Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bedtime and letting my son manipulate me

Sometimes when I look at the status updates on Facebook, I will read about parents who are struggling to get their kids to sleep at night. Often it involves the parents giving in and letting the child sleep in bed with them, or sometimes even the parent bringing in a cot so he or she can sleep in the kid's room. Also, I have read many stories of parents whose really young ones (less than a year) will sleep for only a few hours at a time.

As tempting as it is, I'm usually pretty good at not rubbing in the fact that my son, Logan, has been ridiculously easy when it comes to bedtime. I remember my wife and I coming up with an elaborate sleep schedule for the two of us so that way we could both be sure to get around six hours of sleep a night. We only had to follow this plan for a couple of weeks at the most though, as Logan didn't take long to start sleeping through the night. It's not so surprising though, as when perusing our respective baby books, it turns out that both my wife and I started sleeping through the night at an early age. I guess the desire to sleep is in the DNA.

We've never had him spend the night in our bed. He will climb in with us in the morning, and even when he climbs in too early, we don't have a problem telling him that he needs to go back to bed. Sometimes he requests that my wife rock him for a minute or two (a "hug in the chair" he calls it) but that's pretty much all there is to it. I think that there was also one time when he wasn't feeling well when we had him in our bed for a little bit, but he soon asked to go back to his own bed.

The kid likes his bed, and he likes to sleep. One time, when my father-in-law was babysitting him, Logan just turned to him and said, "Go night night?" Turns out, it was time to go. When my dad came over, he wanted to go in to Logan's room to say goodnight. I put Logan down, gave him a hug and a kiss, and then I had "Papa" do the same. We left the room, and my dad said, "That's it?" Yup. That was it.

Only now that's not it. Logan's almost three years old, and it's getting a bit tougher, although I'm sure that there might be some parents out there who would love to trade their bedtime problems for ours. I'm fairly certain that it's no coincidence that this has taken place right around the same time that we weaned Logan off of the pacifier. While getting rid of his "binky" went smoothly, I think it has some effect on his inability to fall asleep as quickly as before.

What's happening is that we'll put him to bed without any problem. The routine involves giving him a bath, brushing his teeth, reading some books, a "hug in the chair" from both Mommy and Daddy, and then "night night". Then he goes to bed, and just when you think that's that, he gets up five minutes later and comes out because he needs a hug and/or a kiss. Sometimes he asks for water or to blow his nose, but 80% of the time he just wants a hug and a kiss. Oh, and after, he asks that one of us carries him back to his bed. This happens about five or six times, each time with him getting more and more sleepy, until he finally stops.

This seems to be a bit different from what I hear from other parents. Usually the child will have all kinds of requests and then resist going back to bed. Putting him back in bed is never an issue. He wants to go back. Usually, when he doesn't want to do something like get his diaper changed, we'll say something along the lines of, "Are you coming with me or do I have to carry you?" Most of the time, he'll insist on walking himself. With this, that doesn't really work because he wants to be carried back in bed. So, I can't say, "Go to bed, or I'll put you back in bed!" I might as well say, "Go to bed, or I'll give you some ice cream!"

Last night, I tried staying in his room and talking to him in a soothing voice until he finally fell asleep. What did he do? He pointed at the door and asked me to go. So much for that bright idea. I also tried reading a book while he stayed in bed, but that only got him more excited and he probably fell asleep about an hour after he normally does.

I know what some of you are thinking. You think that what I need to do is just pick him up and put him in bed without saying anything to him. Don't give him that hug or kiss. Just gently pick him up and put him back in bed. Trust me, I tried it, and I just can't do it.

Honestly, I don't think that I indulge my son all that much, and I'm aware that those cute little buggers are masters at manipulation. Lately, he's been getting into a bossy phase, and he'll ask me to go get a toy out of his room - a toy that he can get just fine on his own. I'll respond that if he wants it, he can go and get it. He'll cry and insist "You go get it!" but I don't give in. I don't mind doing him a favor here and there, but if he wants to play with his truck, he can go and get it just fine. I can also tell you that my wife handles this the same way, and I'm lucky that we don't differ too much in this. I can give you other scenarios, but I hope that's enough to illustrate how we parent.

In other words, neither my wife nor I have any problem saying "no" to him. I will admit that it's a pretty rare thing for me to say it when he asks me to read a book with him. Unless I'm in the middle of cooking or something where I can't just stop, I will drop what I'm doing, if it's something like reading my own book or watching a TV show, in order to read to him. I'll also admit to reading an extra book at night when I say that the one we just read was going to be the last one. Usually that will finally be the last one when I say, "Okay, but this is IT." but there have been a few times when I finally had to tell him that sorry, it was bed time.

So, I tried to just pick him up and put him back in bed while he insisted on a hug or a kiss. I can't do it though. If you're thinking that I'm like this because my parents withheld affection from me, you're wrong, as it's really quite the opposite. I have a hard time seeing either one of them refusing a hug or a kiss, especially when I was that little.

Yeah, I probably wound up giving my son about five or six extra hugs and kisses. He is manipulating me to some degree, and he knows that I'm not going to turn him down. For some reason though I can't help but feel that this isn't so bad, especially if it's clear to him that this doesn't work every time he tries to get his way. Maybe I'm making some huge mistake, but I don't think that I've ever heard an adult complain that their parents returned their affections too often.


Tony from Pandora said...

No... I'm pretty sure this is bad parenting... I mean giving kids EXTRA hugs and kisses?!? C'mon! What is this world coming to!?! You realize if you keep that up, your son will most like grown up to do the same with his own children...and THEN what!?!... THEN what, Lance!?!?

Lance Johnson said...

It's a vicious cycle.