There IS no quick and painless way to, well, to do anything in parenting–let’s be honest! Right now, someone is going to be feeling the pain if they don’t stop running up and down the stairs, but that’s another post. It’s especially painful and excruciating when you’ve already created a bad habit(s). But not to fear! Read on!
Bedtime routines should be started at birth. Truly. Turn the lights off. Only use a night-light when doing night-time check-ups and diaper changes. Play soft music or a white noise machine. These things all help a baby or child’s body recognize that there is a transition happening: No lights. Soft music. Bedtime story. Night after night.
I highly recommend putting both babies and children down while still awake, not after they have fallen asleep on your lap in the rocking chair (we got ours pretty cheaply from the local Burlington!) or you’ve rubbed their backs until you’ve both fallen asleep. I can tell you, it wastes a lot of your time!! I finally got sick of lying down with my 3 year old at 7:45pm only to wake up sore and contorted 2 hours later! And all I could think was: I was going to take a hot bath! There was going to be a snack and reading! I have laundry to fold!! I’m missing my only TV time that I’ve waited ALL DAY for!! And how does this benefit your child, this falling asleep together? They become reliant on you to sleep. They are now dreadfully difficult for someone else to put to sleep. You’ve lost 2 hours and they weren’t quality hours: the kid was asleep! OR you have a tremendous mess to clean up because once you fell asleep, said toddler slipped out of bed and trashed their bedroom. Any way you look at it, not a good scenario!
Remember the key words of parenting that I will be reiterating until you are mumbling them in your sleep: Consistency. Modeling. Training for Independence. Good Habit Routines.
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This is how we roll at night: baths first. As soon as baths are done, I (or more likely my hubby, I’m usually taking care of the baby) follow them into their rooms and turn on their bedtime music while they are dressing. They are then told, one to brush teeth, one to pick a bedtime story, then they switch. We cuddle on the bottom bunk and read their 2 stories and then they are off to bed! At this point, we get no arguing. The only time we have issues is when we have been trapped inside all day and Gabe, who’s four, wins the award for Most Likely to Act Up! Luckily, we have a spare room. They get one warning and then I will sweep in like Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty and haul the offender away to fall asleep in the spare room; mommy don’t play that. I need my peace at night!
However, please, please, please, do not make this crazy complicated long bedtime routine that you and only you can do properly to get your child to fall asleep! Babysitters cannot follow it. Your husband cannot follow it. If you try to skip a step, the child freaks out. This is not good for anyone! I do what I can to wear my boys out (and so does my hubby: if they are rambunctious throughout the bedtime routine, he often stages a wrestling match to help them get rid of extra energy!). That’s really the first step in getting kids to go to bed: wear them out first! If they are exhausted, there’s not going to be a lot of fooling around or protesting!
The other thing I do is if my boys, who sleep in a bunk bed, are not settling well, I encourage them to close their eyes, listen to their music and visualize their favorite place (suggestions: the beach… Disney… the Lego store!). Visualization is an actual tool (no I didn’t make this up!) to help adults relax, so why shouldn’t we be encouraging our children to do so? I’d say 8 out of 10 times, this works and I don’t hear a peep out of them!
Again, having your kids be dependent on you in order to fall asleep makes no sense and I’ll tell ya why! Some kids are so wrapped up in their unhealthy sleep patterns, it becomes very disruptive to your life. Ever been out at someone else’s house and had your child freaking out because they’re over-tired but won’t sleep unless……(fill in the blank)? Ever had a sitter call you while on your date night because your child is screaming bloody murder and won’t settle down, they keep asking for…….(fill in the blank)? Ever hear a mom say, almost apologetically, “S/He won’t go to sleep unless I……(fill in the blank)” ? Ever realized you were out of or lost something critical to the bedtime routine and now your spouse has to go out and get it or your child won’t sleep? What a pain! Make things easier on yourself! (I feel like an infomercial!) Get a bedtime routine! Start immediately if you don’t have one. It will take some time, so be patient, but behavior CAN be changed! (yours and theirs!) Good luck!