Do you find that often your child seems to have more than enough energy to wear you out within minutes? They seem to want your attention constantly and expect you to fill their day with sunshine and rainbows? But, you feel more like getting in bed and covering your head with a blanket – and just getting some more sleep? Do you then find yourself trying to fill their time with activities, games and distractions only to realize the demand is never ending? Then, when it is bedtime, they want nothing to do with it?
A child who has a lot of energy and expects your attention constantly can be taxing on anyone. Especially a mom who knows this is just one 24 hour period, and there are endless ones ahead.
This time, we are going to talk about how to teach your child to entertain themselves and to be content, calm and happy… and go to bed willingly on time! No more need to feel like you have to constantly keep them occupied. You will have time to get your work done around the home AND have fun time with your children without feeling completely drained. AND, you will be able to put them to bed without the worry of them constantly getting up.
Last time we talked about BEING the MOM. Taking charge. It’s really important that your children have the understanding of the three main points that your children must know for sure that we covered in “BE the MOM: How to Take Charge.” Those points are that they must know:
They are loved.
You know what is best for them.
You WILL assert your authority to make sure what is best for them is done.
Since we didn’t cover this last time, I also want to say… tell them you love them… often. Show them by your calm, patient attitude and your interest when they come to tell you something. NEVER speak as though you wish they were not around or give any indication that you don’t like being a mom to them. They must know they are loved. If you have made a mistake in this area, let them know you are sorry if you ever said anything that made them feel unloved and that you are SO proud and happy to be their mom. This is very important. Find things to compliment them about and be sincere.
Second, have confidence in yourself as a mother. YOU were given these children by GOD. He planned for them to be in your care and you have the skills and the ability to raise them. You can do it! And, you can reap the rewards of well-behaved and accomplished children.
Third, remember that no matter what, every action you take with your children should be in their best interest. You need to be willing to go through the tough times to get to the best for them. That means doing what is best regardless of momentary circumstances. Being the mature parent as we discussed in “BE the MOM; How to Take Charge.”
In order to train your children to occupy their own time, start by having a routine or a schedule. This can begin when they are just infants. Suffice to say, having a routine is very important in a child’s feeling of security and order in their lives. And a schedule is important in yours!
A routine gives the child the knowledge of what’s coming. They feel empowered and confident in themselves and happy to go along with the program because they are a part of it. Ready for the next stage of the day! They also recognize that there will be time to play, eat, sleep, wash, and be with Mommy. This knowledge helps them become more patient and less anxious and demanding.
Think about the mind of the child. They actually have no power at all to meet their own needs. They are at your mercy for everything. If they are unable to communicate their needs, and they do not know when they will be taken care of, they will be more fussy and more easily agitated. Yet, if they are aware that play time is coming, food is coming, changing diaper time is coming, sleep time is coming… they are not worried or anxious… and therefore they feel secure. Security produces a calmer and more easily compliant child.
I have just explained why a routine is important for a child. But a schedule is important for you --- as long as you can be a little flexible. Clearly, we live in a world that depends upon time. We may need to be to a doctor appointment, get to church, a date with our husband, or a class for moms!!! LOL. A schedule helps us get everything done we need to do, makes us feel more confident that we have taken care of all the child’s needs, and gets us there on time…. Or at least close!
In addition to a schedule, a time for each child to be alone and entertain themselves should be a normal part of the day. Even if they have siblings, they should have alone time to learn to entertain themselves. This is good training and helps them understand they do not need to be dependent on others for their happiness. They know when it is coming and they expect not to bother you during this time.
It’s a good idea to have a special blanket they sit on with toys just for this occasion. Set a timer and tell them when the timer goes off, if they have stayed on the blanket and played nicely by themselves, they will get a special treat. Have a graham cracker or a fruit they especially like, or even a cookie for them after the timer goes off. This is something that happens daily and they will understand and expect to do it after it becomes routine. Start off with a 5 minute timer and increase it each day by just a little. Work up to a 30 minute time on the blanket.
Give them lots of praise for their self-control when they stay on the blanket. Use the word, “self-control” and let them know that this is a great accomplishment in their life! You can use that word a lot during their entire growing up years – and it is a gem!
So what does a good schedule/routine look like? Here is an example of what I found worked well for me when my children were infants and toddlers.
6:00 am -- Wake and change, feed, burp baby (cozy cuddle time!)
