Friday, 17 July 2009

Super Nanny lessons

As the parent of any toddler knows, there are a few golden rules that you (try to) follow.

The first is that if you make a threat then you must be able to carry it out. So, when you say to your adorable offspring in their least adorable state 'if you do that again then we won't be going to the playground' you must be able to not go to the playground if they continue to spit yogurt drink all over their brother. This punishment can often be as much a punishment for the parent as it is for the child, to not go to the playground will obviously entail a screaming tantruming child who wants to go out, is now corralled at home with a parent who now has to deal with the little angel and has to find something else to do to fill the afternoon. The key here is obviously to find a better punishment, but I'm drifting off point.

If you don't carry out your threat you lose all legitimacy and, in the words of the great Potty Mummy you are toast. The kids have you were they want you. They don't need to listen to what you say, they know you don't mean it.

So, us lowly mums have a lesson for the International Community present in Bosnia. When you say to the Bosnian Politicians, you are all very very naughty and you must do what I say or else, you need to have an 'or else' or the Bosnian politicians will consider that you, too, are toast. Or at least irrelevant and will laugh at you when you get all cross and huffy. Trust me, there is nothing worse than being laughed at when you are cross and huffy.

It isn't surprising then that the role of the International Community here is being questioned, with quite a few people pushing to close OHR. Without teeth, without the ability to do the 'or else' (or even have an idea of what the 'or else' will be) it doesn't appear to have a whole lot of relevency.

But, the political situation here is still ever so tense. The situation has not improved with yesterday's decision to allow Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro visa free travel in the EU, but not Bosnia or Albania. As the Bosnian Croats mainly have Croatian passports (and visa free travel) and the Bosnian Serbs can legally obtain Serbian passports (and therefore are about to get visa free travel), the only group of people this is affecting is the Bosniaks (also known as Bosnian Muslims). There is a concern that isolating Europe's Islamic population in this way will lead to increased tension in the region (as detailed by the European Stability Initiatives report here). Some people here are questioning why it is that the victims of war crimes, such as Srebrenica, are to be denied visa free travel, while the perpetrators, by stint of their passports, will be able to travel freely (see the Balkan Insight article, but a few people I've spoken here have said the same thing). It should also be said that Serbia did meet the requirements laid out by the EU for visa free travel, and Bosnia has yet to do so, although the difference between the two countries is very slight indeed.

So, with an already tense political situation, decisions being made that will only make it even more so, it is important to think through what exactly an international presence here in Bosnia is designed to do. OHR (the international community organisation here in Bosnia) thinks of itself as stabilizers for kids learning to use a bicycle. Others say having the stabilizers stops the kids from learning how to balance. Either way, as all parents can tell you, if you want respect you must be prepared to be unpopular and carry through clearly defined threats. Otherwise you become an irrelevancy. In the decision of having an international community presence or not, the choice of having an irrelevent one is the least attractive of all.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting - thanks for giving us an insight into the harsh realities of politics on the ground. A bit different than when viewed from academic ivory towers.

It also draws the only obvious conclusion: Potty Mummy should rule the world....

Maternal Tales said...

I still can't think of any threats that if I carry through with them ,they don't backfire on me (you won't go to your friend's house/you won't watch TV, etc). Should take a leaf out of yur book! Award for you at mine xx

Metropolitan Mum said...

Sad, sad, sad. Maybe that's just my view, but haven't the Bosnian Muslims been the biggest losers in this dreadful conflict already?

Kate Morris said...

How interesting, I need more time to read your blog properly. Its always so great to have a real insiders view on a country like Bosnia, that we know so little about. I am definitely putting your blog on my blog role, if I can ever remember how to do it.

I think the idea of isolating the Muslim community, as you say, rather scary.

SandyCalico said...

Fascinating stuff. I'm shaking my head.
In other news, congrats on POTD :-)

passions and soapboxes said...

My mom use to threaten to "snatch me bald headed" luckily she never had to back this up because I fully believed her and wasn't going to put it to the test. I agree as a parent you can't make idle threats, you have to follow through.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Mud - she so should!

MT - I find it tough too. It is the real meaning of 'this'll hurt me more than it'll hurt you'. Thanks for tag!

MM - it is so complicated. The Bosnian Muslims certainly suffered enormously during the conflict, but the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats also did. And the EU told Bosnia they could have the passports if they fulfilled the criteria, which they didn't (faffing about who was in charge of something) and Serbia did. The difference in readiness is so slight, but has made all the difference to the people. That said, they should be joining halfway through next year, hopefully!

KM - Welcome! It is scary. Read the ESI article which talks about the ridiculous situation of Kosovo, which still has its passports issued by Belgrade (which now has visa free travel) but they don't.

SC - thanks.

P&S - I have no idea what she meant but it sounds bad!

Sparx said...

Interesting indeed - and a great analogy too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Super Nanny, that's really well put.

EUMummy says "Hand over Mladic to The Hague or you don't get to play in our playground". Then EUMummy says "Changed my mind, come on in, and tell that kid you were bullying this time yesterday to go and get lost".

Who's the Mummy said...

Fantastic post - it's always interesting to hear a local's perspective, rather than just the newspaper reporter's.

On threats - I'm a big believer in carrying through, because you only have to do it once or twice when they're young and they know you mean business. Although I did feel REALLY sorry for a friend who once told her kids, in temper, "If you do that again, no treats for a year!" and then had to stick to it!

(ps - tagged you on my blog)

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post. Thanks for laying it all out so clearly and succinctly.

I've always said that when the children leave home I'm going to get a job with the UN. Since having toddlers, my negotiating skills are second to none.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Sparx - I tell you. Politicians could learn alot from us Mummys

Owen - am I right in thinking it was Banja Luka who made it more difficult for Bosnia to fulfil the conditions required for visa free travel? Rumour round here has it that they knew Belgrade would give them passports so were trying to create obstacles. How true, I have no idea.

Who Mummy - That is a shocker. Can she use the elastic use of time that a parent can have before kids learn how to tell it. ie one month is actually the same as a year? Thanks for tag.

Small World - I know how you feel! They need to send a few negotiators into my house for training. Talk about intrangiable and refusing to budge from their position of 'its my train and I'm not going to hand it over' and reason is impossible...