A fb follower made the astute observation that, as a parent, it’s not always easy to enforce regular bedtimes. The psychologist in me was all, “You’re the mommy! You need to take control!” The parent side of me was all, “Amen, sister!”
I have kids ages 7-17. I have a whole gaggle of kids. Sometimes I wonder where all these kids came from and if I can give any of them back. Bedtime was actually way easier when they were littler. And by littler, I’m not talking baby-little. When they were babies I was constantly worried I was ruining them forever by a) letting them peacefully fall asleep while nursing, b) putting them in their cribs, all alone, while they were awake c) picking them up when they cried, and d) not picking them up when they cried. That first year was a single-subject case study in maternal neuroticism. I am not even kidding.
It was when they became toddlers and preschoolers that things were relatively easy. We established bedtime routines and made choices about technology that saved our sanity. Our kids had an 8:00 bedtime – all of them. We had a snack and bath routine, stories for everyone – read-alouds even as the kids got into the older elementary years – and rules for turning off the TV a few hours before bedtime. They could read in their rooms if they weren’t sleepy, but we had zero technology in their bedrooms. No televisions, computers, game boys, Kindles, or iPods. Our kids were all morning people, waking up refreshed and happy. We were a Hallmark commercial.
Then some of them had the nerve to start junior high. And need* cell phones (and in high school, their own laptops). Suddenly, they needed technology to do well in school. And homework wasn’t limited to a few hours after school. There were sports and music lessons after school. There were class facebook pages and websites they needed to check to keep up on homework and notes. And did I mention we have a gaggle of kids? They couldn’t all do homework at the kitchen table anymore. They needed to Skype with study groups or watch videos as part of their “flipped” classrooms. The technology crept into the bedrooms of the older ones. And, despite routines and rules, bedtime wasn’t so easy anymore. I have actually found my eldest has fallen asleep with the cursed cell phone next to her head, which I am sure is causing brain cancer, you don’t even have to tell me that. Our kids are no longer morning people. Except the little ones, but only on Saturday mornings. And then it’s not like a Hallmark commercial. It’s like ohmyfreakinghead whyareyouupsoearly andcanyoupleasegobacktobed andnoyoumaynotplayontheipad.
So I hear you, fb follower. There are no easy answers to getting bedtime back. But there are plenty of tips for not losing it in the first place. Or at least keeping control of it as long as possible.
- Routines, routines, routines. Bath routine, story routine, kiss goodnight routine. Establish them young and keep them going.
- Start routines at the same time each night. The more consistent you are with the actual in-bed time, the better. This means weekends too.
- Cut the cord. Do not put a television in your child’s room. Period. I am not even kidding. Don’t go there. And if you want to sleep better, consider getting rid of the one in your room too.
- Establish technology bedtimes. Put all technology to bed at least an hour before you start the kid bedtime routine. The light from cell phones, laptops, iPads, and televisions can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone needed for good sleep. Insist technology gets charged overnight in a central location, away from the bedrooms.
- Avoid caffeine within 3 hours of bedtime. For little kids, try to avoid it entirely. This means avoiding most colas, many root beers, Mountain Dew, even chocolate. Read labels.
- Finally, you might want to explore your own issues regarding bedtime and/or technology. Were your own parents harsh about bedtime? Were you scared of the dark or not allowed to get up to use the bathroom? Do you work late and feel like nighttime is the only time to have quality time with your child? Do you think your child is different regarding bedtime? For example, your child doesn’t need as much sleep as other children or can only fall asleep if dead tired? Do you want to watch your own shows, so it only makes sense to have a second television for the kids? None of these are bad things, but they might be getting in the way of establishing routines and are worth thinking about.
Here’s wishing all the people in your home a good night!