Bedtime with little humans can be the breaking point of parenting. It's some bizarre phenomenon that exhausted children, all of the sudden, have superhero powers and energy to scream and fight and kick and talk and guilt like CIA specialists trying to break the enemy. It's a freak of nature. Here are a few techniques that we have implemented that makes this daily potential war zone tolerable.
1. Choose a routine and stick with it.
When Cooper was placed in our home Cole was 10 months old. We had a loose schedule for Cole, but at the time I was working nights, so depending on Clay's schedule, and when I needed to sleep, it was kind of fluid. Once we had 2 kids under 2 it was game time. We realized a couple of things. Naptime and a consistent bedtime are golden. Now that their are 5 kids in the house and they don't leave (hello homeschooling) I need to know when I will get a breather and when my day will end. I can do anything if I can pace myself. So, we implemented a routine, and 9 years later we still follow it fairly religiously. Here is our current "plan" Rose usually takes a nap from 12:30-2:30ish. During that time my kids can play quietly or watch a movie. They know that I'm off limits for at least an hour. Unless they are bleeding or dying, do not come ask me why the grass is green. I need an hour to remember that I like all of the crazies that live in my house. For bed, everyone brushes teeth, cleans up, gets settled. By 7:30 -8 everyone is in bed. The boys do have a tv in their room because it also functions as the play room, so they usually get to watch one show with the sleep timer on, set to go off after 30 min. If I were trying to impress you or pretend I have my sh*t together, I'd tell you they quietly read Mark Twain with classical music playing in the background, but they don't. I can't by that time in the day. Rose and BK usually play quietly in their room and then go straight to bed. Again, they are so used to the routine, it's not often an issue, but all of the kids know that they are not to come out of their room until 7:30 the next morning. Don't come in our room and wake us up, don't come in at 3am ad ask to sleep in our bed. I cannot be responsible for the words that come out of my mouth when woken up from a dead sleep in the middle of the night, so don't. Just don't. Each child's room has an alarm clock, so they know when to get out. When they were very little I would tape the numbers above the digital clock so they would know what 7:30 looked like. For my older babies (I def rocked all of them but rose, because she didn't like it, to sleep until they were almost 2) I would give them a kiss, put them in their crib and shut the door. They may fuss a little, but after a few days they realize that I'll come get them once they sleep, not before. Sleeping well as a parent and having a tiny bit of downtime is an actual game changer. You feel like you can do this whole parenting thing when you can see straight. It's worth it!!!
2. Have a plan and stick with it.
Cole and Cooper have shared rooms since day one. This can be problematic because, hello, those little crazies joined forces. We may have a little saying in our house, "Mommy always wins." I think it's more self talk for me when I'm in the trenches, but whatevs. When the boys were 18 months and younger they napped, in their room, in their bed for a morning nap and and afternoon nap and we put them to bed at 7:30. We did not get them up until 7:30. They would jump and play and giggle and yell, but they stayed in their room until we came and got them. As the boys phased out of morning naps and into one nap and as more children came, I still guarded the afternoon nap time. It has now morphed into "rest time" because the big kids don't need a nap, but we all need down time.
3. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
We leave our kids in cribs for as long as possible. I don't enjoy free range children at 3am. No. please stay caged in that wonderful crib till college for all I care. By God's great mercy, none of my kids climbed out of their cribs...prob doesn't speak well for their intelligence, but again, whatevs. The big boys actually broke their cribs from jumping in them so much. They would wake up from naps or bed and literally have a little rebounderz party. When we finally got them bunk beds (at 3 years old) they were so used to us coming in to get them, we didn't have a huge issue transitioning. I think this was successful for two reasons. 1. They were used to the routine we had already established. 2. They were old enough to understand the consequences if they chose to get out of bed.
4. Be consistent
I think as a parent this is the most important thing to successful parenting and the absolute hardest. WE ARE TIRED! Kids smell weakness and when you are at your breaking point. It's like they have a crazy sixth sense. So. If you are having trouble with kids staying in their room and you know a battle is about to ensue, get your game face on. Be prepared. You are about to enter the battle field. Remember, it will pay off in the end when bedtime becomes routine and it's not a fight every night. Initially, with the boys, they would get a spank if they got out of their bed. That has morphed a bit with each kid because we don't really spank anymore....another blog post for another time, but, their are clear consequences if they choose to get out of bed. It may seem hopeless when you are bloodied and feel like you are losing, but stay strong. It will be so worth it in the end.
5. Sleep begets sleep
I will say, the children I have when they are rested are drastically different than the monsters that emerge when they are overtired. The weirdest thing is, the more they sleep the longer they sleep. It's legit bizarre, but true. I think it also helps so much with keeping everyone in this petri dish fairly healthy. My children now ask for rest time because they are used to it and I think they even realize the small break in the day to just sit is refreshing. Again, the bigs rarely sleep, but they just have to be quiet and calm. While we LOVE routine, the ironic thing is, the more structured we are on a regular basis, the more flexible we can be. The kids just phase back into the normal schedule after it has been altered by vacations or a crazy day.
Y'all, bedtime isn't for the faint of heart. Add in a crazy stubborn kid and it could drive you to drink. To write it in a blog makes it sound so easy, it's not. I get it, but, I promise, if you can get into a routine it will be so so so so worth it! As I end most of these life hacks, may the odds be ever in your favor.