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Bedtime Choices

Posted Aug 19 2010 12:00am

The topic of bedtime battles came up recently on an e-mail list that I belong to, and it got me thinking.  We really have not had much trouble with bedtime with Sammy.  But there are times when we struggle.  Our latest bedtime battle was solved by offering a choice.

Sammy recently moved from diapers at night to pull-ups.  When she takes off the pull-up to use the bathroom, she turns it inside out and she doesn’t know how to right it, so she calls us. She has learned from this!  Now, every single night, the first thing she does after we leave her room is she uses the bathroom. Then we need to return to turn her pull-up right-side-out.  Then she demands to be tucked in again. This can all be very time-consuming.

Since we know that the whole going-to-the-bathroom thing is a ploy, we started refusing to tuck her back in, but she raised bloody hell.  (There is no way we’re going to discourage her from using the bathroom, so the tuck-in is really the issue!)  Finally, I gave her a choice: if she wanted to be tucked in a second time – fine.  But she would not get her usual “5 minutes” of talk-time the next night (that is probably her favorite element of her bedtime routine, except for reading books.)  I explained to her that I am not willing to spend an hour on bedtime, so if she wants two tuck-ins, she has to give up something else.  She agreed with this plan.

So far she has chosen to be tucked in twice every night.  But that’s not really a problem – it’s just a new bedtime routine.  She hates not getting her five minutes, but I know she understands the issue because she doesn’t push it.  If she makes bedtime go on any longer, then we’ll remove other parts of her routine like singing songs or even reading books.  I have confidence that eventually, the highest values will win out.  And whatever they are, that’s fine with me.

I didn’t intend it to be so, but I think this is a great lesson for Sammy on delayed gratification, using logical consequences.  If she wants the special five minutes of talking before bed the next night, all she has to do is stay in bed after the first tuck-in tonight.  I don’t think I’ve yet seen Sammy choose a greater good at a later time in any area of her life, but I can see her considering the tuck-in issue.  I think she is ripe for this.

But I didn’t think about that when I considered the problem.  Really, I just focused on what the real problem with two tuck-ins was – for me.  I wasn’t  interested in a power struggle, but I also didn’t want this delaying tactic to grow and grow.  I want to put her to bed and go read my book!  This solution seemed to solve both our problems.  And in the process, this great potential lesson has come about.  Yay for selfish parenting!

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