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MARIETTA, Ga. (CAP) - For Lori and Stan Alston, the relative peace and quiet they enjoy leading up to Christmas as their children try extra hard to be good is unmatched any other time of the year. Like many families, they cringe when the holiday is past and the bickering between their boys picks up right where it left off in November.
That is, until this past year.
"For the past few years, we've done the whole Elf On The Shelf thing where our little elf Chuckie keeps an eye on the kids and reports back to Santa each night," the 38-year-old Stan told CAP News. "But we needed something for the rest of the year, and that's when I came up with Monster Under The Bed."
The approach to MUTB is that on days when one or both of their boys have been naughty, Lori and Stan sneak into their bedrooms after they're asleep, pick up their beds, and move them to a different spot in the room. The premise is that each child's MUTB is restless because of the way he acted the day before.
"The first time we did it to [7-year-old] Tyler, he woke up later in the night and called out to us, clearly scared," said 37-year-old Lori. "We told him it must have been the monster under his bed getting mad because of how he treated his brother that afternoon."
"I don't think he slept a wink the rest of the night," added Stan with a chuckle. "He was kind of wimpering when I drifted back off to sleep."
The Alstons admit that it can be difficult to move the bed without their boys waking up and say they've had a few close calls. And while their results have been remarkable, they realize that MUTB might not work for those with bunk beds, loft beds or obese children.
"One day when [5-year-old] Cal was really bad, I took a box cutter and shredded the hell out of the front of one of his favorite pajama shirts," Stan said. "Then I left it sticking out from under his bed so he could find it in the morning.
"Other than him peeing all over himself the minute he saw the shirt, it worked perfectly," added Stan. "I think we got a really good week out of him that time."
While child psychologists generally agree that positive reinforcement is the proper approach to parenting, a growing number acknowledge that for certain incorrigible children, such negative reinforcement may be the only option. Parental advisory group Mothers Against Everything has even added MUTB to its short list of Things We Don't Necessarily Hate.
"When my boys were younger, we kept them in line by signing them up as altar boys at the local church," said MAE spokesperson Darlene Fortenski. "But I can see the allure of this Monster approach: all of the emotional scarring without the physical abuse."
Indeed, the Alstons say MUTB has taken the onus off of them to have to be mean parents, instead heaving that burden on the imaginary monsters. The end result is much less parental guilt and much more desired behavior, and that's a solution everyone can get behind.
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