My parenting battle these days is sleep. Actually... if I stop and think about it, sleep has been an ongoing issue for about 7 years... So, let me rephrase that - I think Silas is starting to give up his afternoon nap and I'm fighting it. Tooth and nail.
I was chatting with some girlfriends a little while ago about some of our parenting habits that we aren't proud of (i.e. soothers and bottles to help our kids sleep). And I admitted that I let my 3-year-old son take a Disney Princess sippy-cup with milk to bed every nap-time. If the princess cup is dirty, I will wash it. And if he asks for a refill, I will get him one. And when he screams that he needs to be tucked in for the 3rd time, I go in and quietly do it. Why? Because I want him to sleep. I NEED him to sleep. It is the only time I can do my transcription work uninterrupted. Or update my blog. Or just sit and read a book. It is the key to my sanity. And I will even stoop to bad parenting strategies to make it happen.
But at night I'm firm that he can't have milk in bed because his teeth are brushed (and I want to make sure he can fall asleep without it) so then I sometimes need other ways to convince him that sleep is what needs to happen next on the agenda. Since the 3 kids are sharing a room for the foreseeable future, bedtime can be chaotic and I feel like I have to be creative to get them settled - Silas especially. So I've learned that the power of a good story can work wonders - especially with a 3 year old. My classic go-to trick is to find the nearest stuffed animal or toy and pretend that it's whispering a secret into my ear. A secret which I then relay onto Silas. Usually it goes something like this: "Mr. Froggy is so tired but he's having a hard time falling asleep. He needs someone to help him, but who??" This usually brings a smile out of Silas - probably in part because he knows I'm full of it, but also in part because he really likes the idea of helping out his little froggy friend. Or I might say something like, "Elmo has never slept in your bed before and he's feeling a little nervous. Could you hold him extra tight?" And after Elmo is thoroughly tucked in and kissed goodnight I can remind Silas to whisper so that we don't wake Elmo up.
I'm telling you, this has saved many a bedtime and nap in our house.
This tactic can be brought to the dinner table as well (but I have to give credit to an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba that gave me the initial idea - haha). Giving food a personality is surprisingly effective; "Silas, that first carrot you ate is having a big party in your tummy right now but the other one on your plate is sad because he wants to go to the party too!" Silas is usually pretty pumped to help carrot #2 get to the tummy party. Perhaps some might say I'm instilling a sense of guilt into my preschooler if he makes his vegetables sad. But, in the big scheme of things? I just want him to eat.
My honest desire is to be the parent that does everything "right"; the parent that disciplines my children appropriately even when it's inconvenient for me; the parent that wouldn't resort to bribery and princess-cups full of milk to get the desired results. I'd like to be that parent. And I think I'm working towards that. But I think most of us agree that sometimes you just have to do what works.