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praise over punishment

Updated: Feb 29

This is my Poppit, Wednesday after school I picked him up & asked 'Mini Golf or 10 Pin Bowling'? We were supposed to have friends for dinner, they weren't able to make so I seen in as an opportunity to do something fun with my boy. This week one of the school mums approached me to say that Poppits language & behaviour during online gaming & carried into the playground towards her son had been concerning. Poppit heard part of the conversation, he was worried & upset that he was in big trouble.

He had swimming that afternoon, he was in knots, really upset, crying, snotty & full of emotion & things to say. He was adamant that he wasn't going swimming & that we were going straight home. We had 45mins between school pickup & his lesson. We drove to the sea near the swimming pool & I listened & listened whilst holding the boundary that he would be going swimming. He became more & more upset each time I said he was going swimming, it was quite the disco of emotions in the car that afternoon. Eventually I said 'Poppit, you & your body are doing all the right things, you're getting some of those big feelings out. I know you're really upset & swimming feels like the last thing you want to do, I know that feeling when you feel so bad you don't want to do what you had planned AND we are going to get out of the car in 10 minutes. I need space from you & you from me, you need to move your body & you will feel even better for it. Tell me what you need in these next 10 minutes, how can I help you? He eventually let me hug him, he got out of the car effortlessly & went happily to his swimming lesson. #proudmummoment

The routine after swimming is to get hot chips & to bring them home & eat them on the sofa (together with mum approved protein & salad bits) while watching 20 something year old men gaming on YouTube (I'm certain you can gather how I feel about this!!!). It's the one guaranteed time in the week when he can watch gamers on YouTube at mine. Historically Poppit has whined at me to also get fish. I've gotten through to him that whining will not only result in no fish but also the chips. When we got in the car he said 'can I get a fish?', I said nothing. When we got to the fish & chip shop I got my bankcard out, gave it to him & said 'why don't you get yourself a piece of fish too' - he's not a hugger, or forth coming with his affection for me - in that moment I got a huge hug AND some verbal appreciation. We got home & he asked 'can I still watch You Tube'? 'Of course' was my response, I'm going out for a cold plunge & a sauna so please come & get me in half an hour. Should have seen that kids face, I swear he's never looked more chuffed with life! And I got my needs met too - flipping amazing!

Is there something underlying for Poppit?

Fast forward through conversations & texts with school mums, the Head Teacher, Poppit, Poppits dad, loved ones, the former tutor Sarah (who offered up some brilliant 'in Poppits best interests' questions & 'is there something underlying for Poppit? That sort of behaviour is not like him so I’m questioning is there something bothering him?') & things are better than before the conversation.

I've gone back to the mum who shared with me & had a really respectful & positive exchange. I trust that the lines of communication are open & understanding should anything else 'crop up'. The feedback I got was that she appreciated the action I'd taken in raising with Poppit & the school & especially for getting back to her with what what being done. That was a no brainer, of course I would close that loop. #OpenRespectfulCommunicationMatters

This situation has highlighted the need to bring balance to 'gadgeting'. I'm not a fan of online gaming & kids being on screens AT ALL. Poppit has an x-box at his dads, he plays with his pal after school one day each week & then another's, it's how they connect - its what they do, they love it. It's all Poppit talks about from waking to bed time, he's obsessed, & I oscillate between accepting & allowing his 'interest', giving him space to share & wishing obsessively that he'd find something else to talk about & do.

This share has been a blessing in disguise

This share has been a blessing in disguise. It's opened the door to a much needed conversation about gaming, discussing the importance of differentiating between the gaming world & the real world, the need for balance, for making sure we respect & listen to what others say. Overall my biggest priority as his mum is to facilitate a world where he is happy, healthy & safe - & to model & communicate bringing these traits to our friendships.

The child at school was P7, Poppit is P5 - obviously at different developmental ages & stages. The world over, younger kids are generally annoying to older kids & think it's great when they're getting a reaction & they find it hilarious to do the annoying thing over & over again, add a pal to the mix & on it goes. Poppit has shown an increase in physicality over the past couple of years, as is the case with all growing boys. Plus his increased confidence socially (in large part through his joy of gaming with his pals) would also explain a fair bit. The thing is he's still little, he's working this stuff out, same goes with the P7 child. Many adults struggle with this stuff. Poppit has always been a sensitive wee bean & being 'out there' in a social sense hasn't been his 'go to', so in many ways this feedback is actually quite affirming that he is growing, adjusting, interacting & mixing with his peers.

This inspires me to 'do the work' and fuels my work as a Transformational Coach. I LOVE humans, I LOVE understanding human behaviour & I LOVE figuring out how to safely, happily & healthily figure out ways for folk to be seen, heard & understood. Most importantly, the work & communication between Poppit & I then beyond.

I'd be lying if I said my instinct was to give him a row and blame all the x-boxing at dads

I'd be lying if I said my instinct was to give him a row and blame all the x-boxing at dads (because I'm possibly the most disinterested & massively gaming & gadget triggered parent around), and I didn't! I managed to reign myself in and use it as an opportunity to show him that I'm on his side, I want to understand the situation & communicate with all involved parties. I immediately seen it as a great growth opportunity for Poppits learning, for me as a parent of a child who games, to navigate school mum/playground shares & to strengthen relationships. To not see this as 'bad' & using the learnings to carry forward to the situations life throws our way.


We carried on with our normal week and I made extra effort to praise the things he was doing well, things which used to be an effort (no whining at night or in the morning, helping out, doing great at swimming, getting ready & out the door, easy drop off at school, reading at night etc), I also turned up the dial on the our 'connection times' (reading in bed at night, meal times, the drive to & from school). Today along with Mini Golf (his treat of choice), we followed up with a Smash Burger takeaway (his fav.) a movie at the cinema (Migration)....a small (& worthwhile) flipping fortune on a Wednesday after school.... & a longer read than usual before bed.


Although the catalyst for all this was something I could have been really concerned about, it was mostly an opportunity for connection, to connect & praise the good things - & discuss the 'problem' as the lesser focus. This approach is largely inspired by my interest in Hand in Hand parenting (where I consciously applied all 5 of the 5 principles; special time, stay listening, play listening, setting limits & the listening partnership) I highly recommend reading up on it if you are feeling inspired/curious by this share.

In some of Poppits words, he's decided it's best not to play online with older kids, that dad will need to set gaming restrictions, that it's important to check if someone is happy being walloped in the playground, to come to me or his dad when something doesn't feel right & that we'll always find a way to make it right.


Celebrating some good 'mumming' this week, & celebrating connecting with my boy who's still so young & despite growing up too fast is actually still quite sweet & innocent. Poppit's presenting as a happy, healthy & safe wee boy, I reckon I'm doing something right.

Main takeaway: Instead of jumping to the blame game with kids, why not pause a 'charged reaction', celebrate the great stuff (which takes the focus away from the problem) then come at that problem from a softer/less reactive place where attack & blame aren't so 'loud'? 

Thanks for your time, love and attention.

Bron x

x Bron

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