Dear Kid Whisperer,
I have just started going to your website and I have tried a couple of your suggestions with my five year old. They work. I am having a problem with bedtime, however. Even though he has an 8:00 bedtime, it is usually at least 9:30 before his mother and I can get him in bed because we are bargaining and bribing him to go to bed. Help please. -Garry, Indianapolis, Indiana
It totally makes sense to have this kind of problem with a five year old, if, that is, your 5 year old is a 500 pound rabid gorilla. Here’s the thing about 5 year old humans, Garry: you can pick them up and move them.
You are the boss. You are big. He is little. You know best. He does not. Go be a parent.
There is NEVER a reason for a kid to be up past bedtime unless YOU want him to be. This includes kids that are too big to carry, but that is for another column. For your non-gorilla five year old it’s pretty simple.
Here’s how to do this. Notice that whenever possible, I give choices and I never try to control what I can’t control. In this scenario, I will assume that the kid will be totally uncooperative, since it appears that this is what you have trained your own son to be.
Kid Whisperer: Its 7:45. Do you want to get ready for bedtime now or in five minutes?
Kid: FIVE MINUTES!!!
Kid Whisperer: (Five minutes later) OK, time to get ready for bed. Do you want to go to the bathroom first or brush your teeth first?
Kid: I WANT TO PLAY!!! CHILDREN HAVE A RIGHT TO PHYSICAL ACTIVITY!!!
Kid Whisperer: Would you like to walk to the bathroom, or would you like me to carry you?
Kid: YOU WOUDN’T DARE!!!!
Kid Whisperer: Oh, geez. (Kid Whisperer picks up Kid and carries him to the bathroom)
Kid: I WILL SUE YOU!!!
Kid Whisperer: (Once inside the bathroom) Would you like me to brush my teeth with you, or would you like to do it on your own?
Kid: I’m never brushing my teeth again! I WANT A LAWYER!
(Note: Nothing is done now, but the next day, Kid Whisperer and Mrs. Kid Whisperer will have double chocolate cake for dessert. Kid will get no dessert and will be told that his parents allow kids who take care of their teeth to have sweets.)
Kid Whisperer: Oh, geez. Would you like to use the bathroom now, or would you like to see if you can hold it until the morning?
Kid: Fine! I’ll go, BUT NOT BECAUSE YOU TOLD ME TO!!!!!!
Kid Whisperer: (after bathroom activities are concluded) Would you like to walk to your room, or would you like me to carry you?
Kid: THIS KIND OF NONSENSE WILL NOT STAND!!!!
Kid Whisperer: (picking up Kid) Oh, geez. Carrying it is. (Once inside the bedroom, Kid Whisperer says the following) Well, Bud, I am far too tired after all of this carrying to read you a story and sing you a song like I usually do. I love you so much. Good night. (Kid Whisperer exits, closing the safety lock door behind him. Kid will scream like a lunatic for a long, long time.)
Do this exact same routine every single night until he is no longer small enough to carry. By then, however, you will never need to carry him! Start reading stories and singing songs again when he stops draining your energy by choosing to be carried.
Starting tonight, “no kid time” will begin promptly at 8 pm sharp.