Clearly there was more in this than just a simple try-it-on refusal.
"You seem worried," I said.
"Yes, I'm very worried," he said. "And I'm not going."
"What are the things you're worried about?" I asked.
"Going to the athletics carnival," he said.
"Is it the bus?" I asked. He nodded, but I knew it wasn't really that.
"Remember you've been on the bus before? You went on the excursion. And you went on it to cross country. You sat next to J that day. You had a good day."
"Yes. And there's going to be a new bus," he said, slightly mollified. "But I'm not going."
"What else are you worried about?" I said.
"It's boring at carnivals."
"Oh, I wonder what you could do about that?" I said. "Maybe you could take a book or a toy."
"I'm not allowed," he said.
I was scrambling for something positive to hang the whole thing on, so I asked him what he liked about the cross country carnival.
"They had a canteen," he said. "I bought an ice block."
"Oh yes!" I said, thanking above. "Well. Did you know that at the athletics carnival there's going to be a canteen as well? And some of our school parents will be doing it. In Fact, there's a menu Right Here on the newsletter."
We read the menu together. He found three things that he wanted and I said, "Well, you can get all of those."
"But I'll be too full," he objected.
"Well, no," I said. "You could go once, buy something and eat it, and then you could go back again when you feel like it. You could even go three times if you want to!"
He considered the possibility. "How much money is it?"
We added it up and found it came to $4.80.
"Here's a $5 note," I said, but he was still wavering. It was only when we found the exact money, put it in his pocket and heard the coins jingle that he was happy to get his shoes on and head out the door.
As he walked up the path I heard him say to another boy, "Hey B, guess what? I've got $4.80 in my pocket!"
I don't call it bribery. It's more an investment in anxiety management!
When he got off the bus, he was happy. It had been a good day. And he had even entered two events. "I got disqualified in both," he said, but he wasn't distressed about it.
That's a win.