I thought I had finally come to the end of my bedtime battles, but my kids seem to be doing their best to prove me wrong!
Somehow, I've never quite had the touch for getting my kids to sleep. In fact, there were many years where it seemed I spent most of my day just trying to get a child down for a nap or in bed for the night.
At this point, though, I am pretty much down to just two kids I have to deal with every night: The oldest and the youngest.
The youngest should be a breeze by now. This IS the fourth time I've dealt with 5-year-olds and bedtime. But, I think that I've just grown tired of deploying the old tactics. For one child who was really bad about getting out of bed, we used to pretend that her door was locked. We'd stand in the hallway and hold onto the doorknob really tight so that when she tried to open it, it wouldn't. We'd say, "Once you're asleep, we'll open your door again."
It worked, but she was a persistent kid and we had to go through the routine every night for the longest time before she learned that if she just stayed in bed, we wouldn't "lock" her door.
For my other kids, I resorted to sitting in the hallway by the door. I always sat where they couldn't see me so that I could sneak away when they finally settled down. A few times I'd sneak away too early and I'd hear them quietly ask, "Are you still there?" and I'd have to hurry back by the room and whisper, "I'm right here."
Thankfully, I don't think they caught on to my scheme until they were old enough to reason with (threaten and bribe).
So now with my fourth, I thought she had learned to go to sleep without issues, but lately I've been getting the familiar call downstairs of, "I can't sleep, I'm scared!" (I'm sure it has nothing to do with the sounds from "Walking Dead" making their way upstairs...)
We told her to count sheep and five minutes later she came back, saying, "I tried that. I don't like sheep anymore." I told her to make up a story in her mind and 10 minutes later I find that her light is on and she's yelling, "I need help finding a book I can read!" She didn't get the concept.
No matter what we try, it doesn't seem to work. I guess it's time to lay down the law. I'm thinking I need to get one of those handy clip charts they use in Kindergarten. I can hear it now: "If you get out of bed, I'm going to have to move your clip down!"
With my oldest, I have different issues. Her bedtime routine seems to take at least an hour and she always has great excuses for being up late. I've tried setting up consequences to motivate her. We told her if she didn't get to bed on time, she would get her cell phone taken away. She responded, "That's fine, none of my friends contact me on it anymore since you took away my texting."
We tried tying her allowance to her compliance, but that didn't seem to matter, either. I'm learning that disciplining a teenager is no easy thing.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days of scooping her up in my arms, tucking her in bed, and "locking" the door until she is asleep. For now, I'll just keep trying new things. Maybe if I can figure out what does motivate these kids, I'll have an easier time with more important battles that are sure to come in the future.
Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.