What do you do when it comes to disciplining your Terrible Two? I think I use all the usual tricks – phrases and actions probably familiar to you.
When some heinous act of naughtiness has occurred, I only have to say "Go and sit..." and Ru will sadly and slowly take herself off, bottom lip wobbling, to the Naughty Step.
If she's doing something QUITE naughty (and has ignored me saying "No!" twice) but it doesn't really warrant a spell of sitting and thinking about what she has done, I'll say: "RU-by! Don't make me come over there...!" And she usually stops.
Actually, she quite often doesn't stop, but continues whatever it is she's doing v..e..r..y s..l..o..w..l..y – in the hope I won't realise she is still, in fact, doing it.
But one of my methods, one which I believe is employed up and down the country and which usually works (eventually) on other children, has always had the most bizarre and infuriating effect on my daughter.
When I say: "RIGHT! I'm going to count to three!", rather than doing what many toddlers do (push their luck until their mum has got to at LEAST "two-and-a-half", but then toeing the line) she always just, well, bolts! Sometimes, she bolts so quickly, she'll run into a door or a wall or something, on her way to goodness knows where. It takes ages before she quietly re-enters the room.
Anyway, this was very puzzling indeed... until the other day.
To explain, Ruby and her sister Ava just love playing together. I'm very lucky really, in as much as I can get an awful lot done while they entertain each other. Often I think they'd rather I wasn't in the house at all, actually – they're always sneaking off, perfectly happy in just one another's company.
While I love the sound of them giggling and enjoying their games, I have realised that I must have been zoning them out somewhat. I always intervene when I detect raised voices, of course, but in terms of the general happy babble, well, it's just that. As long as they aren't throttling each other, I think I stay saner by not absorbing their incessant chatter.
Well, last week, during the afternoon, we encountered a little episode of misbehaviour that warranted the aforementioned "I'm going to count to three...!" threat. Ava allowed me to get to two before she stopped emptying their wardrobe of its contents.
But by the time I had finished saying "count", Ruby, at her usual high speed, had vanished. Assuming she was just trying to avoid the telling off, I sighed and raised my voice so Ru, from wherever she was, could hear me explaining why I most definitely did not want them to chuck their clean clothes all over the room.
When Ruby peered around the door, several minutes later, I was still re-folding trousers and T-shirts, so she and Ava began setting up some farm animals and mooing at each other. They were still playing happily by the time I'd turned my attention to sorting (about a million) odd socks – and I must have been paying more attention than usual.
You see, in a instant I realised that, the whole time, Ruby had been completely oblivious to the warning tone of my voice. In fact, she must have been thinking I was merely trying to lighten the mood, or distract her, with a little spot of fun. It was suddenly all clear – not only WHY she runs, but why she runs so very fast.
What gave it away? Well, in the middle of their farmyard adventures, suddenly, without any warning whatsoever that they were about to play something new, Ava stood up.
She covered her eyes with her hands and said loudly: "Ruby, I'm going to count. One, two, THREE... COMING READY OR NOT!"