In any psychology course I've ever taken this one's a biggy. Positive reinforcement is key. With that being said, guess what happened last night?
Our typical nights consist of all four kids running through the house like banshees. Half the time their out of the bath, soaking the house with bubbles, while the other half, they're jumping, screaming or spinning around dancing. It's like a little miniature fraternity house.
When we finally get all four settled down and dressed in their PJs, round two begins.
"Mooooooooommy! I'm thirsty!"
"Can you sing to us?"
"Daaaaaady! Will you read a story?!"
"When will it be Christmas again?"
Adam and I can count on one hand the number of nights they've gone to bed easily and peacefully - and worse yet, then they constantly come into our room throughout the night. I honestly think they tag team each other in the hallway. They have little schedules drawn out on their etch-a-sketch for who gets what shift.
That's when last night comes in. The kids took their baths, got dressed, brushed their teeth and went in their rooms. It was very strange. I didn't want to draw attention to it in fear of breaking the spell, but needless to say, it was beyond weird.
I got into bed with one ear open, knowing that the litany of requests would begin...but they didn't. (Oh no. Something's wrong. They must be sick.)
Falling asleep, I actually woke up throughout the night wondering why THEY weren't waking me up throughout the night.
This morning, in our room with no disruptions, I anxiously got up to check on them...and that's when it happened. Our six year old jumped up from his bed and cheered, "It's morning! We get DOUGHNUTS!"
Shaking his head wildly he screamed, "DOUGHNUTS!"
The other three sprang into the room and began to shout, "DOUGHNUTS! DOUGHNUTS! DOUGHNUTS! Daddy's getting us DOUGHNUTS!"
Going back to our room, Adam had the most innocent smile with shrugged shoulders and a "What?" expression on his face.
"Did you promise them doughnuts if they went to bed last night?"
"No!" Trying to fight his smile, it only grew wider. "I promised them doughnuts if they went to bed and STAYED in bed all night."
So there you have it. You can read all of the books and listen to the experts. When it comes to raising a child, they'll like to tell you how it's better to praise a child for an accomplishment rather than giving them rewards or treats for demonstrating a desired behavior.
I have fought the battle of the night for a decade now, knowing this and feeling that my methods were right. After all of that, who would have known the answer was right in front of me the whole time...with a Dad and a doughnut.
It kind of gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Sweet Dreams".
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