I Can't Discipline Myself to Discipline My Son

Updated on June 29, 2008
M.B. asks from APO, AP
13 answers

I have 3 major issues with my child right now, 2 of which I know for sure are my fault.
1. Bedtime 2. Eating 3. Potting Training
I have allowed my son into my bed and now I can't get him out. We've done the crying thing and gotten him to put himself to sleep in his own bed, but everytime my husband goes TDY or we go on vacation I let my son in the bed and have to start all over again. We have done this so many times. Now he is almost 3. I don't want to keep putting him through this. I know the Nanny 911 thing about keep putting him in the bed and let him cry, but it just won't work this time. He clings to me and when I finally wrestle him off me, he's immediately out of the bed again.
2. He won't eat anything other than the 10 things he likes and won't try new foods. We eat lots of variety and eat dinner at the table as a family, but my son won't try anything. I always have to fix a seperate meal for him. I can't let him starve. I always give in and give him a snack.
3. I can't find the motivation to roll up the rugs and just let him pee all over the place till he learns to pee in the potty. His school wants him to wear pull-ups, so now he likes them better than diapers, but they are just the same as wearing a diaper.
I guess I'm really just venting. I've gotten advice before, but I just don't know if I will ever be able to fix things. It stresses me out that I'm in this situation in the first place. I feel like I've failed.

What can I do next?

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answers from Stationed Overseas on

google the sleep lady shuffle. if you're willing to put in the time then he will be in his own bed within a week. The potty training will click when he's ready. I also have an almost 3 year old and potty training clicked last week. All of the sudden she's been in underwear for a week and only wearing a diaper at night.

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answers from Stationed Overseas on

It sounds like you have a lot to deal with. I would say that you should never start habits that you don't want to have to break later. I would also say that If you want to break your child of the things that you have mentioned to only attempt to deal with one thing at a time. For your sanity and for the childs sake. I have 7 children by the way...13-newborn. I don't want you to think that I have no idea what I'm talking about. when I potty train I only do it for three days every two weeks. Sounds silly but it works an dis the most stress free way to do it. About the eating. I have kids that refuse to eat certain things. I have decided not to be a short order cook. They either eat when we do or they don't eat. They won't starve themselves. Of course I'm not a total hard ass. I do try to cook something each meal to go with whatever we are eating that I know everyone will eat. Don't stress about the food. It isn't worth it. I have had kids go for weeks on end and the only think that they wanted to eat was a PB and J. There are better things to fight with your kids about. Sleeping in bed...I don't know what to tell you about that. I never let mine sleep with me until they were old enough to understand that they only time they can take turns sleeping in my bed is when dad is gone and they all know that it's out of the question unless they are sick when dad is home. All I will say is you have let the child back in the bed so they have learned that they need to push you just that far to get back in there and that is exactly what has happened now you have to step it up and get them back out of there. It won't be easy but whatever you do if you get them out of there don't let them back in even if hubby leaves again. Good Luck



answers from Stationed Overseas on


all has been said about the bed and food. And even the potty training. I am avid believer in elimination communication. That is too late for you son. Now think about what happened very early on: your son was "telling" you that he needed to eliminate and you "told" him that he need to use the diaper. And then about 2-4 years later we go back to our children and tell them ok now that you have learned to use the diaper so well you will use the toilett from now.

Having that said we can't back off our children because we are the leaders we have the responsibility. So when you are really ready for your son to use the toilett you need to talk to him--children understand a lot more than we give them credit for. Because they can't respond as well, does not mean at all that they don't get it. You need to explain to him that he is a big boy and that he will not get a diaper anymore and once you have decided that, don't even go back one time because its seems more convenient just that one time. And that's why it is important that you make up your mind if you are really ready for your son to not use diapers anymore. Then you give a choice--kid like to have power. His choice is to use the toilett or pee in his pants. Don't ever get upset about any accident but tell him calmly with no emotion that he will need to change his pants himself (my boy was 1,5 when we went through that but we had been practicing elimination communcation from his 2nd week on) because he was so young I provide the new pants but in your sons case I would even send him to his dresser himself and get a new pair of underware and pants and make him change (works only with pee of course--big stuff I'd help--I never had a problem there because he was trained in that area with 9 months).

I learned also from a very good mother to always give children a choice. It might not be a good choice but it's at least a choice they have. You can even practice that with your food problem. You can cook one meal for the family and you can offer him 2 things that you have and he can choose. Of course he will ak you at athat point for #3 that you don't have then you can tell him that you have these 2 things (or even more) and he can choose which one item he would like to have. Of course he might not go with that at that point you can offer him another choice of 2: either pick one food item or leave the table and no food until the next meal.

You are teaching your son a lot by using the 2 choice method: life is about choices and you have to teach a child to make choices first with little things in order to make the right choices later on in life and then once you make a choice you have to live with the results that your decision bring to you.

