We knew that bedtime had gotten out of control when we began to dread it. We had lost control of bedtime and the kids were pushing the limits in all directions. They stalled. They wanted a piece of fruit, to be tucked in another time, another book to be read, or wanted more water. It was always something and it created evenings where us adults had zero alone time.
We used to have utmost control over bedtime. The kids would both be asleep by 8:00 pm. But during the pandemic, 7:30 slipped to them both being awake at 9:45 way too often. And we were pulling our hair out. We honestly didn’t know what to do to turn the bedtime ship around. We were resigned to it.
Then, about a month ago, I took the kids to a playdate at one of Ellington’s classmates’ houses. It was three families. One of the other dads and I were bemoaning our drawn out pre-bed routines. The third parent said that they had their bedtime routine down like clockwork. We were all ears.
This is the most helpful advice I heard:
- You have to set firm rules and stick to them. No giving in at all. Be stern.
- Don’t let them play you. They are playing you completely and they know what they’re doing – don’t fall for it if you want your evening sanity.
- Have a time when you close the kitchen and announce it.
- If they ask for food after the kitchen closes, do not give it to them. They won’t starve. They may cry, but trust me, they will be fine. [This was the one I needed to hear twice!]
- A few tough nights and they will be on the routine.
So, basically we re-sleep trained our kids. But in a way that the kids find fun and it feels like they are still winning. Kids thrive on routine so we are just helping create it for them.
The first thing we did was order this clock. The Mello Ready to Rise Children’s Sleep Trainer Clock is a pretty phenomenal clock for kids. It gives them cues on when they can rise and when they should be in bed. The clock’s eyes close when it goes to sleep, which means it is time for the child to be in their room and/or bed for the night. In the morning, the clock rim turns yellow when the child can almost leave their room (say 15-30 min before) and green when they can leave. There are similar settings for nap times also. I clearly should have bought this clock a long time ago. If you are wavering, don’t. Just order it – it’s worth it even though $50 for a children’s clock may sound steep.
While we waited for it to arrive, we started talking to the kids about some changes coming down the pike at bedtime so it didn’t come as a surprise. When the clocks arrived, Ellington and Sienna excitedly opened them. We told them the new clock rules at dinner and again at bedtime. They quickly picked up the new rules and seemed to enjoy their new control over and understanding of time.
I have also heard parents have good results with the Hatch clock, which works for children and adults alike. The Hatch includes a meditation app and you can control the sleep and wake schedule with your phone.
The Kitchen Countdown
We decided to implement a kitchen closing countdown. It was rocky the first couple nights. We decided to announce the kitchen was closing and then put a countdown timer on the microwave so they could see how much time they had for their post-dinner bowl of fruit or slice of raisin bread. I was honestly worried about the kitchen closing regiment, but once again, they were really into it. They understood the parameters of when they could snack and embraced it. They haven’t asked for a snack “after hours” yet.
hubby got into the new routine and one night Alexa made a helpful announcement
We also decided to institute a reward system to incentivize them. Every Monday they are eligible for a reward if they stayed in their room the previous week. We have been giving them small things like hot wheels cars and they love and look forward to it.
Who knew sleep training was something we continue to work at for years?! Every night is not perfect. Sienna (3) has definitely walked upstairs a few times. She actually didn’t get a reward the first week. My mom said I should still give her something small for trying, but it was a good lesson and motivated her. Every kid doesn’t win the baseball game. She wanted to come with us to pick out Ellington’s toy and did much better the second week. Overall it’s been a marked difference. We’ve been able to begin our adult time most nights by 9:00pm. Kitchen cleaned and all. That’s a parent win.