Tough Love: Putting Kids To Bed

A few weeks back my wife and I were flipping through the channels when we came across a rerun of The Nanny. In this episode the Nanny was teaching these parents how to put their kids to bed and keep them their consistently. Time after time, you'd see through the night vision camera, these kids getting out of bed until something like 2AM while the parents enabled the whole thing.

"That's just ridiculous," I said to which my wife responded by informing me that getting children into bed was the number one problem parents have with small kids. I was surprised. Surely, potty training, or thumb sucking or ramming pointy metal things into electrical outlets had to be the top issue, but my wife is pretty good about being right when it comes to this stuff so I took what she said at face value.

"Of course you don't seem to have a problem with it," she said grabbing the TV remote.

It's true. I don't. There are many, many... many parenting failures I have and will have, but getting kids into bed and keeping them there without the aid of duct tape is something I could do, uh, with my eyes closed.

When I started hanging out at Ashley's apartment early in our relationship, I used to get frustrated with her girls when it came time to go to sleep. Shut off the the light, close the door, turn around and there they were. "I can't sleep."

Ashley would usher them back into their room, and then rejoin me in the living room. Thirty seconds later, there would be the other one. "I can't sleep either." It was like a big game of whack-a mole, and I wished I had a mallet. To add to the problem the girls would really play at their mom's tender heart strings. "I need cuddle time with my mommy because she loves me soooo much." These kids are cute times ten and they knew how to work it like hookers in Hollywood.

This would go on until late at night, and by the time the girls did fall asleep Ashley and I would be too tired to want to do anything. Of course I couldn't do or say a single thing because that would just make me a creep, but seriously, it almost became a deal breaker.

Lucky for me, I made the mature choice and stayed. But when Ash and I decided to get married and then moved in together, in the back of my mind one of my agenda items was to make sure the girls remained in their beds. I really didn't think it would be too hard given I had previous success in this area with my three boys. Despite my determination, I didn't start off with both guns blazing. I sort of eased into the role focusing on a rewards system. Basically, if you didn't get out of bed then you'd get a marble to put in your own jar the next morning. Fill up the jar and you get to pick out a treat.

For Allie, problem solved, and pretty much in one night too. I don't think she's gotten out of bed since. However with, then 4 year old Avery, she'd make you want to pull your hair out.

"I'm too hot. I need some water. I can't find my (fill in the name) Care Bear, I miss Gaga. I miss Aunt Lindsay. I need special mommy time. The Russians just invaded Chechnya. The President's approval rate dipped below 27 percent." Take your pick. Needless to say, Avery's marble jar was in overdraft most of the time.

I had a boss who once told me that there's two ways to motivate people, with rewards, or with pain. Rewards weren't working so on to plan B. As soon as Avery poked her pretty little head out the door she got a warning, "Get out of bed one more time and we're taking away a toy." If she did it again, one more warning, kind of like how the Air Force deals with unidentified airplanes who are not authorized in our airspace. And on time number three, "We have a lock on target. Going hot."

I'd enter the room, scoop up all eighteen gazillion Care Bears and walk out. At first Avery was stunned, "That Son of a B*tch actually did it." Then, when reality set in three seconds later she'd wail like a mother in a polygamist compound watching her kids being carted off by the FBI.

Her sister Alley rolled over and and looked at me, "I'm still getting a marble in the morning, right?"

"Ya, we're cool," I said. "But your sister will be lucky if she every gets to see Sunshine Bear and all of his friends ever again. G'niiiiiigt."


This went on for a few weeks, and the Care Bears did allot of hard time in the solitary confinement of my closet corner. Sometimes, she would go to sleep and sometimes she'd get so hysterical I come back a few minutes later holding one Care Bear that I would let her have back if she would promise to stay in bed.

Over time, she became rather enamoured with the fact she could stay in bed without once getting up. "Ron, I stayed in bed all night!" she'd greet me with each morning as she came into the kitchen. She was like a former addict who'd been clean and sober for a month. "Hi, I'm Avery, and I've remained in bed for three weeks."

Truth is, I am pretty proud of her, as she hardly ever gets up anymore, save for the occasional bad dream now and again. Apparently, the whole experience has made a lasting mark of how she views me.

The other day while we were all eating dinner, Avery asks if we would like to see her impression of me looking at her when she gets out of bed. Of course we all said yes, knowing that whatever she did would be an instant classic, and we were not dissappointed as Avery proceeded to give off this blank piercing stare while folding her arms. It was the type of look you might get from the lady working the counter at the DMV as you explain how you lost your driver's license.

We all were gasping for air we were laughing so hard, but in the back of my mind I was thinking Was I really that cold and unfeeling?


Okay, so the video below, you might want to turn down the speakers and send the kids off to ask Dad/Mom/Grandma where babies come from. It may be a little rough, but when Ashley and I saw it we about fell on the floor in tears thinking about all the nights I walked off with a crying girl's Care Bears.

Question: Is putting the kids to bed a parent's biggest conundrum, and if not, what is? How do you get them to stay in bed?

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