Friday, August 23, 2013

Bedtime Battles

The moment I need my sons to move quickly, they immediately go into slow motion.  This behavior is even worse at bedtime.  Or maybe it isn't.  Maybe it just feels worse because I'm so close to my parenting finish line for the day.  Regardless of the reason, it was making me crazy.

"Luke!  Drew!  C'mon, let's get dressed!" I would yell as they ran naked through the playroom.  No response.  "Guys, let's go!  We need to get done so we still have time to read books!"  Nothing.  They already know this is an empty threat - I am a bookworm.  There will always be books.  Finally, I grab the little one and get eye to eye with the big one.  "Jammies.  Now," I would say with my best authoritative voice.  I would take my toddler to his room to get him dressed and my oldest would follow behind shortly, still naked, with jammies in hand.  He would generally start throwing them up in the air and catching them or he would announce that he had to pee or he would say that he had an idea and disappear into the adjacent playroom.  My patience would disappear as I gritted my teeth and realized that the lunatics were running the asylum.

Obviously, being direct wasn't working.  Obviously, they didn't want to do what I was asking of them so they simply waited until my voice got too scary (which generally takes a while).  I figured I had two options: Get scary fast (not desirable) or try a new way to get them moving.  I decided to get crafty with a new approach.  I like to call it, "It's up to you".  I thought, why does my oldest have any motivation to get ready for bed?  It was then that I realized he loves the reading part.  He can't stand to have a book start before he is parked on the couch looking at the pictures.  So I used it to my advantage.  

Day 1:  His jammie pants were dangling on his brother's ceiling fan and, already, my patience was wearing.  But instead of frustration, I pulled the pants down and feigned an easy voice.  "Uh oh.  Looks like you might be late for books.  Drew is already dressed so we're going in to brush teeth," I said as I scooped his brother from the changing table.  "No!  Wait for me!  I'm coming!" he yelled.  "Take your time," I told him.  "It's up to you if you're done in time for reading."  And he wasn't.  Not by a long shot.  We finished a complete book as he scrambled around with a mouth full of toothpaste yelling, "Wait for me!  Wait for me!"  I gently told him, "Just join us whenever you are done, buddy."  

Day 2, 3, 4:  No need to tell this story - It was an exact repeat of previous nights.  But then, things started to change.

Day 5:  I picked up my naked running toddler and realized his brother was nowhere to be seen.  I started getting him dressed and heard my oldest say, "Mommy!  Look!"  Expecting a naked somersault show, I turned reluctantly.  But, to my surprise, he was completely dressed.  "Wow!  Great job getting dressed!" I told him.  "Gotta go!" he said, "I have to brush my teeth!"  Who was this child?

Day 6:  He decided to brush his teeth before their bath so that he would have more time to play and then repeated his quick dressing move.  "Go ahead and play trains while Drew and I finish up, buddy.  You earned it," I told him.  His face flashed with pride.  "Oh, okay!!" he yelled as he darted for the train table.

I have spent the last two years beating my head against the wall with a kid that wouldn't do what I asked him to do at bedtime.  And yet, the answer was so simple.  Make him responsible and give him a natural consequence.  Give him some skin in the game.  It wasn't a punishment or a threat.  I just simply stated that the best part of bedtime would happen without him if HE decided to take it slow.  

So what do your kids do (or don't do!) that drives you crazy?  What would motivate them to make it happen for their own reasons?

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