Kids awake when you want them to sleep? Consider these strategies for happy bedtimes.
Last week I recommended that me and all moms try to get a little more sleep. My weekend sleep goals didn’t quite go as planned as several children were up during the night due to snuffly noses and too warm weather. Last night’s bout of the loudest thunder I ever heard in my life didn’t help either. But, I am going to keep trying to curb my own night waking by shooting for an earlier bedtime. For this to happen, the kids need to be in bed before me.
Here are some things that help bedtime be more peaceful around our house.
Tips for the Kids
1. Have a plan for the evening.
If the kids know what to expect, they’re more likely to do it without complaints. If I know what to expect, I know how to communicate it to them and follow up on it. This also gets us on a good trajectory toward bedtime.
Usually we eat dinner between 5:30 and 6:30. Each of the FishBoys has a kitchen job: clearing the table, wiping the table, emptying the dishwasher, or sharking the floor. At dinnertime, I remind them not to leave the kitchen until their jobs are done, and then we discuss what needs to/gets to happen afterward. This might include other household chores, riding bikes, going to the pool, playing out back, watching a movie, etc.
Having a plan helps to eliminate The-Mindless-Surfing-Through-The-Evening-Until-I-Realize-It’s-10 pm-And-Why-Aren’t-My-Kids-in-Bed?! syndrome.
2. Have a bedtime routine and start it earlier than you think it will take.
For many households this is going to include bathing, jammies, a last-chance snack, and brushing teeth. If your target for “lights out” is 8:30, then you need to start the routine by 7:30, at least. Watch the clock and adjust accordingly. If you have extra time, then enjoy those moments cuddling and reading stories or just talking.
(Pete’s a Pizza is a great book. And my kids love it when Papa “makes them into pizzas” at bedtime. We omit the water and checkers.)
3. Make lights out a sweet time.
For us this means visiting each bedside with a hug and a kiss and talking quietly for a few minutes. FishPapa or I pray for our kiddos and remind them how much we love them. If they ask thought-provoking questions, we try to take the time to talk about them in the quiet of the night.
4. Allow for special exceptions when “I can’t sweep, Mama.”
It’s bound to happen that they really aren’t tired yet. (Though you know we are!) Sometimes, if it’s a group dynamic, we allow them an extra 20 minutes to read and look at books. All four boys bunk in one room, so we gotta roll with it.
In the case of one child with insomnia, we might set up a “cowboy bed,” a blanket on the floor of the playroom where he lies quietly. For some reason, though he’s still in bed, this change of locale seems special.
Tips for Mom
One of the biggest things that can affect my success and failure as a mom is the amount of sleep I am getting. I can’t function at my best if I am exhausted. I am slow to respond, lackadaisical, grouchy, and plain ol’ ineffective. Lately, I’ve been burning the candle on both ends: getting up early and staying up late. And I feel sleepy all the time.
In another season I’d just be pumping the caffeine to get me through. But, being six months pregnant has limited my intake of Vanilla Coke and coffee with lots of cream and sugar. So, my only alternative – which should be my first line of defense – is to get more sleep.
You might be thinking…
But, I want to get something done while the kids are asleep.
But, my favorite show is on after the kids go to bed.
But, it’s so nice when the house is quiet.
But, you don’t know all that I need to do.
Yes, I do. I’m walking that same life. And believe me, this is an area I need to work on. So, here are some ideas I’ve brainstormed and that I’m going to try to make me a more restful mother:
- go to sleep 15 minutes before normal bedtime
- set a regular bedtime – getting your body clock set is important. Try not to disrupt its rhythm.
- set the alarm clock for 15 minutes later
- take a nap during your home’s quiet time of the day. This could be during the baby’s nap, during the last hour before the school bus pulls up, or just a quick twenty-minute cat nap while dinner cooks and the kids watch a short video.
Search for ways that you can get extra rest. Plan your days to be as efficient as possible so that you can have extra minutes for sleep.
Those bonus moments of shut-eye will benefit you in a better disposition and help you be more efficient. And the cycle will continue. Your body and your family will thank you.