“I promised to take my kids on a special trip, but something came up that leaves me no choice but to cancel the trip. I know my kids will be terribly disappointed. My husband says these things happen and I shouldn’t worry, but I feel so guilty about not being able to keep our promise to the children. How can I face their disappointment?”
“My thirteen-year-old daughter is a daydreamer. Whenever I ask her to do a chore, she’ll sit there and daydream instead of doing it. Is this something to worry about? How can I help my daughter stay more down-to-earth?”
“What should we do about our five-year-old, who takes what isn’t hers?”
Our fourteen-year-old son is short, and very self-conscious about it. When his friends make fun of his height, I feel like telling them to stop. How should I handle this sensitive issue?”
Do these parenting scenarios sound familiar to you? When you read them, do you feel like saying, “Oh, my goodness, that’s me!” or “How did they know?! That’s my child!”? If so, you will find a new friend for yourself in Kids…will be Kids!
The above true-to-life examples are only a sampling of the parenting questions addressed to Mimi Schechter Kleiman, RCSW. In Kids…will be Kids! Mrs. Kleiman, a practicing therapist and social worker in the greater New York metropolitan area for the past twenty years, skillfully and sensitively answers dozens of common parenting questions. She starts by explaining the “why” of the problem and then goes on to share her secrets for how to successfully resolve the issue.
You’re a good parent. We all know that—and (hopefully!) so do you! So do a favor for your kids and for yourself. Pick up a copy of Kids…will be Kids! and watch Mimi Kleiman’s magic begin to spread to you and your family!
Here’s a sample:
How can I get them to stay in bed?
For the past few years we have been spending our summers in the country. The one thing that is a hassle for me is getting the younger kids to go to sleep when so many of their friends are still playing outside.
During the year I stick to a tight schedule. All the kids, except for my oldest daughter, who is now 12, are in bed by eight o’clock. I am basically a night person, and when the kids are asleep I get all my work done in peace and quiet. Now, during the summer, after running after the little ones all day, I look forward to sitting out with my friends and relaxing in the evening.
I don’t have patience for the hundreds of excuses my kids always have for getting out of bed — chief among them that other kids are still outside playing so why do they have to go to sleep so early.
If I let them stay up later, they don’t get up in time for camp the next day. Then I have to rush them out or they’ll miss the camp bus.
How can I get them to stay in bed and go to sleep on time, for everyone’s benefit?
Fighting the Summer Sleep Battle
Dear Summer Sleep Battler: The nightly struggle of getting kids to sleep during the summer months — or sometimes all year round — can be a real hassle. The stress can take its toll in many areas, both for the parents and the children alike.
Bedtime conflicts are bound to exist, understandably, when the needs of the children and the parents are so diametrically op-posed. At the end of a long day, parents need a chance to relax or to work without anyone around to pressure or disrupt them. Children, on the other hand, have an abundant supply of energy that cannot be turned off by simply flicking a switch. Unlike adults, they do not look forward to sleep as a renewal of energy or a pleasure to which they readily succumb. Quite the opposite. The fears of darkness that come with nighttime, their concerns regarding their body’s immobility during sleep, their inability to see or know what is going on while they are asleep are all factors that heighten their insecurities. Their minds and bodies need to calm down and be put at ease, allowing sleep to take over.
Citing the behavior of other children is only an excuse to get what they want, i.e., another hour or so of fun, or simply to post-pone going to sleep for as long as possible.
Here are several ways you can make bedtime calmer:
Develop a routine, allowing about an hour after supper to help your children wind down and make the transition from their active day. A young child is reassured when he knows what to expect, because this gives him a sense of control over the situation. The routine should be calming, including a bath, talking time with a parent, reading, coloring, or playing a quiet game, preferably with a parent as a participant or at least supervising nearby.
Make the hour fun and relaxing, so your child will look for-ward to it instead of fighting it. A chart with pictures will help keep younger children on track and can be used to monitor, with checks or stickers, those who go to sleep without a fuss. Include on the chart the child’s reasonable requests before bedtime such as a final drink or a trip to the bathroom.
The first few nights of sleeping in a strange environment are particularly stressful for a child, so if you are spending the summer away, plan to spend more time before bedtime with your children for the first few nights. Make this a time of maximum supportive contact, like holding them on your lap (for younger children), or sitting next to them or holding their hand (for older children), and reassurances of your continued presence (especially if you will be sitting outside or a few yards away).
Build into your evening routine several opportunities for your child to show you how grown–up he is. Children associate staying up late with being grown–up. Being grown–up, to them, means not being told, “Go to sleep now.” Allow your child to make choices about certain activities, games, tapes, stories, or phone calls that will help dispel his fixation on being deprived of the privilege that other kids have in staying up later. Give each a chore to do that will express his prowess in some area, and be sure to express your satisfaction and pride in his accomplishments.
It is most important for children, before they go to sleep, to feel physically and emotionally safe and secure, so that they won’t feel so vulnerable to the normal fears that young children are prone to struggle with around nightfall. Night lights, hall lights, or closet lights may be helpful for some children who are afraid of the dark, while some children find that the shadows created by these lights are even more disturbing.
Keep the evening calm by planning ahead. Have supper, pjs, books, and arts-and-crafts materials ready. Remember, though, that despite the best plans, evening time can become hectic, so make an effort to keep your voice calm. Offer rewards to those who comply instead of punishments for those who don’t. Provide music or story tapes for those who have greater difficulty falling asleep, or what are called “transitional objects,” such as a stuffed toy or a soft fuzzy blanket. These provide comfort to young children whose imaginations are more likely to conjure up frightening images when it is dark.
Keep your voice relaxed and stay patient. Very often parents don’t realize how their lack of patience and their curt tone of voice can make a child anxious, robbing him of the sense of security he needs to fall asleep.
Be alert to worries your child may have. Don’t discuss with others matters that can easily upset, frighten, or worry a child with-in earshot (in person or on the phone). Worrying if parents will be going out at night, leaving them without a familiar babysitter, anxiety over something they will need for their next day’s activities, like a snack, a dry bathing suit, or a permission slip for a trip, are all is-sues that can make going to sleep hard for a child.
If you will be going out after your children fall asleep, let your older children (older than 3) know who will be in charge and where you can be reached. Many parents think that it’s better not to say anything, because they figure that chances are the child will not wake up, so why worry the child unnecessarily. This is risky. Children have an uncanny way of picking up vibes or hearing snatches of conversation that indicate the parent will be out of the house. Then they are even more likely to worry, because they wonder when the parent will be sneaking out again. In any case, the trauma that a child experiences even one time in waking up and not finding a parent where they expect them to be can result in a lifetime of dam-aging aftereffects.
Be firm about your bedtime routine. Make sure that both you and your husband are in agreement with the routine and will back each other in sticking to it. The conjoint agreement of both parents in itself adds a sense of security overall.
When away from home, make a point of occasionally calling in to maintain the control that will be helpful to the caretaker and create an additional sense of security for the child in your absence.
While some parents find that putting up room darkeners helps to shut out the distractions from the outside, the fact is that when children are tired enough and calm enough, their body’s need for rest will prevail over their natural curiosity and inherent need to re-lease pent-up energies.
Spending an hour’s worth of your time and energy to orchestrate the above will reward you with several hours of peace and quiet.