Tonight was one of those nights. My husband and I were both exhausted from a long day and our kids were bouncing off the walls – playing, laughing, having fun. They were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. They’re kids, after all.
Typically, on nights like these, when our kids are so wrapped up in their own fun, it feels like quite the chore to get them interested in doing what’s needed to get to bed on time (teeth, potty, pj’s etc). More specifically, they don’t seem to listen the first time they’re asked. Sound familiar? These are the very times parents are prone to yell, bribe, threaten etc.
My husband and I were upstairs and the kids were downstairs having their fun. It was getting late and we knew “the process” (the term we use for what it takes to get our kids ready for bed) was going to take longer than usual. He told me he was dreading it. I understood…I was sort of dreading it too. We were wiped out!
It was in that moment that I said to him, “Ya know what honey? In this moment, we have a choice. We can choose to go down there and start demanding that the kids head up the moment we say or we can choose to join them where they are, connect and make “the process” fun.” He said, “Ok, I’m in!”
So down the stairs we went. We saw they were playing a game. We sat down beside them and said, “You guys look like you are having so much fun! What are you playing?” They each told us with so much excitement. After a few questions about their game, I continued with, “I love that you guys are having so much fun and it’s time to get ready for bed. I see some game pieces on the floor that need to be picked up (there happened to be 4 colored pieces total). I’m going to pick up the blue pieces. Daddy, what color do you want?” We each chose our colors. I then continued, “Who wants to pick up the red pieces and who wants to pick up the gray pieces?” It was amazing how quickly they each jumped in to help. I then said, “Look at what an awesome team we make – we’re getting so much done! Way to go guys! Thanks for all of your help.”
Ok, game ended, game pieces picked up. Two items checked off the list and several more to go. Next, was getting them up the stairs. In that moment, I pictured a rocket ship and went with that analogy. “Ok, guys, I have a rocket ship here, who’s jumping on to blast us up the stairs?” My husband was the first to join, followed by my son and then my daughter. Next thing I knew, we were all “flying” up the stairs, laughing the whole way. Check.
“Hey guys, the inside of the rocket needs to be cleaned, guess what we need to use to clean it? Toothbrushes! Let’s get those insides (teeth) as clean as we possibly can. Do you want to put the toothpaste on or should I?” “You? Ok, great, thank you.” Check.
Fortunately, the kids were already in their pj’s and bathed, so the final item on the list was getting into bed. So, once again, the “rocket” gave each a ride to their room. Hugs, kisses and a “good night” for everyone!
What “tools” helped us accomplish such a smooth evening? Acknowledgement of the fun they were having with interest in what they were playing, asking vs. telling, limited choices and a good, old fashioned sense of humor 🙂
Did this take more time and creativity? Yes, absolutely. Will I always be able to muster up that much time and creativeness? Probably not. However, I know that the choice is always there and it’s up to us. We can choose to have things done on our terms, “because we said so.” Or, we can choose to take a deep breath and join our kids exactly where they are – realizing their main language is playfulness and joy. Tonight we spoke their language and chose to connect. The rest took care of itself.
It starts with us.
All the best,