Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep…

Like so many other families, we have our fair share of bedtime struggles. When Big was a baby, we’d fallen prey to OBS (Only Baby Syndrome). We had a hard time hearing her cry, and made sure she was completely asleep before putting her in her crib. We’d sneak out of the nursery, hoping our bodies wouldn’t betray us with a knee or an ankle crack, because it meant we would have to start at the beginning. Or the world would betray us with a large truck driving in front of our house, the dogs barking, or our neighbors bringing in their trash cans. How dare they.

As Big grew, so did her bedtime routine. It wasn’t just a bath, teeth, PJs, potty, stories, songs, and kisses. It was a fresh cup of water. It was a song from her Music Dolls. It was 2 songs from her Music Dolls. It was THREE songs from her Music Dolls. It was BunBun, BunBun’s blanket, and BunBun’s lovey. Once the Bigs shared a room, it was Middle talking. It was Middle climbing the ladder of the bunkbed. It was the Enya music was too loud/soft. It was the light was too bright/too dim.

It’s always been *something*.

My beef isn’t so much the fact that there is always *something*. It’s that the *something* always happens after we’ve tucked in, kissed, and closed the door. Sometimes she (they) would come out, and sometimes she (they) would just holler from their beds. Sometimes the holler would turn into crying. I’d gotten so fed up, that I would sternly open the door and just say “THAT’S ENOUGH. GO.TO.SLEEP”.

I didn’t like the fact that the last image they had of me before going to bed was Angry Mommy (I’m sensing a theme here….)

So, I’m doing something new.

Ideally, my kids would

  • eat a good dinner
  • neaten up the house
  • take care of their hygienic needs
  • put their dirty clothes in the hamper, not stuffed in a drawer or back of the closet.
  • go to bed peacefully without the up and down or hollers.

So, for the past 2 nights, I’ve been rewarding them for the good behavior that I want to see (what a concept!). I picked out 7 bedtime appropriate books (semi-short, bedtime themed, and/or a good message.) For each good behavior, they can earn a book from the bedtime box! Since our biggest issue comes after all of the “chores” are done (staying in bed and not hollering/crying), they can earn a book for the next night if they go to bed peacefully. That book can’t be taken away (though The Hubby doesn’t agree with this. I think it would backfire if it could be taken away because then the incentive isn’t as effective, IMO).

For the first time, both of my kids have cleaned their plates at dinner two nights in a row (I’ve been trying really hard to make things they’d enjoy and giving them appetite appropriate portions. They can ask for seconds), and not fought when cleaning up the house. I asked them to clean up the family room while I put Little down for bed, and came out to find that only Big did the work while Middle sat on the couch, so Middle didn’t get a book for that one.

They each get their books read to them separately, too. So, not only do they get some good reading time in, they also get to pick whatever they want to read (as long as it’s from the bedtime box), and they get one-on-one time with Mommy and Daddy. When Middle is getting her books read to her, Big is in the bath and brushing her teeth. When Big is getting her books read to her, Middle is in bed and calming down a bit before her sister gets in bed. It works out really well!

Big seems to be highly motivated to do a good job with her “duties” so she can get lots of books. We used to only read 1-2 books, so SIX books on a really good night just blows her mind!

Middle woke up this morning asking for the “Teddy Bear Book”, which is the book she picked out last night as her reward for having a good bedtime. I gave her a big hug and told her I was super proud of her good bedtime last night and was looking forward to reading her the Teddy Bear Book tonight at bedtime because of it!

Right now, I’m just verbally telling them what will earn them books and as we sit down to pick the books from the box, we count them on our fingers again. In the very near future, I’ll have a picture chart so they can be self motivated to get things done.

Another thing that’s been helpful is that I don’t care what order things are done, as long as things get done. They can clean up before dinner. They can brush their teeth before or after they get dressed. They can clean up the house after their baths. It just has to get done before the books get picked.

Two nights of successful bedtimes and staying in bed until 7am (for the first time since the time change) is a good start, wouldn’t you say?



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