Lessons from Bedtime

Most parents dream about a smooth bedtime routine because it means less energy mom and dad need to expend at the end of the day. I thought I would share a few mistakes that my wife and I have made and the lessons we have learned from them.

Go To Sleep!
“Erin, its time to go to sleep.” “But dad, I’m not tired. I’m never going to be able to fall asleep; I’m wide awake.” Ever had a conversation that sounded something like that? I’ve tried to convince my children to sleep plenty of times, but I’ve learned I need to set a better expectation.

“I want you to get ready to sleep – that means you should lay there quietly and relax.” If your child pushes back and says that they are probably going to be awake for hours, you can respond something like, “That is fine. I’m not asking you to sleep. I am just asking you to get ready to sleep.”

Your child can’t choose to sleep, but they can choose to rest or lay quietly. We just hope  and trust that sleep will soon follow!

Once their asleep, I’m outta here!
Our son, Tyler was about a year old and he kept waking up in the middle of the night crying. After awhile, my wife or I would go into his room and shush him or sing to him until he went back to sleep. This was not fun!

Someone asked us if he was falling asleep by himself. He explained that if a child falls asleep with a parent in the room, he will wake up and expect the parent to still be there. He said that Tyler needed to learn to sooth himself to sleep when he went to bed so he could do the same thing when he woke up in the middle of the night.

Kristin and I realized that staying in Tyler’s room until he fell asleep was more work for us at bedtime AND it was ruining Tyler’s ability to fall back to sleep!

We started to sing a few songs and then leave the room. Tyler cried for a few minutes and then fell asleep.

This was one of those great parenting moves that worked amazingly well. Tyler immediately began to cry less at night and we all began to sleep better!

Ok, you can come out and cuddle with us for a few minutes
I think we have had to learn this lesson a few different times. One of our children is wide awake and can’t sleep. After awhile, Kristin or I finally invites them to come sit quietly on the couch with us for a little while. This seems harmless and even provides some special time for us and our child.

HOWEVER, it usually doesn’t fail that the next night the child is soon telling us that he/she can’t sleep and wants to come sit with us on the couch for a few minutes. I can even tell that their excitement at the prospect of coming out to the couch is taking away any focus they should have on trying to fall asleep. Our innocent invitation to our child the previous night has now created a great new alternative to staying in bed for our child.

Now the parent has to work extra hard to enforce the expectation of staying in bed because the child knows its way more fun to be with mom and dad than in bed.

My wife and I fully understand the joy of having our three children in bed sleeping and going “off duty”. I wish all of you parents the best as you seek to give your children a good bedtime routine that helps your children feel safe, loved and SLEEPY!

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