I’ve always marveled at how some parents can get
their kids in bed religiously at 7:30pm every night. They read their kids a book, pat them on the
head, kiss them good-night and walk out the door. I have that intention. I dream about it actually. I pray for it. But it never happens. There’s just too much to do between the time
they get off the bus till bedtime.
And sometimes there are just times when you are
having fun or having a good conversation about God or heaven, and bed time
suddenly doesn’t seem as important. It’s
something that we still struggle with but have set up some routines to help
make bed time go as smoothly as possible.
We had problems getting the kids to sleep by
themselves and then staying in their beds all night. They wanted us to lay with them until they
fell asleep, sometimes in our bed. I
would carry them to their beds after they fell asleep, but sometimes they’d
come back in the middle of the night!
Other of my kids were afraid to sleep in their rooms for whatever
reason. Other times they’d tell me they
can’t fall asleep in their rooms, only in our room. I was beginning to think we only needed a one
I got the book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”
by Marc Weissbluth from the library.
It’s a really good book - more of an encyclopedia actually. It covers every single sleep habit or problem
for every single age. You don’t have to
read the whole book if you don’t want to.
You can choose to skip to whatever problem you’re looking to solve for
the age of your child. I got some really
good ideas from this book and some of them actually worked! Below are some things we did to help get our
kids to sleep in their own rooms, and stay there.
My husband offered my son $1 for
every night he slept in his own bed all night.
He also had to go to sleep by himself.
No one laying with him. He
happily agreed. He added it up and
figured out he would earn $365 in one year!
I thought my husband was crazy.
$1 a day? He told my son it would
only be for a year. I thought 30 days
sounded more reasonable. I told him he
had to put the money in his savings account.
Well, guess what? It worked! He was happily sleeping in his own room,
happy to be earning a dollar a day in his sleep!
A dollar a day might seem like a
lot. However, I look at this way. I’m always meaning to set aside a small
amount every week for my kids’ future.
This is one way to do that and get something out of it at the same
In The Sleep Fairy
We told my littler ones
about the Sleep Fairy. The Sleep Fairy
would leave them something under their pillows in the morning if and only if
they went to sleep by themselves and stayed in their rooms the whole
night. We explained that Mommy and Daddy
were really the Sleep Fairy and no one was going to be coming into their rooms
at night. It was just something we were
going to have fun with.
They would get so
excited wondering what the Sleep Fairy might leave them. Many times it was just a coin. The first week, we did something a little
better. For little boys, you could leave
a Matchbox car. My kids were in to
Go-Go’s and Silly Bands for a while - anything small that can be used as an
incentive. If you don’t want to buy
something, leave a note with something they get to do that day like go to the
It might seem like a
lot to spend $10 for a week of toys to get your kids to sleep on their own. But to me it’s worth $10 to get my own sleep
back! I wake up constantly when my kids
are in bed with me. We nicknamed my son
“Helicopter.” He flails his arms and
legs all over the place when he’s sleeping.
Some of this we discovered was caused by certain foods. Another of my children talks in their sleep.
I told each of my kids to pick out
something they wanted to get for sleeping in their own rooms. My daughter picked a Monster High Doll. My son picked an Angry Bird Doll. I made a sheet in Excel with big boxes for
each letter. I left the boxes blank and
then printed out sheets with big letters on it that spelled out what each one was
trying to earn. I laminated it just
because we have a laminator. I also put
a picture on the chart to remind them what they were going to get for sleeping
in the rooms.
My daughter had 15 letters to
earn. So, after 15 nights of sleeping in
her room, she would earn a Monster High Doll.
The first night, she earned the letter “M” and so on until she spelled
out Monster High Doll. Every morning,
they’d wake up asking for their letter. Then they would tape it on to their
chart in the box. There were some days
where they did not earn a letter because they did not stay in their room or
would not go to sleep without me laying with them. They did not like not earning their letter
the next morning. We only used this
method once as it can get costly. But it
helped establish the habit of sleeping on their own.
If your kids are little and still
want you to lay with them to fall asleep, set a time limit. I told my son I would lay with him for 10
minutes, and then I was going to leave. He
was happy with this. I scratch his back, we pray and talk a little and then I
will leave. You can slowly shorten this
time. We eventually ended up sticking
with 5 minutes. Boys tend to need a
little extra help to settle down at night.
If they have the choice of sleeping by themselves, or you laying with
them for a few minutes and then they sleep by themselves, they’ll usually
choose the latter and not fight over having to sleep by themselves.
This is mentioned all the time but
we took the Super Nanny approach. I
wrote out a time chart and posted it up.
It let them know what they should be doing at each time of the day so
that we could get everything done before bedtime. I did this in an attempt to get my kids to go
to bed earlier but it also helps kids fall asleep better if they go to bed at
the same time every night. This is what
our schedule looks like:
6:45am - Get up. Get dressed upstairs. Go potty and brush teeth. Eat and watch TV.
7:30am - Take C to school.
3:30pm - Dinner or snack. Free time.
4:30pm - Homework. No TV until homework is done.
6:00pm - Snack or dinner.
7:00pm - Shower/bath.
Watch TV, finish snack. Computer
and video games off at 7pm. C - read and
8:00pm - TV off. Get ready for bed. Take probiotic, go potty, brush teeth, read
Bible, put on PJ’s, lay out clothes for the next day.
C: No more snacks after
8:30pm. No exceptions. Must be in the shower before 8pm every night. In
bed no later than 9:30pm. Plan
off electronics at least one hour before bedtime, more if possible. Computer, I-Pad, DS’s, video games, etc. I do let my kids watch TV before bed. The farther away they are from a light source
the better. Light tells the brain to
wake up. The faster moving the lights
are, the more active the brain is going to get.
So, video games before bed are not going to make for an easy transition
Exercise makes it easier to fall
asleep at night. Make sure your kids are
getting enough of it during the day.
It’s harder here in the Midwest.
That’s one reason I would love to live in a warmer climate. My kids can’t outside in the winter too
much. In the summer, they are outside a
lot. We have a trampoline, basketball
hoop, waterslide, play set, bikes, etc.
We take walks often and go to the park or play tennis. In the winter, I sometimes take my kids to
our city’s rec center. Ours has a
climbing wall and a pool. Malls often
have free play centers for little ones.
8. Keep it as dark as possible in their
rooms. Some kids like night lights and
that’s OK if they want it to fall asleep.
But after they fall asleep, turn it off.
Any light reduces the melatonin their bodies produce, which helps them
to sleep better. We have room darkening
shades in all our bedrooms and I cover up any other lights (like from the baby
monitor). I turn the alarm clock away
They say it takes about 21 consecutive days to form
a habit. This is really what your aim
is. Rewards work great to establish
habits but you don’t have to continue them forever. After a while they forget about the reward
and continue on with the new habit they’ve learned.
For younger children and babies, I don’t believe in
letting them cry it out. It just never
worked for us. Some people do it, and
can get their babies to sleep on their own easily. More power to them. I envy them.
I don’t mind helping my kids get to sleep when they’re little, but there
comes a time when they need to go to sleep on their own and in their own rooms
so that you can get a good night’s sleep too.
There are some things you can do supplement and diet
wise that will help your kids sleep better too.
I’ll expand on that in another post though.
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out in March, 2013!