How to Get Your Kids To ...: Stacia

Pajama Problem
Dr. Phil talks to a mother who says she can't get her kids out of their pajamas.
"I struggle every day getting my children to get out of their pajamas and get into their clothes," complains Stacia. She says that her daughters wear their pajamas everywhere: the grocery store, the park, school and even to church.


"My daughter Emily, who's 5, would just as soon stay in her pajamas all day long," Stacia says. "Then Sarah, my 3-year-old, has worn her pajamas all day, so there's paint on them and sticky syrup, and her breakfast."

She finds that negotiating with her daughters is difficult, and she's even resorted to bribes.


"I'm expecting another baby, and I'm concerned that this next one is just going to fall in the footsteps of their big sisters." She turns to Dr. Phil for advice. "Help me put my children's pajamas to bed," she pleads.

Dr. Phil observes that Stacia gives in to her daughters 85 percent of the time, and he asks why.


"I'm tired," she replies. "I don't like the struggle I have with my 5-year-old. She debates me; she argues with me. I just feel like I'm the adult, and she should just do what I ask. But it's not working."


"And you feel guilty about it if you take them out of their pajamas?" Dr. Phil probes.


Stacy responds, "It's a power struggle like you said. And it's something that I feel like shouldn't have to be negotiated day in and day out."


Dr. Phil interjects, "It shouldn't have to be negotiated day in and day out. The reason it's negotiated day in and day out is what I was saying about this inconsistent behavior. It's this intermittent reinforcement schedule ... You're teaching her how to treat you. You're teaching her that 'If you persist ... if you'll complain and whine and pull on my heartstrings, I will give in.' What you're doing is teaching her to be manipulative and emotional and really just badgering. She's going to be fun to date!"

"Children need to be able to predict the consequences of their actions with real high efficiency," Dr. Phil explains. "Once they know what to do and they know what the consequences are, then they're very easy to control."

He advises Stacia to divide her children's closet into sections and say, "'These are couch potato clothes over here ... these are when we're going somewhere clothes. These are when we're going somewhere really nice clothes.' And give them choices so they don't feel like they're being over-controlled ... If she throws a fit, then you need to say, 'If you don't change out of your pajamas, then you're not going to have your pajamas anymore. I'm going to take your pajamas and we're going to throw them away.'"

"And she'll go get them out of the trash. That's what she'll do," Stacia maintains.

Dr. Phil is incredulous. "OK, here's a thought. Throw them where she can't find them," he says. "Pretty soon, she's going to realize 'If I want to see these again, I need to do what I'm told to do.' Once you understand a child's currency, and you control the currency, then you shape the child. You need to get a backbone about the pajamas. And if you don't, you're going to teach her that she can do what she wants when she wants to, and that's going to serve her poorly when she goes to school."