If you decide to go with the 2 choice method be patient at the begining because making a choice with little things is a big thing for you little guy.

Good Luck in making up your mind how you want to proceed with bringing up your son and then be strong and sick with it! You can do it!



answers from Stationed Overseas on

honey i sooooo feel your pain my boys are 5 and 6. we also live in okinawa we are on camp foster # is ###-###-#### name is shelly please feel free to call me i am home most of the time and i have gone through this and have some suggestions that may or maynot help :)



answers from Stationed Overseas on

Wow...um, where to start?? I guess the good news is that you know that you are to blame for him being in bed with you=) I really don't have an answer for that. Except that you have GOT to get him back into his bed and STOP putting him in bed with you. He feels your anxiety when your husband is away, and that's not good for him. You are also going to make him resent his father eventually. Every time daddy comes home he has to be alone again, and he is old enough to soothe himself to sleep, but he's never learned that skill because you won't let him. Bless both your hearts! It may take a week...maybe longer, but you have got to keep putting him back in his bed. Sounds like you're not going to get much sleep during this time, but you have to do it for your son. This isn't about you, or your feelings, it's about that little boy who needs to be in his own bed. I have 4 kids and my oldest was a VERY picky eater when he was little. He would only eat pizza, chicken nuggets, ramen, and mac-n-cheese. When he was about your son's age I started putting what we were eating in front of him and if he didn't eat it, he didn't eat. NO SNACKS or desert after. Your son won't starve=) He'll eat when he gets hungry enough. I know it's hard, it's SO hard to look into those little eyes and say "no", but you're gong to have to, unless you don't mind being a short order cook. You need to fix this now before you have any more little ones or you're going to be exhausted cooking different things for everyone! Now the potty training thing I have no clue about.

You go ahead and vent girl, that's what we're here for! I know that you've heard all the things I've said before, and in your heart you know what needs to be done, now you just have to get up the gumption to do it. It's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination but you are capable of more than you could ever imagine. Good luck=)



answers from Stationed Overseas on

Parenthood is stressful, especially when compounded with deployment, TDY, moving, living overseas, etc. You have been inconsistent and that is the problem. Your instincts and the parenting plans you try to follow conflict and therefore you have not been successful. There is another way. Don't beat yourself up. You can get through all of this.


The problem is not with co-sleeping, it is with consistency. Also, when you do co-sleep, a gentle transition works best. Start with his crib/bed/mattress on the floor in your room. Get him used to that and then transition to his room. We co-slept (by choice) until about 19 months. Then he started thrashing around a lot at night and we decided to transition him to his own bed.

1. First, we set up my son's crib in our room for about a month and always referred to it as "his bed" but we did not make him sleep in it. If he wanted to sit in it, we let him play in there for a few minutes. Every time we passed the bed, I would say,"Where is your bed?" and he would point it.

2. Then, I said,"You are going to sleep in your bed tonight." We did his bed time routine and in the bed he went. No problems.

His crib is still in our room, but it is our choice because the other two rooms in the house are being used an exercise room and a guest bedroom/office. Eventually we will move his bed into another room. I am preparing for that by referring to the room with his clothes and diapers as "his room". I say,"You need a diaper change, go to your room." Then we will pick out a bed and new bedding and set it up and talk about sleeping in his room and then we will make the transition.

People want quick solutions, but slow and gentle is the best way. You have tried and failed the hard core approach and the more you try it, the harder he will fight because he doesn't believe you. If you try the slower, gentler approach and remain consistent, you will be successful.

Also, have a bedtime routine that involves you spending a lot of time with him in his bed before he goes to sleep for stories, songs, and cuddles. If he clings to you, he needs you. He feels insecure about you being there. He is looking for reassurance, so build it into the routine. It will be a special time of day for the two you of and the more you give, the less desperately he will need your attention and reassurance. I tell my son the routine every night and with each transition I announce it and it works for us. Then follow through. I promise that if you provide intermediate steps between sleeping in your bed and in his own room, you will be successful. Talk about each step for awhile (2 weeks or so) before you try it so he does not panic. Someone else mentioned using a timer during the bedtime routine. I found it helpful during nighttime routine.

A good book is Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution to help you understand where your child is coming from and how to make the transition.

2. Eating. Have healthy food available. Pediatrician and parenting expert, Dr. Sears recommends having healthy snacks for "toddler grazing" throughout the day so he can experiment with food. At meal time, present him with the family dinner. if he eats it, great. If he doesn't that is fine, to. You cannot force a kid to eat and then it becomes a battle when you try. He will not starve, but you can't give in and make him something special and separate and probably of questionable nutritional value like mac n cheese every night or give him a non-nutritious snack just to get food in him. If he doesn't have those options, he will begin to eat.

