Around two months ago, our 4 year old started waking up in the middle of the night and crawling beside us in our bed. He has always slept in his bedroom since he was 3 days old. I let it pass for several weeks because I was not up for a battle especially when I’m only half awake. I was also hoping it was just a stage that would pass, but three weeks after he was still a regular visitor in our bedroom. So during the day I would conversationally say to him how big boys sleep in their room and how he should too etc. Then one night when he woke up again, I marched him back to his bed and to my amazement he did not protest. He has never never paid us a midnight visit since.
Don’t be fooled, it was not always this easy. I remember when Evan was 18 months old and he started climbing out of his crib. There was a point he climbed out 30 times in 1 1/2 hours but I would still put him right back in although it was mighty tempting to sleep in the bed beside the crib so he would lay down to sleep as well. But I didn’t want it to be a precedent especially when I see what happens in shows like the Supernanny. This was not the Philippines where a yaya (nanny) or maid or a relative can give mom a breather and allow her to make up for her lack of sleep with a nap during the day.
Saying no and consistency carried in other things like in the stores, particularly toys in the stores. To be sure it can be embarrassing, I can remember an incident where Evan howled all the way to the cashier because I didn’t buy him the Batman car he wanted. But look at the difference now:
Evan at the toy section in TARGET during our back-to-school shopping the other day.
But this isn’t just a matter of saying no. As early as when he was 1 year old I have began teaching Evan how everything in the store costs money, how I would make him wait until I have paid for the snack he wanted before he could open and eat it. Then when we would withdraw money from the ATM, I would relate to him about dad working hard and he gets paid and the money he earns goes to the bank/ATM machine. I have been also telling Evan that any toy over $6 was expensive and he can only get expensive toys (limit 3) for christmas or his birthday. So you can imagine how many nice toys were ruled out. This is probably what led to the “I want this toy for my birthday/christmas” stage.
It amuses me to hear how parents protest about Happy Meals and the toys. I even saw on The View the 2 hosts Sherry and Elisabeth, both mothers of young children, laughingly complain about it too. How when their kids see the Golden Arches would have a meltdown inside the car which the moms would only cave in and get them the Happy Meal. Is this because of the american culture’s aversion for creating a scene? I could see this in the playgrounds when caucasian parents seldom raise their voices when their kids get in trouble. What they would do is to get on their haunches and reprimand them sternly in hushed tones. While I also do that, I don’t hesitate yelling at Evan from across the park when I see him doing something that could potentially hurt him e.g. going to near a busy street or running with his head looking back at us.
On one hand I admire these parents being able to keep their dignity in public but at the same time it makes them a putty in their children’s hands. No doubt the kids sees this weakness and uses it to their advantage. Us parents need to remember that we are the ones behind the steering wheels and who holds the wallet. Sure our kids will act up when they are not given what they want, sure bystanders might think we are bad parents who have undisciplined kids but if we are consistent, our children will get better. They will soon get it that no really means no.
Evan might associate McDonald’s with toys but we can go in there and come back with nary a Happy Meal without trouble. Yes, it can be done.
Just as important in disciplining is lavishing them with praises when they do behave well and keeping our promises. The other day after a 7 mile run, I told my son in the jogging stroller “thank you Evan for letting mommy run. The exercise made mom feel good and happy. You’re a good kid, you’re a good kid.” He replied in an aw shucks kind of tone, “ahhhhhh.” I would usually take him to the park after my runs, just as promised.