“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” by Mo Willems

Have you met the Pigeon yet? No? Then “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” is a great way to get acquainted with this peculiar master of intrigue and emotional blackmailing.

In the story, the Pigeon wants to drive a bus, but the bus driver has explicitly requested the reader NOT to let the Pigeon drive the bus. No matter what. The tricky bird tries to negotiate with the reader, throws a tantrum and even attempts to bribe them. What should and what will the reader do?

What would your child do in a similar situation? What would they do if you asked them to do/ not to do something? Would they give you their word? And most importantly, would they keep it?

Raising a responsible child, means raising a child who is responsible for their words. A trustworthy child. If your child wouldn’t let the Pigeon drive the bus, you can congratulate yourself. Your  parenting strategy seems to be working. If he or she would give in to the Pigeon’s pressure, it means that there is some work to be done.

How do we raise a child on whose word we can depend? I would start with three simple things:

1. Set an example

It starts very early, with all those empty threats (If you don’t eat your dinner, you won’t get any treats. (…) Oh, well, you can have one cookie.) and un-kept promises (If you get better grades, you will get a higher allowance. (…) So you think you think you should be paid more for being a good student?). When children see that their parents’ words don’t match their actions, they follow the same  pattern. Words have no value for them.

2. Believe your child and in your child 

Imagine yourself in the following situation: You’ve let your child watch a movie after they are done with homework. After a while, they claim the homework is done and they start to watch a movie.  Your first reaction is:

a) What? So quickly? Show me your homework!

b)  Okay, Enjoy the movie! I’d be happy to see your homework later, though.

The first response assumes the child is not telling the truth. The second scenario gives a child the benefit of doubt. Since my mom usually represented case a) and my grandma case b) I could easily compare the effectiveness of both approaches. My grandma’s, really worked. The fact that she believed me  and in me was so motivational that I wanted to do anything I could to be as good as my words and her expectations. I would have hated to disappoint her.

3. Wisely approach the issue of verbal irresponsibility

Children should know the power of words. Verbal agreement has its weight and children should learn to respect it. It’s the first step to become a dependable friend,  a reliable businessperson or a trustworthy  politician.