The more hardcore approach is to serve the family meal and keep offering it until he eats it. The gentler approach is to provide healthy foods throughout the day and relax. Read these tips for dealing with a picky eater.


There is a difference between setting up opportunities for grazing as Dr. Sears suggests and making multiple meals, trying to find something he will eat. The difference is your investment in whether he does it or not. When you beg and plead with him to eat and stress and panic and make something different, he is getting negative attention. Negative attention is still attention and desirable for a little one. It is a battle for control. With grazing, you put food out and leave it there. Let him choose what to eat or what not to eat. Again, he will not starve. He may test you for awhile but as long as he is drinking enough fluids, he will be fine and you can outlast him. Don't give in with junk food.


My son cried the first time I gave him solids at 6 months. So, I let it go tried again every few weeks. The response was the same every time until one day, when he was almost 8 months old when he ate a whole jar of sweet potatoes. He has been a great eater ever since. He likes spicy, sour, vegetables, whole wheat bread, etc. If there is a day when he doesn't want to eat, I don't force him to, there is usually a gastrointestinal reason. After he gets over that, he eats.

The one food issue we have had is with drinking liquids other than breastmilk and water. He wouldn't even look at cow's milk. I still nurse him quite a bit and he eats other dairy so I wanted to make a gentle transition, so I started giving him a little bit of soy milk in a cup with meals and calling it "soy" instead of soy milk. Then after he got to the point where he would sip it a bit, I gave him a little more, poured some for myself said said,"cheers", clinked our glasses and said "take a drink". He liked this game so much, so realized he liked soy. Today, at the commissary he started yelling,"My soy! My soy!" when I put it in the cart. Slow and gentle really works.

3. Potty training. We aren't there, yet. We have started talking about using the potty, body parts, etc. but have not gone beyond that. He has started to say,"pee" and point to the potty when he is in the tub. That is the only time I put him on. He hasn't actually peed, yet and doesn't stay on long, we are just getting used to the idea.

I think that trying cloth training pants could be the next step or just putting him in underwear and changing his clothes. I think that with all the other issues you are dealing with, you should just work on laying the ground work for potty training until you have improvements and successes in the sleeping and eating environments.

The good news is that you will see a big improvement when you give up the illusion that you have control over his very personal body processes. Once you relax, you can let him take the lead.

Some people might thing that the approaches I have outlined take too long, but just consider how much time you have already invested in the hardcore methods and failed. Check out http://www.askdrsears.com or get one of the Dr. Sears Baby books from the library or buy one, they are great resources and can help you maintain control over yourself so that you can guide him in his development.

Good luck and if you need encouragement, message me and I will be glad to cheer you on!



answers from Stationed Overseas on

I can't advise much on the sleeping issue, we mostly kept our kids out, but bedtime is a struggle for most parents, I think. Just keep trying, and if you can avoid letting him back in bed during travelling and TDYs, that would be best. Maybe try to change your bedtime routine, use a timer for "cuddle time", and when the timer goes off, leave the room after a hug and kiss. He may be more relaxed at that point. Whatever you do, you know you have to be consistent.

As far as eating goes, my kids are picky too, but I try not to make a special dinner for them if we are having a family meal. They pretty much get to eat the part of the meal they like and if they don't like any of it, then they go hungry. Be realistic, he's not going to starve. Have you ever heard of a child starving because they were just too picky? Children will eventually eat if they are hungry. And if he doesn't eat his dinner and you give in and let him have a snack after dinner, he's going to keep doing it. I know some people will think this sounds mean, but kids are going to try and do whatever they can to get there way, and it's our jobs as parents to do what is best for them, not what's easy or "nice". Most the kids I knew who had "nice" parents grew up to be great examples of unprepared adults.

For potty training, we had a rough time with both boys, but with one, he loved calendars and he was given a two month window to pick a day on a calendar and when he got to that day, he had to stop wearing diapers. We had a few days of messes and then an occasional and it dwindled from there. For the younger one, we just picked a weekend and said "this is it kid" and cleaned up alot. But he potty trained over that weekend and only had occasional accidents and was night trained alot faster than his brother.

Good luck, sounds like you know what you should be doing, just are having a hard time doing it. It's hard because we want our kids to always be happy with us and for our time with them to be pleasant.



answers from Stationed Overseas on

I have his twin but mine is a girl.I dont do the Co sleeping thing anymore..And I just put her in underwear she will eventually stop peeing in her pants. I remind her that she has to go in the pottie all the time..Then we celebrate every right and explain what was wrong when she does so.Some of us are not consistent people in life and struggle with what others consider so easy..I am not a consistent anything in any area of life. Just remind yourself you are doing it for him and it will be easier in the long run.He is your child and you know him the best you only fail him when you give up on him. He will not go to 1st grade in his diaper and starved..Good luck S. A



answers from Stationed Overseas on

Hi M.

