During the day, my daughter is a whirlwind. She buzzes through our home with seemingly endless energy—one small blur kicking up a storm of toys and books as she goes.
By bedtime, however, she has slammed on the brakes, unable to move at anything but a glacial pace. It is excruciating. It is a special sort of torture to have bedtime so tantalizingly close, and yet blocked by so many obstacles.
I’ll admit that in my frustration, I have, on more than one occasion, let loose with a series of threats, “You’re about to lose a bedtime story!” being the most popular among them. As you can imagine, this does not go over particularly well. Instead, we spend the remainder of our time together butting heads (figuratively) and wiping tears (literally). It is the worst way to end the day.
Then, I received this little piece of parenting advice, and it has been a game-changer for both night and day: Turn these tough moments into choices.
With this advice, I can look at my dawdling kid at bedtime and give her two options:
- You can spend this time dancing instead of putting on pajamas, or …
- You can quickly change into PJs and have enough time for a bedtime story
“Your choice,” I’ll say. “What do you want to do?” I will admit that my daughter doesn’t always make the choice I want her to. And when she doesn’t, I have to stick to my guns and say gently, “You decided to do all of that dancing and now we have run out of time for a bedtime story.”
Giving our little ones decision-making power gives them a sense of agency and satisfies their hunger for independence too.
The idea here is that there are no punishments—only natural consequences to our decisions. Giving our little ones decision-making power gives them a sense of agency and satisfies their hunger for independence too. When I implement this simple strategy, we end the day on a more peaceful note, making this parenting trick well worth it.