As parents, we all run into the occasional night where are toddlers or kids resist bedtime.
They just don’t want to go to sleep, and even if we have a routine established, they put up a fuss. If you had a bad day and are short tempered, you can easily let it turn into a fight with your kids. If you are more relaxed about it and flexible with your thinking, you can often just turn the situation around before it ever evolves into something difficult.
Remember that kids just want to do things that they deem fun, comforting, or somehow satisfying. As a parent, if you get resistance from your child, you can turn that into co-operation if you transform what you are doing into something that is more fun, more comforting, or more satisfying.
Here’s a recent example. My oldest daughter was watching Berstein Bears in our bedroom during “quiet time” before bed. My wife had already taken my youngest daughter off to brush teeth and cuddle, and I was giving my older daughter another 15 minutes. When the cartoon ended, I told her it was time for bed, as usual. She put up a whiny fuss about it and I knew I had to change the direction of the situation right away, or I’d risk a tantrum. At the very least, it would just set the wrong tone for bedtime and it would take longer to get her settled.
What I did: I was standing at the edge of the bed telling her it was time for bed, and I had the remote in my hand to turn off the TV. If I simply turned it off, I risked killing our rapport and turning the whining into a big fight. So I playfully tossed the remote onto the mattress beside her. She knows how to hit the “off” button so I gave her a little challenge. I told her, “Ok sweetie … I’m going to give you a 20 second head start and then I’m going to crawl over to the TV and I’m going to turn it off. I wonder if you’ll beat me to it.”
I started (again, playfully) counting to 20. By the time I got to 4 she was into it and didn’t want to wait. She said, “Daddy – just go, start crawling.” I did exactly that. I got onto the floor and started creeping over to the TV like I was some kind of lion or tiger. I got halfway there when she turned the TV off and declared victory. I laughed, she laughed, and I carried her off to bed like the little princess that she is.
The whole “fuss” lasted all of 10 seconds. I didn’t negotiate with her or demand instant compliance with my wishes. That’s not the right way to handle it. It’s much easier, in my experience, to create a more compelling reason for her to want to go along with the routine. I just turned it into a game and that seemed more fun than a cartoon. I knew it would work (or at least I had a pretty good feeling it would) because we play games all the time. So I’m not telling you that this will work for you exactly as I’ve described it. Use your own instincts. But the same principles apply.
You can get more flies with honey than with vinegar … that’s what my Mom always used to tell me. Boy, was she smart.