The Battle of the Cup in the War of Discipline

By Granny Potts

One of my duties as grandmother to my granddaughter, Louise, is to give her her meal before her mom comes to collect her. Louise of eighteen months is a happy healthy toddler who is a delight to care for. She knows I love her dearly however I have become increasingly aware that for her to become kind, appreciative andpleasant as we all need to be, this needs to be effectively taught rather than just hoped for.

Sitting in her high chair Louise finished her meal by taking a long swig of water from her feeder cup. The cup then became a projectile as it flew past my face slightly displacing my new spectacles. Had these broken I would not have been best pleased. Pleased with herself Louise smiled. I, not so pleased, retrieved the cup and pulled what I thought was an ugly face and said, "No", while placing the cup back on the tray where it belonged. This did not have the outcome I had anticipated. Granny's face must have looked comical with her specs at half-cock. Louise giggled.


Without taking her beautiful big baby blue eyes off me Louise picked up the cup and threw it to the floor. Now, toddlers of 18 months don't have a big vocabulary but for all the world it was as if Louise was saying to me, "There ya are Granny, wad ya gonna do about it?".  So, here we have it. My will against hers. She had thrown down the gauntlet of direct confrontation. I had set the boundary of expected behavior and she had crossed it. What, indeed, was I going to do about it!

This was going to be my mission. Louise would put the cup down in its rightful place. I picked up the cup again, removed my specs, put my face in her face; eyeball to eyeball and bawled a big, "NOOOOOOOO", at the same time my finger pointing at her. Louise, startled, howled. When she had settled down I placed the cup in her hand and helped her place it on the tray where it belonged. I said one word, "Nicely". I smiled. She smiled. She picked up the cup and put it down again on the tray. We both clapped our hands together in victory. Meal time over I lifted her out of her high chair and gave her a cuddle.

I have recently retired from teaching at a challenging inner city high school where, with my colleagues, I had fought hard against ignorance as well as unruly behavior some of which as a result of poor socioeconomic factors but mostly indiscipline owing to, what I describe as, wishy-washy hand-wringing parenting.  "I can't do anything with him",  was often the response when parents were called in to moderate their teenager's loutish behavior with the teenagers grunting contemptuously at their parents. A recent report in The Times stated that there is a marked increase in incidents where thepolice are called out by parents unable to control their own children.

I had won the battle of the cup on this occasion. Would it be for all time? Maybe not but for all time I was determined to make sure, that at meal times, the cup would be placed by Louise in its proper place however long it took.  Louise would learn the lesson that Granny expects good behavior and what she expects is whatshe gets. Louise needs to respect both me and her parents and we need to show her we deserve her respect and not contempt. How else will she learn to respect her teachers, other authorities and herself. In the words of that renown political scientist, Robert Putnam, "Early life experiences get under your skin in a powerful way."  As Robert Putnam points out our early life experiences affect our neurobiological development which will affectour later life. It follows good behavior must be taught from a very early age and not just hoped for.

Granny Potts signing off.

About Granny Potts. 

She is a mother of three and grandmother of two from England, and lives there with her husband. A former midwife, nurse and teacher now retired. She successfully breastfed all her children who are now in turn successful mothers and citizens and for which she feels very blessed.

Follow her on Twitter: @Lesleypotts1