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The problem of getting your child to stay in bed
once put to bed is worthy of examination. Initially, it seems this type of
behavior problem has to do with nothing other than staying in bed. You tuck her
into bed. You then turn out the light and leave the room. You are no longer
available for direct supervision. Were you there, your child would stay in bed,
in all probability. Since you have left, she experiments with the possibility
she can misbehave while you are not there to observe. Similar situations
develop as your child gets older. She is left with your baby-sitter and tests
whether or not good behavior is necessary while you are not there to supervise.
Your child plays at the neighbor’s house and the same problem may come up. As
your preschooler becomes a grade schooler, she goes off to school and is involved
in other activities away from home. Is good behavior necessary even if you are
not there to directly supervise? Getting your toddler to stay in bed is the
first step of a very complex learning process.

It is necessary for your toddler to learn to
stay in bed when sent to bed, for there are lifelong implications of needing to
mind when not directly supervised. The first step is to put your toddler in bed
only when you really want her to stay there. If it does not matter, then do not
insist she go to bed, for she very likely just gets up and comes back to where
you are. Do not tell your children to do something if you do not mean it.

Let’s look at a typical situation. Your toddler
becomes somewhat tired or you have decided it is bedtime. You send him to his
room and tell him to lie down and nap. A few minutes later, he comes back to
the room where you are or you discover he is on the floor playing with his
toys. What to do? First, firmly tell him you told him to take a nap and you
expect him to do so. Next, pick him up, put him in bed, and restate you want
him to stay there. Repeat this two or three times, if necessary. Even if you repeat
this several times, do not take it lightly and communicate clearly you are
displeased and this is definitely not a game. Firm disapproval, obvious
annoyance, and repeated insistence normally leads to his finally settling down
and taking a nap.

“It is not worth the hassle,” you may
say. And on any given occasion, this may be true. But the one occasion is not
the issue. Your child must learn to mind and to behave reasonably well, whether
you are present or not. Discipline is
always for the sake of the future.

What about reports of misbehavior from
baby-sitters, neighbors, teachers? Well, the old wisdom misbehaving away from
home gets you into trouble when you get home still applies. This gives emphasis
to the reality your children must behave reasonably and acceptably whether or
not you are present. your rules and expectations go with them wherever they are.

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