Last month I wrote about how my husband and I had just about lost control of the bedtime hours. When we returned from our vacation at the beach, I decided to tackle this situation before the girls go back to school and I start working full-time.
Sometimes when I’m struggling with a parenting issue, I try to imagine what advice I would give a friend if she were having the same problem. (For some inexplicable reason, I tend to give other people much better advice than I give myself.) “So”, I asked myself, “what drives you crazy about bedtime right now?” “Well,” I answered, (silently of course – I’m only a little crazy) “it’s the general feeling of chaos in the bedroom. And the way they call for me a dozen times after lights out, which leads me to slowly (or is it rapidly?) degenerate into yell-y, grouchy mom.”
In my defense, it’s been hard to tackle the chaos, because the girls share a room. I know it’s not realistic to demand total silence into in the room, but unfortunately it’s a very steep, slippery slope from whispering in bed to Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco.
So, I advised myself to start with some rules. I brainstormed with the girls and made a list of no-no’s, which we adjust as needed. It currently reads:
No screaming or shouting
Stay off your sister’s bed
Heads near pillows
Get your own books
No bouncing or jumping
No animal noises
No touching the lights
Next, I suggested adding some incentives. So, after 10 minutes of following the rules, I come and give cuddles to each daughter in bed. If they follow the rules all night, they get a Trader Joe’s cat cookie in the morning. (These are small, come in a big bucket, and frequently serve as our “training treats” when necessary.)
Lastly, I tackled the frequent hollers for mama by distributing “mama/papa money.” Each daughter gets three coins to keep on her nightstand. If they want me to come into the room for any reason, they need to pay me. Yes, I’m charging. I’m charing for changing cd’s, rescuing stuffed animals, smoothing out blankets and glasses of water. I’m even charging for hugs and kisses. Overtime.
Each night at bedtime I read aloud the rules and make them repeat them aloud. This may sound like boot camp, but the girls love it – and act out each of the no-no’s as we do the review, which I’m fairly certain they don’t do at boot camp.
I never thought it would actually work, but…. it has. Things aren’t silent after lights out, but they are ok. Which, I’ve discovered, is good enough for me. I’m glad I listen to my own advice.