Lately, my 3-year old daughter has been testing me.
It’s the classic won’t-stay-in-bed test.
First, she kept coming out of her room with various “needs” or would try to talk to my wife and me while we were trying to relax.
Like a good conservative parent, I tried the approach I was most familiar with: stern warnings and spankings.
But that approach did not work at all. All it did was work her up into a hysteria. Plus, she has OCD tendencies (like I did as a child) so when she gets fixated on something she feels she “needs” she can scream about it for an almost an hour straight.
So the spankings weren’t helping.
Then I tried the “nice” approach.
I’d lie in bed with her. Pray with her. Try to help her relax.
But that didn’t work either.
She only saw my kindness as an opportunity to increase her requests. And the result was the same as before: not falling asleep until 2 in the morning.
As you might have guessed the effective approach was the third option: neither indulgence nor coercion.
Instead, I just calmly laid down a clear boundary.
Every time she’d leave her room, I’d just pick her up and put her back to bed.
The first night she repeatedly ran out of her room for about an hour and half straight. Then lied in bed and cried for an hour. Then went to sleep.
Next night was half-hour of resistance, then an hour or so of crying.
Third night she didn’t try to get out of her room at all. Instead she just screamed, cried, and whined for a couple hours.
Recently, she’s been testing the boundaries again. She’s not getting out of bed, but she’ll stay awake in her room until 2 or 3 in the morning and then wake up at 8 in the morning. A sleep-deprived little woman makes for a miserable day.
So I decided it was time to set another boundary: lights out after half-an-hour and no getting out of bed.
Similar situation as before: tried to get out of bed for over an hour. Cried for an hour. Went to sleep.
I expect tonight will be a shorter period of resistance.
So what’s the point of all this?
Well, I’ve noticed that principles in human relationships are transferable. What works with adults works with children and vice versa. We’re all human. Some are just more mature than others.
I’ve noticed that we tend to apply one of two ineffective strategies when dealing with people: coercion or indulgence. And it all centers around the dynamic of demands.
When dealing with his wife, a man tends to follow one of two approaches:
- Appease his wife’s requests (The Nice Guy Approach)
- Request that his wife change her behavior, usually backed by a “threat” (The Wife Discipline / Classic Red Pill Approach)
In my experience, Option 1 leads to a dead bedroom. Option 2 leads to resistance (though admittedly more sexual attraction.)
But I think I’ve found a third option that works better:
I enforce my personal boundaries. She can do what she wants so long as she doesn’t infringe on my happiness. I improve myself and stay busy with my mission. I invite her to grow with me. And she follows.