Question from Member A: I’ve gotten into a bad habit with my 5 YO around sleep and now he only wants me for bedtime (tho I insist that daddy take him one night a week, but it never goes well). The bedtime routine is now taking me like 45 minutes between jammies, teeth, book, songs and snuggles. He shares a room with his 7 YO sister so we put him to bed first then her, but if he isn’t asleep before she arrives they just keep each other up to all ends of the night. My room is next door and I can’t sleep when I can hear them, but don’t want to use ear plugs in case they really need me. So, I end up snuggling in his bed and singing songs until he goes to sleep. I’m exhausted by this routine. Any tips would be really appreciated!!
Reply from Rachel: Let me make sure I understand what you’re looking for. Do you want to know how to get his dad to put him to bed? Or how to get the kids to stop playing? Or how to shorten the bedtime routine?
Reply from Member B: It may be that he’s just figured out how to get 45 minutes alone with you! One thing that could help is to agree to play a game with him in his room before bed. If my daughter was ready in time, we’d play a board or card game (or sometimes play with her toys for 10 minutes) before she climbed in bed. That gave her some quiet time and one-on-one time before sleep and helped to shorten things overall (and didn’t sap my energy as much).
Reply from Member A: Mostly how to shorten things overall. I think dad would be more than happy to do the bedtime routine more often if it wasn’t such a long process and I just don’t have 60-90 minutes every night to dedicate to bedtime between him and his sister.
Reply from Rachel: To shorten the bedtime routine, here are some things you can consider doing:
1.) Sit down with him to decide the 3 things (or however many you’re comfortable with) that are part of your routine. Let him know how long you’re going to spend on each. (If he’s a child who likes to use timers, you may even want to let him set/use a timer during the routine.) That way, you’re giving him some control over the process while setting his expectations.
2.) If possible, frontload some connection time with him. Maybe 5-10 minutes at another time that evening if possible? It may be that he’s trying to extend the the time with you because he is craving connection. (It may also be that he’s craving engagement though, in which case he may need help thinking of things to think about to help him fall asleep.)
3.) Before you bring him to bed, remind him about the routine and how long each piece is going to take. Help him find something to do (perhaps make up a story for you so he still feels connected to you) after you leave.
4.) Be prepared that in the beginning, he might not like you leaving before he wants you to… It’s OK for him to be upset. It’s his way of releasing Yuck!
Reply from Member C: Something that has helped my four-year-old. She asked that I check on her and I follow through. I do check on her two to three times and it seems to help keep her in bed and lower her anxiety. It’s not too difficult to do since I’m getting myself settled for the night usually at that time as well.
Reply from Member A: Thanks for the recommendations. I’m going to try having a conversation with him to see where we might begin. I think you are right that he is craving time with with me but I also think he is using this as soon he control. He’s starting to figure out that if he keeps me with him then his sister (who goes to bed next) doesn’t get me. A bit of sibling rivalry.
Reply from Rachel: Ahh, then that’s the issue to work on. When we resolve the real reason for behavior, that’s when the behavior goes away!