Ice cream discipline

“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”
― Don Kardong

When I want to throttle my kids, I take them out for ice cream. They’re screaming, beating on each other, whining, complaining―you name the most undesired behaviour, the thing that makes you understand why parents batter their children―and I’m about to turn into evil monster mommy who’ll out-scream and out-whine them―when they’re so bad―and I use that weighty word advisedly, because they’re so bad not even the most Pollyanist attachment parent guru could put a positive spin on what they are doing―when they’re so bad I want to freecycle all three of them, and maybe throw in my partner for good measure cause, you know, he contributed half the genetic material that gave rise to those monsters―when I’m completely at the end of my rope and about to start screaming, my absolutely full-proof, never-fail strategy is to take the kids out for ice cream.

The nearest ice cream place near our house is a 15-20 minute walk away, over a couple of bridges and through a lovely park. It gets us out of the house and into the outdoors, which is often enough to reset the entire day, to give us a clean start.

The weather where we live sucks much of the time, so we’re not always up for the walk. ‘s okay. The nearest drive-through ice cream place is a 15-20 minute drive away. “Ice cream” as a rallying call makes getting three kids into the car a piece of cake (especially if the alternative is staying in the house with Psycho Mom). They’re restrained in car seats. I pop in a book on tape. And there is 20 minutes of silence and looking forward to ice cream―followed by devouring of ice cream, and thank yous, and appreciation of each other.

To make ice cream, we need to walk to the grocery store―about a 25 minute walk at kid pace, or 5 minutes in the car or by bike. Gets us out too. Then back. Then working together to create a treat. (We make lazy Vitamix ice cream that’s ready in 1 minute. Yum.)

Ice cream discipline works―without fail―because it creates a disruption in the negative behaviour pattern we’ve all gotten into. It’s the reset button. And it’s, you know, ice cream.

Worried that it rewards bad behaviour? It doesn’t. It stops it. On my part, as well as theirs. And lets enjoy each other again―and have a pretty good rest of the day.

“Have you ever spent days and days and days making up flavors of ice cream that no one’s ever eaten before? Like chicken and telepone ice cream? Green mouse ice cream was the worst. I didn’t like that at all.” 
― Neil Gaiman , The Sandman, Vol. 7: Brief Lives

For more ice cream quotes, go visit this page of Good Reads.

Now, I know you can’t always get out for ice cream in the middle of a disaster of a day. Ice Cream Discipline’s sister strategy is coming tomorrow.

It's the picture of Italian ice-cream in a sho...

What’s your fool-proof “the kids get to live!”/”reset” strategy?

19 thoughts on “Ice cream discipline

  1. Unfortunately, we don’t have a foolproof reset strategy. We have this dingy, thin, old glider rocker, not the big cushy one I dreamed of for nursing in, as we couldn’t afford it at the time, but we got this on kijiji eight years ago, and it has served its purpose and then some ever since. When we are all having an especially bad time of it, we usually take turns having a snuggle in the chair and “rocking” to calm down (or gliding as the case may be). Usually, there are a few more last minute fights until its decided who gets to go first with Mom and the timer, and unfortunately, the whole event is usually after all of us has had a major meltdown, and yours truly has contributed to the crying/screaming fest and modeling of undesired behavior. While I always love our snuggles and “gliding” time, and while one child gets loved on, the other one can happily engage in something unprovoked, and we all meet up afterwards with our cups full of love again, I’m always a bit sad that I wasn’t able to stop the emotional fiasco before it got out of control. We were never taught the trick to ward off psycho mom and hit reset BEFORE chaos ensues. It never would have occurred to me. Thank you so much. Next time, I’ll try the ice cream.

    • I love that strategy because shifting gears is really the ticket. Punishment for the chaos just creates more negativity for EVERYBODY. For us all too often the behaviour is really not behavoiur but rather chaos in the numbers and quite innocent play BUT loud. Which equates to me feeling overwehlmed by childhood. I will remember that but really? How often do you make it? Smile, wink – though I know you do and would…………….but I am thinking more about the going out for strategy!

    • Robin, the ice cream strategy totally grew out of our cuddling in the nursing chair strategy–when the bodies just got too bit to do that comfortable! And I think… emotional fiascos will always happen. No matter what. Because life is like that. So while it’s great to head them off and eliminate triggers when we can… well, they’ll happen. Says the mother of Flora, who needs to think this right now, or else I would spend all my time feeling guilty that I didn’t head off yet another emotional fiasco.

  2. Should I , could I, would I? Reblog or is that not cool……….not really understanding if people want that or not. I do think everybody should have this strategy in the back pocket along with some reassurance that a positive shift is better than staying in the negative.

  3. Now I want ice-cream! Is that picture of ice cream from here in Calgary? And drive-thru ice cream?! Please share where! Oh ya – you asked a question here. Our instant go to reset button is usually TV. Mostly because mine will still bicker on the way to getting ice cream. Although we have been known to drive to DQ for raspberry – oreo blizzards. Starbucks is also a hit. Value Village or Huckleberry’s to trade an old toy for a new one which will hopefully keep them playing for a couple of hours to buy me some silence. Library for some new books and a booster juice. Or now that Kloe can keep up, a bike ride to a local park where we have a picnic snack and play.

    • LOL. The ice cream’s a stock pic, but there’s a gelato shop in Kensington–Wake Bistro–that will afford a similar view. Drive-thru ice cream = Peter’s Drive-In on Edmonton Trail. But any Dairy Queen would do in a pinch.

      To segue off “discipline” and into ice cream lore, I had the most unexpected taste sensation yesterday: green tea ice cream with black cherries rolled into it. It cured everything. (at Marble Slam Creamery at 17th.)

      …and now I think I need to pitch a story to Avenue or another mag about best ice cream stores in Calgary so that I can do some really thorough research…

  4. When training foster-parents-to-be I talk about having an Outrageous Jar with slips of paper on it that have really fun, super-silly, or just plain outrageous things on them to be pulled out in times of absolute chaos and unhappiness. Helps to trigger something in the brain of parent and child so some new neural pathways can be used and going out for ice cream, preferably in one’s pyjamas, is one of the suggestions. Love this post!

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  6. sadly, i usually end up more screamy and more whiny then the kids when they get this way. I like the idea of just getting out and going somewhere. When i was in England and everything was within walking or cycling distance we did get out more and sometimes i probably did use this strategy often just without realising it. Now I am in Texas and it would require driving anyway and the kids are NEVER quiet in the car so it is a minimum of about 20 minutes of ultra-confined fighting which nearly pushes me to eating my own young! Perhaps our reset is storytime which they all love and stop fighting for or watching a movie. Conscious use of a reset would be greatly helpful.

    • Ultra-confined spaces are hard on “those days,” aren’t they? Do you do audio books in the car at all? That’s my car-lifesaver: we always have a really exciting audio book on-the-go in the car (totally inappropriate for the toddler, usually!) but it really helps with keeping peace and harmony between the older two.

      Story time and movies are great resets too. Anything that stops us from eating our young, right? 🙂

  7. A beautiful friend just shared this with me and it fits so well into this: Here’s a way to do ice cream discipline without leaving the house.

    My version of the instructions would emphasize the 10 minutes of physical play around shaking and tossing the ice cream. I’m putting giant-sized ziplocs on the next shopping list.

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