Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Reasons to be *****ful

I have reasons to be stressful, but I’m trying to overcome them. Or, at least, my response to them. Some things are beyond my control, but I’m also screwing up things that are within my control, which is counter-productive, to say the least.

For instance, my toddler’s insane screaming refusal to go to bed — which has become traditional over the past few weeks, after years of him being a relatively unproblematic sleeper. My wife talked to a friend about coping strategies for this behavior (since our strategy of threats, bribery, bargaining, exhausted begging, etc. wasn’t really working), and we decided to try an incredibly calm approach. When he gets up, we just silently take his hand and lead him back to bed, put a blanket over him, and walk away. Don’t engage, don’t give him the feedback he’s looking for — which is any feedback at all.

He got up seven times, but after the seventh time, he stayed in bed, and it took much less time than usual to go from “It’s bedtime!” to actual sleep.

So I’m trying to be more relaxed about kid stuff in general. In the grand scheme of things, potty accidents are no big deal. Dirty hands can get washed. Usually when he does crazy break-the-world stuff, he’s just feeling lonely and needy, and giving him a little attention will calm him down. And when he’s truly crazy tantruming… well, there’s no rule that says I have to stand there and watch him bang his tiny fists on the carpet. I can wander off until he gets over it.

I’m also trying to eat better, since that’ll improve my energy levels. And I’m generally going to try and roll with the punches instead of allowing myself to be battered and shattered quite so easily. Life is long, and most of my current and seemingly insurmountable problems will fade into irrelevance in weeks or months. So, yeah. Trying to live in the moment AND take the long view. Should be easy!

At the very least, I can remember that I also have reasons to be thankful and cheerful, as well as full of stress.

3 Responses to “Reasons to be *****ful”

  1. Keith Says:

    When my twins switched to big-boy beds on their third birthday, and realized exactly what NO BARS! meant, we had three months of sheer hell. The problem was, we had no leverage. What were we going to do, give them timeouts? They’d have to get out of bed for that.

    What finally worked was the invention of leverage. We gave them something with the express purpose of threatening to take it away:

    Book lights.

    You may take a book to bed. You may look at it in bed. You may have this cool book light in bed. Look, it has a button that you can clickity clickity clickity clickity clickity to your little heart’s content.

    If you get out of bed, you lose your book light.

    Took about a week, if I recall, before parents started to get sleep again.


  2. Mary Branscombe Says:

    All I know about child rearing I learned from being too ill to turn off Supernanny when it came on, but that kind of calm, non-reactive firm correction seems to be what she says kids respond very well to. And yay for slowing down and remembering to enjoy stuff instead of just tensing up with stress and having the good things bounce off.

  3. Bryce Says:

    Yeah, kids are interesting creatures. My wife is a Behavioral Analyst with about a semester to go on her Masters, so we talk about different strategies for our 17 month old all the time.

    We developed a pretty specific routine, and that has seemingly helped the process. We do dinner, pajamas, drink of water, brush teeth, read two books, drink of water, sing a song, then bed. We do water twice because that used to be his favorite stalling tactic, so we just made it a part of the routine rather than have him ask us after every step.

    He’s still in a crib, but we’re thinking about a toddler bed, and we’ll be using a very similar strategy to what you’re doing. Don’t say anything, don’t give him any attention. Just take him back to bed, put him in and leave.

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