6:45 am – Make breakfast for family
7:30 am – Clean up kitchen, start laundry
8:00 am – play with baby, read, sing, etc (lots of eye contact!) Read or play with toddler
8:15am – Diaper change if needed, switch up laundry,
9:00am – Feed baby, (cozy cuddle time!) Naptime for infant, do work around home, make phone calls – Toddler has blanket time with toys
10:00/10:30am – Get baby up, put in swing or other device with toy and finish work started during nap OR go on errands OR a fun activity like go to park, play date, etc.
10:45am – Fold laundry, continue work around home OR go on errands – toddler helps!
11:30 – Feed baby lunch, - could be on errands with baby or still on an outing
12:00 - Finish chores around home, read baby and toddler a story
1:00 – Naptime for everyone, including you!
3:00 – Feed, change diaper (cozy cuddle time!)
3:30 – Playtime with baby and toddler
4:00 - Errands could be done now if need, or start dinner, toddler play by self
5:00 - Dinner for everyone
5:30 –short nap for baby, clean kitchen – toddler can help
6:00 – Free time to play or read with everyone, bath time when ready
7:00 – Feed baby, change, read and cuddle
7:30 – Baby goes to bed, toddler time with mommy & daddy
8:00 – toddler to bed, free time with husband
9:30/10 – If baby is still newborn, wake, feed, change baby and put back to bed
When children are not newborns/infants, but toddlers, they will not need the morning nap or the evening nap and will not need to be fed as many times a day. They will still need the afternoon nap though! This schedule made it easy for me to make doctor appointments and still have the children on a routine, and have time in the evening with my husband.
Now you are thinking… how do I get my child to stay in bed? There are different methods for different ages. If you start the routines from a very early age and the child knows you are in charge, it will be a cinch. But, if there has been a question who is in charge and if they know they can manipulate you without consequences, things need to change to make bedtime what it should be.
HOW TO GET YOUR CHILDREN TO STAY IN BED
What should bedtime be like? Routinely, it should be prayers and a short song, a kiss and hug, and “goodnight, see you in the morning!” “Good night, Mommy!” (Turn on Mommy Tape –if you have one -- we will talk about that later). Walk out of the room and you’re done. No crying, no fussing, no getting up after being put to bed, no parent staying in the room until they fall asleep. That is what bedtime should be like. If it isn’t, let’s make it so! Remember, you are in charge. You are the MOM. You set the stage for what will be and the way things will go. They do not.
The first thing to keep in mind to make this happen is, make sure all their needs are taken care of. They have eaten dinner, had an evening snack or had a bottle, gotten a drink of water, gone to the bathroom (or had a diaper change), had time during the day with you, and are not sick. You have spent time talking and listening to them during the day. Their bed is safe and comfortable. Give them a large cuddly toy to hug in case they get scared at night. Knowing all this is taken care of will give you confidence that any excuses they give are just that… excuses to get up. Disobedience basically. In order to be consistent, you must know you are doing the right thing for them and for your family. So, take care of all their needs before they get in bed.
Children, just like adults, have sleep cycles. They will go into a very deep sleep and then a lighter sleep throughout the night. They must learn that at night, they go back to sleep. They do not fuss until Mommy or Daddy come to play or talk with them. They will learn it if you teach them.
They must be fed every 2-3 hours, so it is important to make sure they are fed, burped, changed and their bed is safe and comfortable. Once all this is done, make sure you keep lights dim anytime you have to change or feed them during the night. They need to start to learn about daytime vs. nighttime as soon as they come home from the hospital! I had a little bed next to my bed that they slept in for the first few weeks while this was necessary.
Do not ever take them on car rides, walk them around the house, etc. at night. This only adds to their confusion about nighttime being different than daytime. It also teaches them that when they fuss enough, you will come and take them somewhere else.
Have a warm water bottle or heating pad on low to place in their bed when you get them out to feed, burp and change them so they don’t get all relaxed after a feeding and then hit a cold sheet. Remove the heating pad or water bottle and test bed to make sure it isn’t too hot. Leaving lights as dim as possible (I used a small flashlight pointed away from them) take care of business and then place them back in a warm comfortable bed. Turn off the dim light as soon as you can. I even fed them in the dark!
If they cry after ½ hour or so… gently place your hand on their back and wait until the next time they should feed. Do not get them up until then. Let them cry knowing you are right there and they are safe. But also, that you are not getting them up right now. (ear plugs are helpful!) You are in charge, and they are not. Teach them this early in a loving way.
