What's a quick way to drive parents crazy? The ins and outs at bedtime. We are all familiar with the rush to get through the nightime routine, to finally give that goodnight kiss, turn out the light and exit. Only to find minutes later a little person standing behind you in the kitchen asking for another drink of water, another toilet trip, a different teddy or another cuddle. The list goes in. the reality is kids have a checklist of things they suddenly need at bedtime and on that list is simply the things they know that works. usually for parents its the 'but I'm hungry, or I need to go to the toilet'. Those are the ones that cut to our heart strings and we think 'but what if....'
So how do you rein it in as a parent? Tricky as it is, especially that heart tugging 'I need another kiss or cuddle' rein it in you must! As fairly soon the list grows. Five minutes of ins and outs becomes twenty-five minutes. This is another great parenting situation where the 1, 2, 3 works.
How to do the 123? Quite simply it means giving your child three chances. After three, you need action. No more words, just zip it and act. Actions speak louder than words and nothing is truer when it comes to parenting and behaviour. Firstly though don't just whip out this strategy out of the blue, tell and explain to your child first hand what will be happening. My recommendation is start in the afternoon with saying something like, "Daddy and Mummy have been talking, when you go to bed tonight this is what we want you to do..... and this is what will happen...." You can fill in the blanks.
Generally it goes like this: When we have tucked you in bed, kissed you goodnight and turned on your music/story you need to stay in bed and relax while you fall asleep. Mummy and Daddy will be busy doing jobs. Your job is to stay in bed, cuddle your teddy and go to sleep. If you come out asking for water/toilet/cuddle/teddy/water/toilet/another story etc,,, we will take you back to bed and tell you that was your first chance. The door will be half closed then to remind you to stay in bed. If you come out again for a ....... we will tell you that this is your second chance and the door will be 3/4 closed to remind you to stay in bed. If you come out again this is your third and last chance and the door will be closed. So if you want the door open (most children do) you need to stay in bed once we turn out the light and kiss you goodnight.
Just remember when you talk about first chance, second chance and third chance you can relate it to the traffic lights: First is green, second is orange this means warning you must stay in bed, third is red this means you must stop coming out. Closing the door is the consequence for not listening and following the rules at bedtime. With each of these warnings, look your child in the eye when they wander out to the kitchen and make their request, hold up 1 finger and say 'Jack that's one, your first warning' and take him back to bed. Make the take back is as brief as possible and no kiss and cuddle as you re-tuck (lets not make it worthwhile!). The same goes for the second warning 'Jack that's two, your second warning, orange light' etc. Repeat and the action-consequence is closing the door. Repeat for third warning = red traffic light. Close the door fully.
A word of warning: it's always 1-2-3-action on 3. Never, ever count 2 1/2..... 2 3/4..... etc as they will keep pushing you and only learn that you don't do what you mean. Yes, it is so tempting at times to give them an extra chance or two!
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