"If you want a popsicle, you have to finish your dinner first".
Reward or bribe
"If you want to watch TV, you need to brush your teeth first".
I find myself repeating these sentences almost every day in order to get my 3 year old to do as I tell her. If you've ever had a toddler or taken care of one, you know her/his answer to every request or command is "no", especially if it requires a chore getting done. I never saw anything wrong with this since I'm teaching my daughter that if you meet your responsibilities, you can receive a reward. (Most of the time, anyway).
As you may remember from last weeks post Toddlers and sleep, Amelia has been having major issues with staying asleep in the middle of the night. The day the post was published, she woke up three times in the middle of the night. During lunch on Monday, I asked my innocent looking girl why she woke up in the middle of the night. For some reason I wasn't expecting an answer.
"Oh yes, to scream Mama, Daddy!"
She knew exactly what I was talking about, that little sneaky kid. So we explained to her that she needed to go back to sleep on her own when she woke up in the middle of the night, just like her father and I do.
"But you can rock me a bit" she replied.
I told her that she needed to sleep through the night until the sun came out, that we weren't going to come get her before that. I felt kind of bad saying that (mother's guilt) so then I added, "If you sleep through the night tonight, you'll get a treat tomorrow. If you wake up Mami and Daddy, no treat."
Of course she slept through the night every night from then on and is now the proud owner of 2 little princesses.
"Don't stop giving them to her. Do it for the first week and then space it out," was my mother's advice. She raised two wonderful children and was an elementary school teacher, so I was ready to follow her plan. But by the third day of sleeping through the night, I stopped giving her treats.
Amelia's baby sitter, who tends to give her opinion freely in these matters (but that's another subject), told me that she felt like we were buying Amelia's good behavior with the toys. I told her I disagreed with her and that I was rewarding good behavior and that I would stop when I saw fit. (I was a lot nicer because I hate confrontation and really love my nanny.) But her comment struck a chord, it stung!
Thankfully Amelia slept through the night every single day without asking for her treat. Our verbal praise seemed to be enough reward for her. Now, was I rewarding her good behavior or bribing her? When do we stop rewarding them for doing what they are supposed to do? How do we make sure they don't expect a material reward for every good action?
This was my mother's answer: "Of course you are buying the child's good behavior, you are buying yourself a good night of sleep!" I love that woman. Now what do you think? Ay Mama!