Three year old Wes used to play his favorite game at bedtime. It was called, “See how many ways I can be naughty.”
He was the only one enjoying the game. His single, working dad certainly did not. Wes was very creative in how he played the game: he ran away when it was time to put on his pj’s. He clenched his jaw when it was time to brush his teeth. He screamed and threatened to wake up his baby brother. He jumped on the bed when it was time for tuck in. Sound familiar? It’s a very popular game amongst the little people. It’s a game though, that doesn’t usually end well for either the child or the parent.
Wes’s game ruled until Daddy came up with a better game called “Earn a Minute.” This game starts at the beginning of bedtime when Daddy whispers to Wes, “For every step of bedtime that you do cooperatively, you earn a minute of You-n-Me time. If you get enough, we might be able to read a whole extra book!” “Game on” for little Wes. He might as well wear a sign that says, “Will Cooperate For You-N-Me Time.”
Here’s how the scoring works
Brush teeth: earn a minute.
Go potty: earn a minute.
Wash hands: earn a minute.
Get undressed: earn a minute.
Get in the bath: earn a minute.
Cooperate with being washed: earn a minute.
Get out of the bath first time you’re told: earn a minute.
Hold still while being dried: earn a minute.
Put on PJs: earn a minute.
Climb into bed: earn a minute.
Wes has mastered this “game” and he savors his ten minutes of special Daddy-time before going to sleep. Dad is happy because the extra story time takes less time than all the hassling did, and father and son both get happy snuggle time instead of exasperation and negative attention.
Every now and then, Daddy mixes things up and says, “We’re not playing tonight, so you might as well be a rascal.” Well now, when Daddy invites Wes to misbehave, it’s not as much fun for Wes and the power struggle is over.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents
As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.