- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 16, 2006

My almost 5- and 2-year-old boys recently moved to a bunk bed to be in the same room. Naturally, I’m delighted that they have a wonderful relationship, but they will no longer take their nap without a struggle.

The only thing that has been working is a spanking, but I would rather reserve this particular bullet for more serious things. I know that being together in the same room is fairly new and exciting; however, they don’t have the same problem at bedtime. Do you have any ideas?

A: First, though I have no great problem with spankings per se, I agree with you that spanking is an ineffective response to a problem of this nature. I’m relatively certain that you are spanking out of frustration because nothing else that you have tried has worked.

Whereas spanking may have quelled the problem temporarily, its effectiveness is very likely to run its course quickly, and you may well find yourself dealing with an even greater problem in the long run.

In any case, I have several ideas for you. Take your pick.

First, don’t put the children together for nap time. Put one of them in your bed, for example. You may find, however, that if the 2-year-old is separated from his older brother at nap time, that he may cry, which may cause his brother to become upset. In other words, you may exchange one problem for another.

Second, put them in their bedroom but don’t require them to sleep. Just define it as “quiet time.” Close their door, put an alarm clock outside that’s set to ring when you’re ready for chaos to resume, and tell them they have to stay in the room, playing quietly until the alarm goes off.

They aren’t likely to play quietly, however, in which case you’ll just have to accept that there is no perfect solution to this problem, and ignore them for the duration. Console yourself with the fact that the chaos is at least contained.

Third, “deputize” the 5-year-old. Tell him that he’s responsible for seeing to it that his brother takes a nap. Give the impression that this is a very important responsibility and tie it to a reward of some sort. The problem here is that if he doesn’t succeed, he may begin to resent his younger brother, and the relationship will suffer.

Four, tell them that if they don’t take a nap, they still have to remain in their room for the full nap time, but their bedtime moves up an hour. The problem here is that the older boy will be the only one who understands what that really means, and he may become very frustrated in his attempts to get his brother to cooperate with him.

I think you will agree that when all is said and done, it’s more important that they continue to have a good relationship than that they take a nap.

As is the case with a good number of discipline problems, there is no pat solution to this one. If I were in your shoes, I would take the easy way out — Solution No. 2 — which may simply mean that as I get older, I get lazier. Or it may mean that as I get older, I get wiser. I do hope it’s the latter. I’m sure my readers agree.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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