Years ago, a little girl would come into preschool every morning and threw a temper tantrum when Mom got ready to leave. As soon as Mom was gone, she was fine and was one of the sweetest children her teachers had ever worked with. They all knew she was playing Mom. After many weeks of this, Mom was emotionally and physically exhausted. She was considering taking the child out of preschool, when her teacher suggested a solution. For every morning that she threw a fit, she had to go to bed 30 minutes early. Mom decided to give it a try.
On the first day, a Wednesday, the little girl came in and threw her usual fit. Mom told her tonight you have to go to bed 30 minutes early. That evening, when Mom picked her up, they went home and Mom put her to bed as promised at 7:30 instead of her usual 8:00. When she complained, Mom explained that if you were so tired that you had to cry going into school, you needed to go to bed early and that for the rest of the week, she would go to bed at 7:30. She only came to preschool three days a week, so Mom explained that if on Friday, she threw another fit, she would go to bed at 7:00.
Friday morning came, and again she threw her fit. Mom was wiser than any of us gave her credit for. That night she was prepared. At 7:00 she put her daughter to bed and popped popcorn for her siblings. They got out a movie she’d been promising the family for a while. The siblings were told that because it was Friday, and because they had all been so good going to school, that they got to stay up 30 minutes later than normal. As her little one protested from her room, Mom explained that she must be very tired if going to school was so hard in the mornings, kissed her goodnight and took her own very broken heart into watch TV with the rest of her children.
Monday morning came and the sweet little girl and her Mom bounded into school all smiles. The teacher greeted them and was told, “Mrs. A. I feel so great. I must have been really tired, but I have grown up some and now I can come to school without crying.”
That night, Mom got ready to put the kids to bed and her princess told her, “Mom I want to stay up and watch a movie.” Then Mom said the most intelligent thing a parent has ever said. “We have to go to bed now. Mom planned a special weekend for our family and you didn’t get to participate because you misbehaved at school. Our actions have consequences. For me to make tonight special just because you did what I have asked you to do would be a disservice to you and your siblings. Maybe if you do what you are supposed to do, then next time Mom plans something special with our family, you will get to participate too.”
“When will that be Momma?”
“When Mom and Dad feel that the time is right. You need to learn to be good because that is what is expected of you, not because you may be rewarded for doing so.”
The little girl never had trouble getting to preschool on time without crying after that. Her mother became the hero of all the teachers for her strength under great duress. And a few weeks later, she and her little girl had a movie day, just the two of them.