How Supernanny Helped My Garden
I have gravel & rocks in my front garden and it’s usually low maintenance, but occasionally proves completely irresistible to some of the neighbourhood children, perhaps because it looks like a big sand pit.
Since younger children have perhaps not learned about boundaries and/or respecting other people’s property this can sometimes be a nuisance if they take to playing with it or throwing it around as has happened occasionally in the past when I’ve had to go out and ask them to stop.
Recently though I had a wonderfully different experience….
I saw a couple of the local children playing in the gravel on my garden. They’d made a bit of a mess and spread some of the gravel out onto the adjoining paving stones.
A couple of days previously I’d watched an episode of Supernanny for research purposes in another area (it was to help me deal with some 2 year olds in adult bodies who were being difficult), so some of the principles she teaches were still in mind.
In the past I used to get a bit angry about the children being on my garden and making a mess. So, this time, before I went out, I made sure I was calm and took a couple of deep breaths to help with that, then went out to talk with the children.
Initially they’d run off, perhaps scared and, knowing deep down already that they really shouldn’t be on there. But they’d left a bike propped up at the side of the house, so I knew they couldn’t be far away. I waited and asked them to come out, saying that I just wanted to talk with them — they emerged from a nearby hiding place.
I bent down so I was on their level and making eye contact (especially important when you’re tall — but even if you’re not it’s essential to put yourself on their level and look them in the eye). I used a low authoritative tone of voice.
Then, calmly, I asked if they remembered how I’d asked them before not to play on the garden and gravel (it was a young brother and sister around 4 or 5 years old).
The boy sort of did, but said he sometimes had difficulty remembering things.
I asked what he could do to help him remember.
He said he didn’t know.
I asked if he did know what could he could do to help him remember.
He said he still didn’t know and that he said ‘I don’t know’ a lot.
So I changed tack slightly, pointing to his bike — and asked him how he’d feel if someone took it and started riding it without his permission.
At first he said he wouldn’t be that bothered, but then that he’d go after them and knock them off it (so clearly he did care to some degree).
I asked the little girl if she had some toys at home that were hers, and sought to make the same point — to get them to think about how they’d feel if someone was messing about with something of theirs. This was starting to sink in.
I then went on to explain (keeping calm and assertive) that the gravel was part of my house, belonged to me and I didn’t like it when people messed about with it.
That seemed to make sense to them.
I then asked them to imagine and pretend that my garden had a fence all around it. Even though it doesn’t — could they imagine that and see it in their minds?
They were starting to.
The points seemed to sink in, so I asked them to please not play in the gravel in the future, explained why it was wrong (it’s mine, and is not there to be played with etc). I also asked them to put the gravel back where it should be.
I then went back inside my house, and happened to notice through the window that they’d now gone back to the area of gravel they’d disturbed and were putting back handfuls of gravel from their pockets.
They didn’t actually put back all the gravel that was spread on the paving, but I figured I’d get to it myself at some point and probably have to use a brush. I decided to carry on with my evening and went back to the film I was watching.
On reflection, them not putting back the gravel they’d spread on the paving may well have been due to me not clearly explaining and communicating that I wanted them to put that specific area of gravel back (not what they had in their pockets since I didn’t know about that at the time).
The next day when I arrived home from work the boy was riding his bike nearby and I think we said hello. I walked toward my front door and pointed out that he hadn’t put back the gravel from on the paving slab.
He said it was his sister who had done it.
I suggested he help out his sister and put it all back into this area where it goes (this time being careful to clearly explain what I wanted him to do).
He made a vague comment, which I didn’t think meant he’d actually do anything, so I left it at that.
When I got inside I saw through the window that he did actually seem to be putting the gravel back.
About 10 minutes later my door bell rang. I answered it to find the same young boy there and he told me he’d put it all back as well as stood up one of the bits of wood that keeps the gravel in place.
I looked, and, using a higher tone of voice, genuinely praised him by telling him that he’d done a good job. I thanked him for doing it and reminded him of something I’d said the day before about how cats have pooed in the gravel previously and suggested he go and wash his hands again;
that more than anything may well be the strongest incentive to leave the gravel alone, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as effective without everything else I did.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the positive behaviour and his willingness to put the gravel back, and also his showing initiative by actually taking the time to ring the bell and tell me he’d done it, and he was very polite.
I marvelled for a few minutes at how effective and how well Supernanny’s techniques worked, and was very grateful I’d watched the episode and learned these things.
Thank you Supernanny.
Specific things I learned from what she teaches:
Punishment for bad behaviour (following a warning and explanation of the bad behaviour) then putting the child on the naughty step until they do what they’re supposed to/stop doing the bad behaviour
Using a low voice tone for authority when disciplining, and a higher voice tone for praising good behaviour. (Kids thrive on that attention thing).
When talking with a small child and explaining things get down to their level physically and look them in the eye.
Rinse repeat the above and stay consistent & persistent — keep the routine — kids need routine and to know what is expected of them.
The first 2 episodes of Supernanny can be watched for free at www.channel4.com.