I also live in Okinawa, Japan and I'm a daycare provider. I've been doing daycare for about thirteen years and I just wanted to let you know that you can get pass this situation with your son. It might take a little patience but can be done. Don't give up keep putting him in his bed but remember when your husband is TDY DO NOT PUT HIM BACK IN YOUR BED. Praise him when he wakes up in the morning in his own bed. Maybe you might need to stay with him a while the first few times. I'm sure things will work out for you.



answers from Stationed Overseas on

Don't feel like you've failed Because you haven't. I have a daughter the same age as your son and we have very similar problems. What has worked for me is pick just one and work on that and only that. I started with the bed time first and she is slowly getting one. If you don't mind making something different for meals for him I'd stick to that. Some kids just are picky eaters until they get older. I was!
He'll let you know when he is ready for potty training.
Good luck and remember only good moms feel like they are failing.



answers from Stationed Overseas on

M., I know that many of us can sympathize with you. It is hard to hear those little cries and to feel the clinging as though they are dying!
First of all, your little guy has you wrapped around his little finger. They will cry and cling until you do whatever it is they want you to do.
If you are happy with him in your bed then leave it alone. Some people love co-sleeping!
If you aren't, then Nanny 911 has got it and you just need to suck it up and do it NOW before it gets even harder because it gets harder the older they are.
As far as the food goes, kids should eat what they are served. He will not starve. Trust me. If he gets hungry enough he will eat! Maybe make sure that when you cook there is 1 item you can guarantee he will eat. He's got you figured out here too.
Thirdly, 2 is a little young for potty training for a boy. Boys tend to potty train later. Give him some more time and believe me he will not be going to 5th grade in a diaper. Lots of boys potty train at 3 1/2 to 4 years old! They potty train naturally when they are ready.
M., you need to get your little munchkin under control NOW. You sound as if you have no control. You have to BE the one in control, sweetie. It takes you to make the decision and to DO what you have to do. Don't be afraid. You aren't going to break him. God gave him to you to train up and to discipline. You need to "just do it".



answers from Stationed Overseas on

Wow...I thought I was the only one. My son is exactly the same,will only eat certain things, always trying to get in our bed (he does sleep in his though) and he knows hot to go potty and will only if he is gonna get to go bowling or get candy (other wise I guess its too much trouble and he just goes in his pull up). He just turned 3 and I can't discipline myself either....it's too exhausting honestly. I am a SAHM/college student. I have been married 5 years and this is my third child. I have an older daughter from my previous marriage and a step daughter. Neither of my girls were hard to potty train. My son however is a whole different ballgame...boys! I hope you get some good advice cause I could use some myself. Hang in there...I am sure we'll get through this and our sons will turn out fine!



answers from Stationed Overseas on

What a list of issues all which lead back to you, just as you know. Since you have gotten advice before I am not sure how open you are to hearing everything again from me. The problem is with your parenting. If you say you must sleep in your own bed but then let him sleep in your bed then which is he going to choose to believe and advocate for...the one that he likes, sleeping with you! If you say eat the food I put on the table but then make him his own meal which parenting message is he going to spend his energy on to promote...you fixing him his meal choice. (I have never heard of a child starving himself. If he is hungry enough then he will eat. When he does I would act like you expected no less of him and give him a complement. Do not engage in the arguments you have already had.) If you say use the toilet but put a pull-up diaper on him and have a negative or frustrated reaction to his peeing mistakes which potty method is he going to choose but the one that he knows, is comfortable with and doesn't get Mom upset...the pull up works for him! I also hate to think about the future issues you will have with him. He is already learning that Mom does not mean what she says, that if he argues, fusses, or looks sad enough he will get his own way and not Mom's way. Once again, where is he going to chose to spend his energy? Doing what Mom says or fighting her for what he wants...it seems worth it to me for him to fight you for what he wants. It works! If you don't change your methods and expectations of your son then I don't see how you can expect him to change his methods of interacting with you either. I can guarantee that it will be easier to claim your status as the leader of your family at his present age of three than at each older age he becomes. My advice, smile and refuse to be led back to where he is in charge when you make a new rule, stay firm. (By now I will guess that when you do decide to be firm with him and mean it your son will get worse before he gets better because he will put all of his energy and effort into having things his way. This has worked for him in the past, will it also work this time too?) Do not ever go back to old rules once new rules are made. You have too much of a history doing this for him to ever believe you truly mean the rule is only not going to apply for this "one time".

I also want you to know that I have 3 boys and with all of them I found the ages of 3 into 4 the most difficult. I am glad I was consistent with the discipline because all of them got better, not perfect, by the age of 5. Get firm and hang in there Mom!

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