Monday, May 13, 2013

Dear Child - Go To Sleep!!!!

After a busy Mother’s Day, 4 year old Jenny was as wound up as she could be.  When 8PM bedtime arrived, Mom did an extra special job of trying to calm her down.  First a warm bath with a few quiet tub toys; then a soothing story and finally hugs and kisses.

But… within 5 minutes the real nighttime routine began.  Jenny appeared and asked for water.  Then 10 minutes later, she was back asking for another hug.  2 minutes later, she announced she was scared of the monster under her bed.  And on and on it went for the next 2 hours.

Now if this was just one night as a result of being overtired, I would suggest Mom and Dad muddle through knowing that this too, shall pass.  But for Jenny, it was the same routine she pulled every night.

Mom and Dad reasoned, pleaded, bribed and threatened.  Eventually Jenny went to sleep every night but not until Mom and Dad went to bed.  They had no adult time for themselves!

So what is wrong with this picture?  4 year old Jenny has Mom and Dad exactly where she wants them – catering to her while she pretty much runs the household.  The problem is Jenny does not belong at the head of the house – that is her parent’s role.  It is not healthy for Jenny and is actually a little scary.  Children feel far more secure when there are reasonable rules that are enforced clearly and consistently.

So assuming Jenny’s parents decide to establish themselves as the center of the family unit around which their children will orbit from now on, how can they solve this bedtime battle?

A simple but powerful strategy is built on one single ribbon! After supper tonight, Mom and Dad tell Jenny that at bedtime, they will tie a ribbon on her bedroom door knob.  If she wants to get up after bedtime, she can bring them the ribbon and they will fill her request happily.  But if she gets up with another request, they won’t fill the request and tomorrow night she will go to bed 1 hour early (or directly after supper).

So as long as she has a ribbon, she can get up.  Not having a ribbon won’t prevent her from getting up, but if she chooses to, the consequence is early bedtime tomorrow.  Parents remain completely calm and in charge with absolutely no yelling, reminders or explanations.

This is a really good time of year to start this particular tool because it severely limits outside play time after supper.  Kids don’t like that limit very much when the weather is getting so nice!

I have seen many young children view this as a game and improvement comes quickly. Most other kids start to improve within a week or so.  Sometimes they backslide a bit to see if the parents really mean it.  But when parents remain calm and in charge, governed solely by the availability of one simple ribbon, the problem is solved!

You can keep the ribbon on the door for months or years – it is easy enough and a powerful reminder of a negative consequence most kids don’t want to have! 

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