I don’t know if other parents experience this, but bedtime misbehaviour seems to come in waves around our house. We’ll go for months with relatively few problems, all the kids getting through their bedtime routine and heading off to sleep mostly on schedule, then – BAM! – suddenly it’s madness and chaos, with kids fighting every step of the way, crying and throwing fits until late into the night.
The worst part is, I can’t seem to find any predictors of what will set the madness off. Sometimes I think they’re under-tired and need to have more activity before bed. Other times I think they’re over-tired and need to have less activities wearing them out. Too much sugar that day? Maybe. Too little time with parents recently? Maybe. Bad day at school? Maybe. Who knows.
And by that point it doesn’t matter much anyway. The fighting and screaming have already begun. Everybody is already worked up. The chance of anyone getting to sleep remotely on time has already dwindled to almost nothing.
All I can do is endure it and try to balance patience with firmness.
Recently it’s been my youngest who’s at the centre of things. He gets all worked up about something (anything and everything actually), and keeps it up until my middle guy comes to bed. Then the middle one gets wound up, which continues until the eldest comes to bed. Then the eldest gets wound up. It’s a vicious game of sleep-depriving dominoes.
So we decided to nip it in the bud tonight. We told the youngest that he had one chance. If there was any screaming or yelling of any kind, he’d have to come sleep on a mattress on the floor in mommy and daddy’s room. He cried at the very thought of it and assured us that he would go straight to bed without any fuss, but it took him all of 30 seconds after the lights went off to sneak out of bed and steal his brother’s toy.
Which meant off he went to a mattress at the foot of my bed. He cried. For sure he did. Sobbed in fact. But once we got him there, he was asleep in five minutes. Which meant the next one went to sleep without problems. Which meant the last one went to bed with no problems either. It was marvellous.
Now, I don’t know if the technique will work every night, but I’m off to bed myself at the most reasonable time in a week. I’ll take it as long as I can get it.