Is there anything like the word "bedtime" to strike simultaneous euphoria and fear in a parent's heart? Thrill at the prospect of having some time to oneself, yet fear of what will happen when the little natives rebel and do all in their power to thwart the bedtime efforts?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and offer some suggestions about this most pivotal of parenting moments: Bedtime. Why pivotal? Because she who gets the sleep controls the world.
First, kids need sleep--lots of it--and nowadays they aren't getting enough. Most sources say 10-12 hours for a school-aged child is necessary but with working parents who don't get off work until five or six o'clock it's difficult to get all of the chores done in time to get kids off to bed before nine or ten o'clock. Add to this that if you've been at the office all day, putting the kids to bed the second you get home makes you feel as if you don't get to see your children at all.
However, kids need sleep. Regardless of the adults' schedules, kids still need sleep and all the caffeine-enhanced vigor in the world can't change that. So doing the math, if my kids have to be up at 6:30 am in time for school they need to be heading to bed around 7 pm. I know it sounds odd but our kids have always had bedtime at 7 pm, since they were around six weeks old. More on that in a moment.
Second, adults need kids to sleep. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but adults need time away from the children, time to rejuvenate, time to be together or be alone, they must have a chance to punch-out and go off the clock if they're going to wake, bright and early and ready to face the pagan hordes fresh in the morning.
So if I've convinced you that children sleeping peacefully is a good thing (and I'm sure I'm really twisting your arm on that one) what are my suggestions in promoting this most blissful of familial environments? Here's my seven-step program:
* Pick a time as early as possible.
* Try to have all children go by that time, regardless of age (hold on, I'll explain).
* Be firm.
* Be very firm.
* Don't give in.
* Not even if they scream and holler.
* If they argue, use weekends as leverage.
In our house we've picked 7 pm and that's Bedtime. That means toothbrushing, potty breaks, drinks of water, chores, all done by 7 pm. No exceptions. Well, okay there actually are several exceptions: weekends, camping, vacations, family activities lasting longer than 7 pm . . . but generally we aim for 7 pm and are fairly consistent.
However, the younger children--such as Lillian, age 5--go to sleep at 7 pm while David and Spencer (ages 8 and 10) get to read quietly in bed until 8 pm and Grace (age 13) can read until 9 pm. Rule is that they read quietly in bed, door closed, no coming out until the morning light and generally it works well for us.
Starting the kids out young is the way to make this the easiest but if you want to give it a try with your older children just remember you may be in for some tough de-tox before they get used to the new rules. Be patient, be firm, they'll get used to it eventually, if they balk at it and won't obey take away weekend time where bed time is a little later. You're the one holding the power (at least I hope you are) so use it. I'm betting it will be good for them and I know it will be good for the adults in the house.
Early bed time means you can watch your own t.v. shows, read, work on projects--you could even go out on a date and it'll make it much easier to get a babysitter when the kids are already in bed or are reading in their room (plus they can't charge you as much if you've already put them to bed too!) You'll be more inclined to go out if the kids are already quieted down and ready for sleeping.
Just think, if we all put our kids to bed at 7 o'clock, it would be impossible for our children to whine that life is unfair because little Millhouse down the street gets to stay up until ten. Parents all over the world would thank us--we could liberate millions of adults across the globe and create a New World Order where sleep deprivation has ceased.
Yes, the ramifications are enormous. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Using my Custom Search Engine I've found some other posts on the subject of getting children to bed:
* Parent Hacks' idea of how to keep small children in bed until morning.
* Another Parent Hacks idea about keeping kids in bed.
* Mama Blogga's bedtime routine that helps small children get the hang of things.
* Mom Blog asked her readers about their tips for getting kids to bed, check out their comments.
* A Familiar Path has a first-person account of bedtime with a growing toddler.
* Notes from the Trenches has a post that asks about getting kids to bed.
* SouleMama has a clever Bedtime Bag idea, complete with a tutorial.
* Daytipper has thoughts about baby massage before bed.
* Littlemummy goes in a different direction and gives tips for when it's necessary to keep the kids out past bedtime.
* Dooce's experience on healthy sleep habits.
* Let's Talk Babies with tips on getting more sleep.
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