A five-year-old has been getting up two or three times each night, making up silly reasons to get out of her bed in the middle of the night.
Dear Diana: Our 5-year-old daughter has been sleeping through the night since we implemented a bedtime and middle-of-the-night routine, which you suggested when she was about 3 years old. We have all been well rested and grateful to sleep through the night. However, over the last two weeks, our daughter has been getting up two or three times each night, making up silly reasons to get out of her bed in the middle of the night, when we are sound asleep. The first few nights I got up and returned her to bed thinking it was a phase. After a long few weeks, both my husband and I were frustrated and exhausted.
I started our daughter on a sticker chart so she could earn a gold star each morning if she stayed in bed the night before. We decided that she needed to earn five stars in a row in order to earn a prize. It’s been working really well. She is staying in her bed all night and earning a star in the morning.
The problem is that I left for work early one morning before she woke up, and my husband was in charge. While he was tending to our baby, our daughter went into his office and broke a glass paperweight from his desk. He called me at work to tell me what happened. He said he told our daughter that he was going to take away all of her stars for going into his office and breaking his paperweight.
I told him that she earned her stars for sleeping through the night, and that he should come up with another punishment. He agreed, but told our daughter that I would come up with a new punishment. I am thinking of taking away TV for a few days or taking away some of her favorite toys for a week or so.
By the time you receive this letter, we will have gotten through this, but I am wondering how we should handle something like this the next time.
Dear Mom: You were absolutely correct to allow your daughter to keep the stars which she earned for sleeping through the night. She is a concrete learner, and this is a black-and-white situation where she worked hard to earn a star for a specific behavior. Those stars were well-earned. Instead of taking away the stars, it is much more effective and meaningful for her if she is given a natural consequence, which is something that is related to the exact problem.
In this case, she went into her father’s office without permission, and broke something which she was not to touch. A natural consequence would be to have her help repair or pay for a new paperweight. If she has a piggy bank, you might have her give some money to her dad, which could be saved toward a new paperweight.
She also could be required to do some small jobs around the house to earn some money, and give her earnings to her dad. Since this is about keeping her hands to herself, help her trace her hands and cut out the shape of her two hands together. Help her to write a letter of apology to her dad on her hands, saying that she will keep her hands to herself.
Whenever you have a behavior which needs to be addressed with a consequence, try to think of something your child can do that is directly related to the problem.
Remember, as parents, our job is not to punish, but to teach. Teach a lesson that your child will learn from and remember.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting expert. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.