October 10, 2009

Time to sleep

"Fatigue is the best pillow."
~Benjamin Franklin

At some point along the parenting road I decided to hand over the nap decision to the child. Robotson had taught me that fighting a child who doesn't want to sleep was a losing battle. Both he and Funny Girl gave up naps pretty early, before they were two years old. It's been a pleasant surprise that Dimples still takes a daily siesta. With both girls though, I didn't force, or enforce naps. I admit to setting up favorable sleeping conditions and arranging for middle of the day van trips to help, but the rest is up to them (pun intended).

Lately, I've been fighting all three kids to go to bed. I know that's normal parent stuff, but I'm pulling 12-14 hour days here. The last thing I want to do is argue with them to go to sleep. I'm beginning to feel like I should make a change. Problem is, I don't want to give them the freedom this time. A nap is one thing because you know it's going to end in a couple of hours. But bedtime, well once they are asleep, you have the rest of the night to finish up a few things and unwind. At least in theory. I want that.

I'm missing something here, but I can't think of what it is. I've tried the favorable sleeping conditions, but the truth is the kids aren't ready to go to sleep when I am (ready for them to). The easiest nights to get them in bed are when they recognize that they are tired too. How do I do that consistently? That's the missing piece.


  1. Think of it as teaching them that end-of-the-day quiet time is important to a peaceful life and a restful mind. Not letting the wildness go on into the evening hours is a different thing than making them go to sleep. They don't need to be tired for quiet time. So having an hour of quiet time in their rooms, with books or Legos or something, may give you what you need, and it teaches them that there are ways of peacefully closing the day. And that that is a precursor to sleep. Good luck, I know this isn't easy. But I think parent leadership on this issue is important.

  2. We do something similar. We keep a pretty regular bedtime, but if she just can't sleep we allow her to look a books in bed--no talking. I think the important thing is to try to keep as regular a schedule as possible and have a routine for bedtime so that the signal is clear when it's coming and they know that there's no more talking or getting up. I tell her that even I have trouble sometimes and read as well, so that's ok and it seems to work. Good luck!

  3. Quiet time before bed puts the restful spirit into them. Have reading time in the bed for half an hour prior to bed. Then have a lights out time. Good time for thinking, etc. after that til they fall asleep. I tell E to think about what we are going to do tomorrow, any experiments she wants to do, or things she wants to draw, etc. If you are consistent with the bed times they will eventually follow. They will get up earlier though, and I don't know if you will like that!!

  4. We have a routine. That's part of my favorable conditions. Around 7pm I give the girls a bath, brush teeth, then read to them, then lights out and we listen to Storynory. Everything was going along fine until FG started to fight bathtime. Then both girls began just not sleeping when the lights went out. They just lie there and wiggle around, talk, laugh, and generally not sleep. I should mention I parent to sleep, so I don't leave until they are out. It's just taking forever to get there.

    With Robotson, he does the typical, "I don't want to go to bed" stalling and then comes back upstairs 3-5 times a night. He's not required to sleep, only to stay in his room.

    I try to be consistent with bedtimes, it's hard somedays to get everyone moving at the same time. I think one problem is the no bedtime weekends. We usually let them stay up late on Fri and Sat, but it's messing up the routine. So I need to stop that.

  5. What does "parent to sleep" mean, exactly? You really don't leave unless they're asleep?

    One thing I took seriously when my kids were babies is that I was doing them a service by teaching them how to fall asleep independently...that falling asleep is not a scary process, that they don't actually need me. They were proud of this as toddlers, and they can do it easily now.

    Now, that doesn't preclude co-sleeping, which we still do often even though they're 8 and 10... they'll crawl in with us or I'll crawl in with them sometimes and snuggle. But teaching them that falling asleep independently is a different story. It was very important for us.

  6. Correct, I don't leave until they are asleep, the girls I mean. One reason for that is because I nurse to sleep. FG (nearly 4) doesn't need to nurse to sleep anymore and could probably be left on her own, but the girls share a room. What *was* happening is I would nurse Dimples and FG would fall asleep at the same time. I'd get up and everything was great.

    Now what's happening is Dimples won't settle down, even while nursing. If I leave the room (which I've had to do a few times so I could breathe deeply), Dimples will cry until she throws up. She's done it ever since she was a tiny baby so it's not what I would consider an attention-getter. But when she throws up I have to go back in there obviously. I don't think the kids think going to sleep is scary, but they do prefer I stay with them. I don't mind putting them to bed usually. I am just not a big fan of having to wait hours for them to fall asleep, then coming upstairs to deal with my son too.

  7. I think you need to remove the "fun" factor for them for a while. Even though you are frustrated, they are just having too much fun at bedtime, as sisters who share a room will do. I was one, so I know ;)

    I'd suggest staggering them. Is it possible to have B or Robotson read to FG (or play a game, whatever) in another room while you get Dimples to sleep? You could maybe start 15 minutes earlier with Dimples so that FG isn't getting to bed too late. It might take longer at first but providing someone else can keep FG content and you have undivided time with Dimples I think they'll start to adjust to the new routine. You might find it makes everyone happier. FG gets the privilege of staying up later and they both get time alone with mom.

    Whatever you do, I really hope you find something that works! For a long time bedtime was my least favorite time of day. We're doing better now but as every parent knows it can be a big struggle.

    Dawn K

  8. B works nights for now so he can't help. His schedule will be changing in a couple of weeks and that adds an interesting new twist. I may be able to stagger bedtimes. Robotson would very much revolt at having to give up his computer time to babysit LOL.

    Something I am considering is doing the bedtime nursing before we go downstairs. Hoping to break the habit of falling asleep with the breast. Then I can work on just being in the room while they drift off, then maybe out in the hallway, then upstairs....

    Then just gotta keep Robotson in his bedroom :)

  9. Oh and thanks everyone! Just being able to toss around ideas is helping me a lot. I very much appreciate it!

  10. I don't "parent to sleep". The moment light is out, I am out the door. Whether Anna sleeps or not, it's entirely up to her. She also fights bathtime, because she knows what comes next, but once the routine starts, we are pretty much on a smooth track - bath, 2 books, light out. On most days she is out within minutes even though she looked wildly energetic just 5 minutes ago. Good luck figuring your routine out, but if the girls share the room, it's a little trickier. My friends' girls used to giggle until 10 pm or later. On the other hand, it did help them to take naps :)