| but doesn't teach the
children anything about rules or cooperation. After one or two
nights of his getting them to bed with threats he usually lets
Mom "take over" and wonders out loud, that if his wife would
just listen to him the kids would "shapeup". By the second or
third night the bedtime battle is on again and Mom is expected
to do the job like Dad. Unfortunately the children have learned
that Mom and Dad are at odds and they test the rules to get Mom
and Dad bickering or blaming each other for the problem.
Other than dealing with fears or trauma most so-called
bedtime problems are really attempts by children to get to stay
up later and test their parents perseverance. What really
happens when parents disagree or one parent does not support
another is that in effect they teach the child to "gamble". How
often does a slot machine player have to "win" to keep putting
quarters in the machine? How many times does a child have to
"win" and get a parent to say, "OK stay up I don't care if you
are exhausted in school ". In both cases the player is a
"winner" but in the long run loses more than they gain. For
children "winning" one or two times a week is all it takes to
keep pestering to stay up or to get parents arguing or
disagreeing about enforcing a rule. In the long run Mom may even
lose her cool and create a confrontation or screaming contest to
get Dad to act or to punish the child and so back her up but in
a negative way for everyone involved. The bottom line for
parents is to make only lower rules or rules that both parents
agree on and enforce.
What are rules? Basically, rules specify what a person is to
do in certain situations and what behavior is unacceptable. In
the bedtime example a fair rule might be that bedtime is at a
certain time each school night, which means that all chores,
homework, and hygiene (brush teeth, bath, etc.) is done and
lights out at that time. To make a rule work, consequences must
be specific and in this case consequences might be that if the
child follows the rule, then one night a week (the child's
choice) he/she can stay up 30 minutes later and if the child
does not follow the rule they go to bed the next night at a time
minus the minutes past their bedtime the night before. So if a
child whose bedtime was 8:30 procrastinates and lights out
became 8:45 on Monday night then on Tuesday night they must go
to bed at 8:15.
If the child knows that both Mom and Dad agree on this rule
and consistently enforce it without yelling or arguing the child
will, after testing the rule once or twice, begin to follow the
rule and be praised and rewarded with an extra 30 minutes to
stay up one night each week.
Remember in making rules parents must:
1.Agree on the rule.
2.Make the rule specific-the child must know what to do and what
not to do in concrete terms.
3.Provide both reward and punishment.
4.Enforce the rule consistently without arguing or bickering.
Periodically discuss the rule and, if necessary, modify it to
meet with any changes in the home. If parents can agree on
clear-cut rules and enforce them consistently then being "home
alone" with the kids will be less aggravating and more positive
for both parent and child.