Girlbug ate all the chocolate: a lesson in impulse control

She ate all the chocolate. Twice. The first time was dramatic, the second was telling.

The first time was the advent calendars. I’d put them in the lounge, out of reach of Boybug (obvs), and only just in reach of Girlbug. There were two each. Each child had a cardboard, chocolate filled one, and one of those ornate wooden ones with that I had filled with a mix of chocolates, sweets, trinkets and clues. I thought we’d be ok this year, but in hindsight I’d just set up one of those twee experiments from “the secret lives of four year olds”.

Chocolatey hands

So. Early one morning, in the first week of December, Girlbug heard my husband leave for work. She ran downstairs to wave to him as he rode off on his bike. She’s not allowed downstairs on her own, but does sometimes wave to my husband and then go back to bed, play in her room, or come cuddle me.

Only this time, as she passed the lounge on her way to the stairs, there stood four advent calendars filled with treats. Calling to her. So she did what many four year olds would do. She ate all the chocolate out of her wooden calendar, and half out of her brothers because she failed to notice it was double sided. Then she stuffed the wrappers down behind the sofa, leaving a mucky trail of chocolate on the cushions. And then she pretended to be asleep.

When we came down that morning, she was insistent we eat the chocolate out of the cardboard calendars first. So we did. Then they opened those little wooden drawers. Hands clasped to her cheeks with her best Disney face on, Girlbug exclaimed “the elves have forgotten to put anything in the advent calendar”. Boybug joined in, “is all gone!”, unaware his sister had eaten all of his!

Anyway, I was pretty calm until I saw the cushions. But I recovered after a coffee, we had breakfast and a long talk about how that was a very silly thing to do. The elves put the calendars even higher up and replaced the chocolate in Boybug’s calendar. Girlbug’s remained empty. She opened the little boxes every day in case the elves changed their minds. They didn’t. But she still had her cardboard one full of chocolate so she wasn’t too sad.

There were lessons there for all of us. We learned Girlbug still isn’t great at controlling those impulses, and is also pretty poor at lying. Boybug learned not to trust his sister implicitly, and Girlbug learned that it sucks to watch someone else eat all their chocolate day after day when you’ve eaten yours in one big binge.

But that was all a while ago. Then last week it happened again and it all came flooding back. We’d been at a kids party and were sitting at the kitchen table. Girlbug was finishing her cake, Boybug was eating chocolate buttons from his party bag. He dropped one, and I was busy, so said I’d get it in a second. Girlbug offered to help. She bent down, grabbed the button, and just slipped it in her mouth. She looked at Boybug and then at me, her hand clasped over her mouth, guilt in her eyes. Once she finished it she whispered “sorry” very meekly. When she bent down to pick it up, I am pretty sure her intentions were good…but as soon as that chocolate was in her hands, it was going in her mouth. She tried to convince us (and herself) she had done it so that she could give Boybug some of her cake. But we all knew it was just an inability to control those impulses.

Again, we talked about the need to think first, to slow actions down, to think about how others will feel. But something tells me it’s going to be a long learning curve. Apparently self control is something they begin to get between three and six years of age. Some kids are better than others, and according to this interesting review, personality, genetics and parenting all play a part in how well a child develops self-control. 

Here’s hoping both kids develop some soon…preferably before Easter! Meanwhile, my Valentines’ chocolates are well out of reach, and very likely going to be consumed by me in the next few hours to make sure Girlbug doesn’t get them!!

What do you think? Should I have been harder on her? Or just wait for the self control fairies to sprinkle her with the ability to stand near chocolate without it falling in her mouth? What’s the least self-control your child has ever shown?

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