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BETWEEN THE LINES

'Pete's a Pizza' book offers tips on easing children's mood swings

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 9:17am

When my daughter is eager to relate news back to her teachers, she has a habit of interrupting them at inconvenient times.

Once, after she told me the street that her teacher Miss K lived on, I mentioned that I used to live on the same street before getting married. My daughter exuberantly told poor Miss K about it as she was trying to corral a dozen five-year-olds for morning exercises.

One Monday morning as my daughter was getting ready for school, I recount with her all the fun things we did at the weekend. I tell her gently that if she wants to regale Miss K with these tales, she can do so after morning exercises - or better yet, when she is asked about it.

Much to my surprise, my daughter's eyes cloud over and she looks terribly offended. She crawls under our coffee table, declaring that she will never go to school again.

I lovingly explain that she shouldn't react this way. When she refuses to budge, I give up on cajoling and turn to reverse psychology, shrugging my shoulders and telling her it's perfectly fine with me if she never sees her teachers or plays with her friends at school again.

This tactic fails and I suddenly realise that we're late for school. In the end, I resort to scolding and threats.

After dropping her off at school, I return home in a mood. In my mind, moody parents are bad parents, so I escape to the internet and trawl for answers about my daughter's sudden mood reversal.

After briefly considering whether my daughter has "oppositional defiant disorder" or is a "chronically inflexible child", I stop the madness and turn off both the computer and my neurotic thoughts.

I decide to stick to the logical strategy I forgot that morning: listen and lighten up. The next time my daughter gets surly, I should simply pay attention and care about what she has to say. I mustn't be so quick to dismiss her words and judge her actions.

I take inspiration from William Steig's homonymic children's book, Pete's a Pizza, wherein the father responds to Pete's moodiness by picking up the boy as if he were a big ball of dough and setting him on the kitchen table. Pete's mother joins the father in "kneading" and "garnishing" Pete, who giggles as they sprinkle flour (talcum powder), tomatoes (draughts game pieces) and cheese (pieces of paper) on him.

Although the story was written and published after Steig's 90th birthday, Pete's a Pizza is based on a game he used to play with his daughter.

In any event, as with those seemingly endless nights of late-night milk feeds, I take comfort in knowing that moody episodes also don't go on forever.

Annie Ho is the board chairwoman of Bring Me A Book Hong Kong, a children's literacy charity bringmeabook.org.hk

 

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