Each morning, around 05:36, I wake up and see this little face (most of which is hidden behind a large dummy/soother) staring up at me. It is, by a long shot, the greatest thing to wake up to; yet having said that, it is just too damn early for today’s instalment of fatherhood. In my mind (all being well during the sleeping hours) fatherhood should start around 06:00 at the earliest!
This is then followed by the ritual of me picking my little sweetheart up and carrying her kicking and screaming back to her room, instructing her to wait until “the sun comes up” before she comes into mommy and daddy’s room again. Of course I don’t mean the real sun (here in the UK that can be 04:00 for around two weeks, 09:00 for 48 weeks, and never for 2 weeks). I’m talking about her little Grobag Gro-Clock armed with disappearing stars and a winking sun!
Each night we set the display of the Gro-Clock to the sleeping star, who then gives way to the waking sun at 06:00 (reminder: that is when fatherhood starts each day – if I repeat it enough times it may come true). It’s probably easier for me to just pull her into bed with me at 05:36 and be done with it. The reason I am persisting with carrying her back to her room is that I am trying to shape her behaviour. Shaping, according to psychologist BF Skinner, is when one takes an existing response (waking at 05:36 and coming to our room) and slowly, but regularly, alters it across consecutive trials towards a final (target) desired behaviour (my daughter staying in her room until 06:00). This is most effective when the behaviour is rewarded; in this case, getting all excited when she shows me the smiling sun and telling her how proud I am of her for staying in her room. The theory is based on the principle of operant conditioning - when behaviour is modified by consequences. We commonly know this as rewarding and punishing. In fact, it is this principle which Jo Frost (aka “Supernanny”) uses to alter the behaviour of her clients’ problematic children.
If all else fails, I guess I’ll see you at 05:40 (4 minutes to shower and leave the house!)