They will soon realize that when it is dark, it is time to sleep. They will begin to regulate their own sleep patterns and stay asleep longer and longer. My babies slept 6-7 hours at a time within the first 4 weeks. After that, the time stretched longer and longer until they were sleeping 8-10 hours a night within the first two months or so.
Make sure they have had a bottle, burped, diaper is dry , bed is dry and safe, you have given them plenty of attention during the day. They do not have a fever, they are not sick. Make sure the lights are dim before you give them a kiss, a little song, lay them down and tell them “time to sleep”. Walk out of the room. If they have a routine and know this is it, they will lay right down and go to sleep.
If they have been in charge… they will fight sleep and will try to get you to come back into the room. Do not do it. Wait about 30 minutes. If they are still crying, walk into the room but do not turn on the lights – make sure they are not wet and are safe. Go right to the crib and lay them back down and tell them “time to sleep”. Don’t say anything else. Don’t ask them a question, or talk at all. Walk back out of the room. Wait another ½ hour. Repeat. Soon they will get the picture that Mommy doesn’t play or take them out of bed at night. They will stop fussing at night and go right to sleep.
IN the rare circumstance that they need a diaper change (because this was already taken care of before bedtime), do not talk to them as you usually do and turn on a very dim light just enough to do the job. Do not start a conversation, or talk in high pitched tones, or do anything to stimulate them. Do not pick them up, just change them in the crib, and especially do not take them out of the room! Be gentle and patient but do not have a conversation with them. Be quiet, pleasant and gentle – but don’t talk.
This is not to be mean. What you are doing is showing them that bedtime is different than daytime. At bedtime, they sleep and it is not time to talk or play. That’s all. You are teaching them to go to sleep at night and that it is the only thing they can do.
For toddlers and young children:
Tell them at bedtime they must go to sleep and stay in bed. If they say they are scared, tell them if they get scared, to say a prayer and hug the toy. All will be well! (Remember, they know you love them, they know you know what is best for them, and that you will assert your authority to make sure the best for them is done.)
Now is the time to stop any fussing and not allow any kind of whining. Like I said, if they already know not to behave that way, they won’t anyway. But, if you taking charge is new to them, they will give it the old college try. They will cry and fuss and complain. Don’t allow it.
Don’t get angry, frustrated or annoyed. Simply tell them that is not allowed and follow through if necessary. Be patient and use the method we talked about in the BE the MOM: How to Take Charge. When they are all done – according to the method--- repeat “it’s time for bed now. Go to sleep. Unless there is a fire, a hurricane, or a disaster of some kind, stay in bed. Good night.” Do not talk about anything else. Do not allow them to get you into any conversation.
When they are all settled (meaning no more fussing and done with the covering of the mouth) and understand staying in bed is their only option, kiss them goodnight and walk out of the room. Tell them if they decide to disobey, the big stuffed toy will be taken away.
If they get up later, immediately ask them, “Is there a fire in your room?” If there is not a fire, they should be in bed. Walk them back to their room, remind them that the toy has to be taken because they decided to disobey, and do not allow fussing. Repeat the process. Remember, every time they get up, it must be an unpleasant and unrewarding experience.
The most important thing to remember…. Make bedtime a solid thing. It is not fluid and it is not unpredictable. Staying in bed will cause them to have a pleasant night. Getting up will be unpleasant and unrewarding. When they recognize that you are being consistent during the day and at night, the bedtime battles will end. They will go right to bed without any problem.
ABOUT MOMMY TAPES!
One great way to get your children excited about bedtime is to record your own voice and play it for them at night when they get in bed. Tell them they get their “mommy tape” if they are in bed on time and behave at bedtime. They will try really hard to get there on time!
Record by starting off saying “Hello, Johnny…This is your mommy tape! I am going to tell you things that I want you to learn and to remember.”
Suggestions of some things to put on the mommy tape:
Their full name and how to spell it
Parents and grandparents names
Birthdate, address, phone number
Scriptures and songs
Days of week, months of the year (there are simple songs for this you can sing to them)
Counting to 10, counting by 2s and by 5s
Sing the 50 states song
The pledge of allegiance
Tell them they are special to you and you love them
You can make several mommy tapes and give them different ones to listen to at bedtime. Break up talking with singing and little poems or scriptures. Other good recordings of stories and etc can also be used.
Remember, YOU are the MOM. You set the stage for the way things will be and being consistent will cause your child to be calm and happy… and will take away the major kinds of frustration you may have been experiencing in the past.