Last updateMon, 28 Jan 2013 9pm

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Avoiding Landmines

Jelibeans are really good at blaming other people if they're in trouble, and have problems taking responsibility for their actions, but TIP will help.

My eldest son is a great big red jelibean, with a heart of gold. He's training to be a Chef. I was horrified when he told me what he wanted to do, the thought that he was going to be in a hot kitchen surrounded by knives sent a cold chill down me.


He's still there, hanging on by the skin of his teeth. Yes, sure, he's had his warnings and pushed all the boundaries BIG time. In spite of this I have to say that with time and lots of liaising with the Head Chef, we managed to keep him motivated. Just. That said, there have been many incidents along the way, that anyone else would be instantly dismissed for - walking out of the kitchen in the middle of service and going to college at the company's expense and bunking off to town to hang around with mates. The first time he tried this he got caught by one of the chefs.

One day, I got a frantic call from work from him. He was really upset and demanded that I came to collect him. Knowing him as well as I do I was expecting at least a grade 8 Tsunami, I was not to be disappointed. At home he explained that he had just had enough, he couldn't cope any more. "I'm leaving, I'm never going back, so don't try and make me!" he screamed. I considered myself told, good and proper. The problem was that I knew that if he didn't return to work within the next hour, he was guaranteed to get the sack.

TIP saved his job. I couldn't make him understand how precious his job was and how he was doing so well, all he wanted was to leave and try something else, quite what that else is we still have yet to discover, "The kitchen door is shut", I explained. This was my TIP way of telling him that he should remain in his job. I told him that the kitchen was like school, a GREEN ZONE - safe, structured and familiar. Everyone knew and loved him for his eccentric ways, no one could fail to be charmed by him. Explaining to him that to leave now would be a terrible waste of time, and UNSAFE and that he needed to stay at least until he qualified didn't make sense to him. However, the BIG RED PAVING STONE did.

I told him that his life was like a pavement, a long one and a windy one, with most of the paving stones in a fairly bland colours. Some paving stones were brighter colours. The colours to watch out for were the Orange or Red ones. Jellybeans don't do careful, so my son had already trodden on a couple of orange ones already, that he'd paid for in the shape of two warnings. This new crisis was a potentially a very tricky one.

I told him that when it was time, the kitchen door would swing open of its own accord. However I warned him that if he decided to put all his weight on the edge of that red paving stone, in front of it, then it would tip up and force the kitchen door open and as there was nothing to take its place, he would plunge into oblivion.If you force the door open when it's not ready, there's nowhere to go except into a hole.

We didn't have to get into a battle of wills. I didn't have to shout or cry. And because I was telling him a story, he was attentive, listening to every word, the way small (and even older) children always do. Stories have a calming influence all of their own making. He could listen to a story, even though he could never have listened to a lecture. Why? Because a story isn't something that GETS PERSONAL. There's no blaming or finger-wagging in a story, and no dreaded, "Why do you always have to do this?" about it. But my son knew that it was a story with a meaning. And he worked the meaning out all on his own.