My oldest daughter is now three and a half. A few months ago, she started giving us grief about going to bed and all the activities that go with it (brushing teeth, etc). We were almost pulling our hair out in frustration over the nightly conflict. The only thing that seemed to work was threatening to take away her book-reading privileges for the night – that would almost always get her moving. This caused me personal heartache, however; not only do I think reading at bedtime should be an inalienable right for all kids, but this reading session is one of the few times I get to spend each day with my daughter bonding, especially on the days I had to work late. I hate to use "no books" as a punishment because it hurts her a lot worse than "no television" or "no cookies" would.
But I digress – the issue at hand: a stubborn three year old who has to be carried into the bathroom in the evening in order to get her to acquiesce to the inevitable tooth-brushing, hand-washing, etc. The solution? Something I never in a million years would have believed would work if someone suggested it to me: The Waiting Game.
The Waiting Game is my personal nickname for it, and you'll see why in a bit. It's more aptly described as The Clock Watching Game.
Ever since Violet started learning her numbers and letters, I have made efforts to point out all the interesting places they showed up – on the bottom of the TV (we keep Closed Captioning on), on stop-signs, billboards, buildings, and of course, on any one of the multitude of digital appliances we have in our house, all complete with their own set of numbers happily illuminating the time of day in glowing yellow. By the time of our bedtime struggles, she could easily recognize the digits 0-9, and was fascinated that they were on all these different clocks!
So one evening, when the 2nd-most stubborn child in the world (or rather, the 1st, now that I am grown up) began to dig in her heels, out of desperation, I pulled her attention away from the toy she was playing with by pointing out the clock.
"Violet," I said, with feigned excitement in my voice. "Do you see the numbers on the clock? They say Seven Two Seven!"
She ran over and exclaimed with glee that the numbers DID say Seven Two Seven! I then told her to keep watching the clock, and it would change to Seven Two Eight. She pretty much jumped up and down in place with excitement when the clock inexorably flipped the last digit. Then the clouds parted and the heavenly choir rang down from above:
"Violet," I repeated. "When the clock says Seven Three Zero, we're going to go brush teeth and go read books. Got it?"
The enthusiastic response I received from this statement was a complete 180 degree turn from her previous behavior. Suddenly, the bedtime ritual had new meaning for her, and SHE could figure out when SHE needed to do things, all on her own! From that night on, we've had no problems with bedtime – all we do is give her an impending deadline to end all play activities, and as soon as the clock reaches that point, she's off like a shot to get ready for bed.
Since that day, we've used The Clock Watching Game for any number of things. Have to wait for dinner? Tell her when it will come out of the oven and she's all set. Need 15 minutes downtime? Tell her to go color with her crayons until the clock reads 3:43 and then promise to play Candyland when she's done. It works all the time, any time (in moderation, of course).
The funny thing, though, is that since then, she is fascinated with clocks. Often, when you give her an upcoming time mark, she'll stand there in front of the clock, watching it change from minute to minute. She might sing some songs, or do a little dance, but she always flits back to the clock, calling out each minute as it changes. She has more fun waiting for the clock to change than most people have watching television.
And it's a good thing, too. If this hadn't worked and the frustration had continued, I think I WOULD have resorted to tearing out my hair. And since I'm just starting to get used to all the grey hair I'm seeing in the mirror every day, it would have been a shame to have to get used to seeing a bald head instead.
[NaBloPoMo 2008 – #21/30]
Read and post comments | Send to a friend