Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Put Our Kids to Bed - Part 175

Hi everyone. Our bedtime routine with the kids continues to change as we adapt to Duchess and Captain getting older. Since I wrote the previous definitive guide to putting your kid to bed seven months ago, pretty much everything has changed at least 173 times. Stevie has been kind enough to write an update on the most recent changes. Enjoy!

- Dad (John)

There was a unique challenge that John and I hadn't anticipated when having two kids share a room. That was getting two kids to fall asleep in the same room. The life of Duchess's go-to-bed habits have peaks and valleys. We'll go weeks and have it be the most awwwww-inducing moment of the day; full of “I love you mommy!” and “just one more kiss, daddy”. But then there's her low points. Her it's-ten-o-clock-and-you're-nuts-if-you-think-I'm-staying-in-this-bed nights. Nights where she magically has to pee 17 times. Nights where she can't go to bed because she needs to be in the living room staring out the window for an indefinite amount of time. Nights where she knows it's time for bed and runs and hides in adorably obvious places. 

These nights.

When Captain was still in his stage where everywhere and anywhere seemed like a good place for a nap, it wasn't as big of a deal. It was frustrating, yes. But comparatively, it was only half a battle. We then introduced the other half: her brother. We started putting them to bed in their room, rather than have Captain fall asleep in our arms watching TV, then taking him to the bassinet in our room. Though he wasn't sleeping through the night yet (and in fact still doesn't most nights to this day), we needed to just make the leap.

We started the routine by putting Captain down first. It was only fair to Duchess that she get to stay up later than her brother. Let’s just assume that I have traumatizing memories of my “older” sister (by a whopping 18 months) throwing tantrums because she was older and it just wasn't fair! So Captain goes to bed first. He's pretty easy to get to sleep. In fact, eerily easy. At least compared to Duchess at that age. But let’s not compare apples and oranges Duchesses and Captains. Duchess plays a little longer and it’s time for her routine. 

Upstairs - this is usually a mix of crawling and rolling up the stairs.

Jammies on - but she gets to do it. Despite the lack of coordination it takes for one to put on pajamas.

Teeth brushed – But she has to do the toothpaste. And she brushes first. And she has to turn on the water. Then it's your turn to brush them for her. But not her tongue, she likes to brush her tongue. Don't forget to tell her to spit. Then rinse her brush, but let her turn the water back on/off.

Go potty – The amount of time this takes depends on duchess's mood. She will hold her pee hostage in an attempt to not finish this part.

Books – We finally got this down to 2 books. We used to enjoy how much she loved reading books. Until we realized that the number kept getting bigger as her dislike of bedtime grew.

Bed - Go find baby. No! Not baby Cinderella! Baby Emily! And she wants her blanket. Not that blanket. Yeah, that blanket. But she doesn't want it on. Just on her bed.

Songs – Again, two songs here. At first. Until we bribe to her stay in her bed by offering to sing more songs. We've said it from the beginning folks, we’re not the brightest parents. We get out-smarted by our three-year-old on a regular basis.

Hug and kiss – Then pick-up-hug and pick-up-kiss. (These are different than lay-down-hugs and lay-down-kisses, which we also do. The difference should be obvious.)

Sticker Time.

The last part is very important. That sticker is our port in the storm. Before we introduced the sticker, there was a point, right after the song step, that you could tell how the exit was going to go. You would get an immediate sense of what the next 45 minutes of your life was going to be. It was either going to smoothly transition to hugs-and-kisses, or was going to result in yelling, and crying (by all involved), Captain would wake up, parent #2 would tag in, and everyone is mad and sad and please for the love of God, everyone go to sleep.

Then the sticker idea came to us. One night on a whim, right before bedtime, I ran downstairs and grabbed a piece of black card stock. I drew a crude grid, stole a sheet of stickers from Duchess's sticker box, and proceeded to present her with the best reward system she's seen in her three years on this planet. We told her if she went to bed nice and (more importantly), didn't wake up her brother, she got a sticker. Enough stickers and she gets a new book for bedtime. Duchess's mind = blown.

We all became bedtime ninjas. Duchess began to insist we read our books in the living room so we didn't wake up Captain. She started crawling to her bed like a cat (and insisting we did to) so he didn't see her walking, avoiding every creak in the floor; she's memorized where every one of them is. She started shush-ing us incessantly when we sing songs. If Captain begins to stir, she’ll freeze, put a single finger to her lips, and we'll both stare wide eyed at each other as we wait to see if he starts to fuss. She is watching as the fate of her sticker lay on the line, and I my adult-size glass of wine downstairs. Then he settles, she grins and quietly asks for her sticker.

We lost track of how many stickers she was getting. The amount of stickers that earned a prize became arbitrary. To her, it was just about the stickers. We go back in her room sometimes and find her on the floor in front of her nightlight, ear to ear grin, staring at all the stickers she's earned. Sure, she should be in bed. But she's not waking up her brother. And that's fine by me. As far as John and I are concerned, we've won this battle, armed only with a piece of paper and a pack of heart stickers. 

Now, back to my well-earned glass of wine, 
Stevie (mom)

P.S. Oh yeah... John says you should follow the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page. Well I think you should go over there and tell John that he's not the boss, and that he doesn't get to tell you what to do! Granted, you'll have to like the page first... Huh HAA! TRICKERY!


  1. Glory to stickers! Stickers for everyone!

  2. I love this! Little rewards go such a long way. It's nice to hear there are other "bedtime ninjas" around. We have rotating toothbrushes and blankets and even her comforter was interchangeable for a while. However, ask you know, the secret is always in the control. Littles getting to make decisions seems to offer enough control to avoid the melt-down. Love the sticker charts. Happy bedtime!

  3. We have a rewards chart here too. Our schedule is :
    They get stickers for shower, teeth and reading. At the end of the week we calculate the sticker ( they have other sticker choices too) and then they get a reward . Thanks for sharing what you do.