For the past couple of nights, my almost 4 year-old C has been calling out in his sleep, “Mommy, mommy” in such a sad, almost pathetic, tone. It’s heart-breaking, at least for this mommy, and the reason is that I fear that I’ve been a bit too harsh with him over the past couple of days. I’m usually a fairly calm, upbeat person, but over the past couple of days I have been “laying down the law” and in the process, I fear that I have been traumatizing C. This is not to say that I’m not firm in general when it comes to our family rules, but the past couple of days have been different because I’ve been doing a lot of the disciplining right before bedtime. I find discipline in general to be the most difficult in the evening hours, because it is hard to come up with and enforce consequences around bedtime, and also because my patience is sometimes running lowest this time of day. We work on the understanding that if Christopher wants certain privileges (stories before bed, dessert, a video during the day, etc.), he needs to fulfill certain responsibilities (taking care of himself by getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating good meals, etc.; taking care of others by being kind, helpful, etc.). If he doesn’t fulfill his responsibilities, there is a consequence. Around bedtime, the only immediate privilege that can be taken away is bedtime stories – all of the other consequences must wait until the next day. Maybe some of you have other ideas for consequences in the evening??
In any case, I struggle when C is being difficult around bedtime – I hate the idea that he is going to bed thinking that I am angry with him. The past couple of nights have been particularly frustrating because I cannot get him to even TRY using the bathroom before he goes to bed. He is great about going to the bathroom during the day, but there’s no chance that he’ll wake himself up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. In any case, I “laid down the law” and told him that if he didn’t at least try, then there would be no stories. But C is one of those kids that can’t be talked into anything. Once he has a certain idea in his head – “Mommy, I PROMISE that tonight, I’ll wake up and say, “Ah-hah, I need to go to the potty” and then I’ll tiptoe to the bathroom and go pee-pee” – nothing that I (or ET) says seems to get through. He is so stubborn! So I said, “Okay, no stories”, and then closed the door and left. I also said some other, not so nice or calm, things along the way…Actually, I think that what I said and how I said it was worse than the consequence of taking away stories, and I think that’s what got us to the calling out in the middle of night phase.
Do any of you mamas ever struggle to find a balance between being firm and loving at the same time? Any ideas on how to handle situations around bedtime? And any suggestions on how to deal with very stubborn kiddos who won’t budge once they get a certain idea in their head?