It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Power Struggle with Subtitles

“Okay, guys! Naptime!” Timmy, Anna, Emily, Nigel. Each receives their kiss and hug, and lies down to snuggle under their quilts in their separate rooms. Malli, old enough that she doesn’t nap every day, sleeps on a low cot in the kitchen. As I enter the room, she is standing by her cot.

Hm. This could mean trouble. Let’s see…

“Hey there, sweetie. Let’s get you into that bed.”

“I no have a nap.”

Not necessary a problem. She only naps some days; this may not be defiance, but merely clarifying the expectations.

“That’s right. You don’t have to sleep. You can just have a quiet time instead. Lie down, please.”

“I no lie down.”

Ah. Outright rebellion. First response: Pretend it’s not happening and proceed. This works a surprising amount of the time. Smile warmly.

“Here’s a stuffed toy, and a book. Lie down, lovie.”

Say it like you just matter-of-fact-ly expect this thing to happen. Most natural thing in the world.

“I no lie down.”

Okay. That didn’t work. Time for the direct approach. Take some of that warmth out of the smile. Show something a little sterner, speak slowly and with emphasis, display the iron in my soul.

“Malli, it’s naptime. You don’t have to sleep, but you will lie down. You have a toy and a book. It’s time to rest now.”

No coaxing. Just repeat the expectation. Firmly.

Malli draws herself up to her full almost-a-metre. Her brown eyes are slightly narrowed, stern and unyielding. A blond wisp falls into the glare. Surprisingly, it manages not to disappear into a sizzling puff of black char.

I say No.”

You little bugger, you! You honestly think that carries any weight right now? Okay, Mary. Don’t laugh! Don’t, don’t, don’t laugh. Hands gently on her shoulders. Strong eye contact. Voice friendly but completely firm. Got it all together yet? Okay, then…

“Well, I say Yes.” Okay, so I laughed a little, but in combination with the body language and tone of voice, it looked like insouciant self-confidence. “And guess what, Malli? I am the boss here, not you. Now, get into bed, silly girl.”

Don’t wait for compliance. This is the time to pull rank. Lift her up, lay her down, and put the blanket over her rigid body. Okay, now. Is she going to fight this? Any violent struggles happening? … Ha! No. She’s probably lost enough battles of will by now. She’s learned the futility of resistance.

Time to be a gracious winner. Leave her her self-respect. “You want a stuffed toy?”


Heeheehee… She’s two. I may be a gracious winner, but she’s not about to be a gracious loser!

“You want your book?”


“Wow, I guess you must be very tired, then.”

No harm in reinforcing the idea. Because she obviously is. Okay, though. Victory is tenuous enough that she might just pop up out of that cot the second I leave the room. Getting her in a second time would not be pretty, so I think I need to stall a bit.

“I’m going to make my lunch now. Have a nice nap.”

Turn my back. Move quietly about the kitchen for a few minutes. Don’t look at her – that’ll just make her think you expect her to get up. Ears are peeled, though! And in four minutes…

Malli has settled into the steady-stare-and-slow-blink phase of falling into sleep. I slip quietly from the room.

Heh. “I say No.” I think she honestly thought that would work. Little monkey. Heh.

March 8, 2007 Posted by | power struggle, sleep | 17 Comments