When your kids resist going to bed or make mealtimes unpleasant, try these tips:
- We often adjust bedtimes according to our children's behavior that day. For each infraction, they must go to bed five minutes earlier, but if they've been extra good, they can earn the right to stay up an extra five minutes.
- Having a struggle at bedtime? Try this: Next time you're dealing with the usual bathroom trips, cups of water, giggling, and talking, call off bedtime. Declare, "Nobody has to go to bed tonight!" Inform them that they may stay up as long as they like — the operative words being stay up. Then have each child stand still in the middle of a separate room of the house. Their warm, comfy beds will look awfully good after just a few minutes of standing alone.
- Because I so desperately need some down time with my husband in the evenings, I have been known to put the kids to bed very early compared to their friends' bedtimes. For instance, I may put Haven to bed at eight, but she's allowed to stay up and read until nine. She's notorious for leaving her clothes on the floor, however, so I tried this idea sent to me on my Web site: For every piece of clothing lying on the floor when I came to put her to bed, her reading time was reduced by 10 minutes. It worked. After her evening bath, she scurried around like a little mouse, cleaning up her room before I came to tuck her in.
- If you have trouble enforcing the "lights out" rule in your house, make it easy on yourself with this rule. If you put your children to bed, only to look down the hall and see the light shining under the door, simply unscrew the light bulb until they can learn to appreciate the privilege of responsibility.
- Does your child tend to act up during dinner? Try sending him, along with his plate of food, into the other room to eat alone at the dining room table until he can settle down.
- Haven seems to believe that the dining room chairs have been designed to stand on one or maybe two legs at the most. This has become an unconscious habit, but we're trying to help her break it (before she breaks her own legs or the chair's). Now whenever she tilts back her chair, she is required to remove it from the table and finish her meal or schoolwork standing.
- If you have dawdlers, try this: Whoever is last to the table at dinnertime becomes the server. But there's a catch. Even if you're first, your hands must be clean, or you'll end up serving the food, pouring the drinks, and fetching the condiments (after washing your hands, of course!).
- At our house, eating in the living room is a special occasion. Inevitably, our children push to see if they can turn this exception into a rule. To curb this impulse, we've tied a price to the privilege. Our kids may eat in front of the television if they vacuum the floor when they are finished. This helps them to appreciate the privilege-and keeps them from asking for it every night.
- I heard of a single father who served five plain brussels sprouts to his picky eaters. They had 10 minutes to eat them or they would get the remaining eight in the pot. This made such an impact on them that he only needed to refer to the "brussels sprout" punishment when the children were tempted to complain about their meals again.
- When our kids don't want to eat what I've cooked for dinner, Steve and I won't make it an issue. They don't have to eat it as long as they've tried at least one bite. If they refuse to do even that, however, they just go hungry. I refuse to be a short-order cook. (They won't starve until the next meal, even though they may feel "starved.") If they eat all their vegetables and protein, though, they are allowed to eat the bread and dessert.
- A neighbor boy complained when his mother burned his toast, so she decided he could do without her cooking for the rest of the day. He got pretty tired of cereal and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches by the end of the day.