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August 14, 2008



I've found that bedtime is tricky (in my house) because I'm trying to get certain stuff done (bath, teeth, etc.) by a certain time (story at 8). The other part of it is that I'm really, really, really looking forward to getting some time to myself once the kids are in bed. Trying to get out of the house in the morning is a similar puzzle, but in the opposite direction.

Here's what I've found:
1. Phrasing in the positive - "Let's get this done so we can get story." (I have no idea how I got that phrasing, but we really do say it that way.) It helps La stay on task if she is reminded of the goal/reward.

2. La has needed company to fall asleep since she moved into a toddler bed at age 2 3/4. Only in the last 6 months or so did I figure out that (a)I would miss it if she didn't want me there anymore and (b)if I bring in my knitting, then I am not resentful, because I'm getting to do something fun for me at the same time. It did help that she's stopped resisting falling asleep. When I was expecting and exhausted, I'd take a cat nap on the floor next to her bed.

You could take the 5 minute break to take care of something from your item 9 (watch the Olympics for a minute, fill out a form, etc. Take some YOU time/get some puttering out of the way.)

A big one (this is very true in our house) is really starting before it's a crisis (for anyone - you'll get to be tired and the kids will get to be extra wiggly and hard to rein in.)

You might also look at how you're pipelining the process. Would it make sense for the two olders to be "buddies" to the two youngers (this might also be a set up for trouble and resentment)? Or to do stories for 2 while the other two are getting brushed and cleaned up and pajamaed? Then switch. It might take two grownups to handle bedtime, but a divide and conquer strategy might make it easier.


You'd think if there were two adults home at the same time for bedtime (which we don't always get), it would always be smoother. But I have found in general that I maintain myself better if I'm doing it entirely solo. Though splitting up M and R when they're into some kind of twin-identity-crisis thing definitely helps.

Keep the ideas coming, though, people - feel free to add to the list.

We've done the phrasing the positive, but my kids still sniff out the 'whose need is this meeting, yours or ours?' issue in there. I do find a lot of success with the 'How can I help?' phrasing, which is similar - but the second I add in the 'because we'll then get to do something fun sooner' (like stories), the brakes go on, or they try to bypass everything and jump to the end. Oy.

Definitely agree on the starting before it is a crisis. Actually have to start before it starts the gradual shift toward crisis - not just 'well now it is too late, obviously' but 'looking ahead, it will be too late in 10 minutes, so we must start now'.

Hmm, thinking on the buddying up, they tend to buddy up naturally, but it is with whomever they have unresolved issues with, from earlier in the day. Now, how to assign the buddy you did NOT pick yourself without making it sound like 'you can't play with him because you WANT to play with him so I'm going to force you to play with someone else'? (they usually are not aware of this dynamic, but instead just think 'I want to spend time with X')... hmm.

Oh, have to say: Pajamas? What pajamas? (Miss M shocked me by actually wearing pjs to bed the other night, and not waking up 10 minutes later to strip them off with great wailing and knashing of teeth - my kids are pretty much undies sleepers, and Miss M would prefer nude, but it bugs her brothers too much). In the winter we can manage pjs sometimes, but even then they're more teeshirt-sleepers or undies under a blanket types. Ah, well, so much for *that* norman rockwell image, doesn't happen much at our house. Sounds nice, though.


gnashing ... where did that k come from? sigh.


No pajamas at our house much either. The Po Bronson sleep info mentions what is very clear with Snuggly Girl -- cooler at bedtime is better for physiological reasons.

My previous comment may have been lost -- it was mostly "Yes to #1. A break helps a lot."


PJs are sort of a formality here too - Chances are good that they are off by the time La is asleep. "too sweaty"

I'm wondering if this is a situation for the kitchen timer - Give them n minutes and a task and walk away. Come back when the timer rings to do quality assurance.


Thanks Hedra -- and thanks so much for pointing out that you're working on item number 3 (rather than the whole lot!). I often get overwhelmed by the lists of things that I'm supposed to do to make whatever it is that I'm working on work right. It's nice to know that other people just take one step and work on that one for a while, adding in the others if and when they're needed.

So, my issue with bedtime is the wiggling. And the wriggling. And the hair pulling (gentle, his own mostly) and the freckle rubbing (my freckles) and the nose picking (this doesn't bug me during the day, but for some reason, when he's supposed to be lying STILL and going to sleep, it drives me nuts) and the scrubbing hands up and down the sheets, and the general foutering about. I don't know why this is -- I am sure I was like you (I am now) in the loving bedtime, being happy to just lie there until sleep came. But. I do have two memories that may belie that -- one was of me lying on the bed next to my mum for a nap (she wanted the nap more than me, I recall) and making mouth popping noises, and her getting more and more exasperated with me. And the other was of me posting my nose-pickings (sorry for the graphics) down the side of my bed, and getting caught and being told off for it. So maybe I did fouter too. And maybe it drove my mum nuts too. She is convinced I was a super sleeper though, so I can't really determine if that's why I get so irrationally wound up by my little boy's bedtime wiggles. Sigh.

At any rate, last night I massaged his arms while he nursed. And he lay completely still while I did it. It gave me something to do that felt productive and like I was helping him get to sleep (helplessness was one thing that I determined I felt when I was watching him bounce around and not sleep -- and I know from experience, I HATE feeling helpless and unable to make something happen when I want it to happen), and it seemed to help him get rid of some of his physical energy. So, baby steps, but progress...


I like lists, but good heavens where to start! and how many to do at once! And...

So, working on item 3, I ended up crossing the line over to being ONLY on the kid end of the spectrum, which meant that we went to bed really late because, well, we were watching a movie. And it wasn't done yet. And it was fun. And I liked the movie, too. And... it was fun! Did I mention I liked the movie? It was on tape, and so we could have stopped but ... we were just having fun.

And so today I'm WIPED because I just cannot do that. And once we started bedtime I was grumpy again. Especially about the wiggling.

And MAN isn't the nose picking LOUD at night? How can it make that much noise??? I just don't understand how it can possibly make that much noise. And the sheet rubbing, and the position changes, and...

I think we must have the same kids.

I also think I probably pissed off my parents at some point about the bedtime stuff. And unfortunately, for many people, it's the one great huge freakout that sets up the stress reaction later. They can blow off all the usual muttering and grumping, but the one huge hairy fit over something sticks differently in the stress process. So, maybe being constantly grumpy about bedtime isn't so bad...

Now, if we (not just I) can just get them settled toward a normal bedtime over the next few days... school starts next week! ACK!

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