6 Ways to Get Your Child to Go the F* to Sleep
If you’re reading this because you just Googled “the fastest way to get my kid to sleep,” then welcome, you’ve found your people. Or maybe you're one of my regular readers (hi, Mom). Either way, I’m glad you're here. I’ll keep this short so you can get back to living the dream.
I don’t claim to be a sleep expert, but I am a mom of three people under the age of five… so obviously I know best. These are my top six tips for getting the kiddos to shut their mouths - I mean eyes - and go to sleep. Because wine and Netflix are calling your name and you must answer.
Routine, routine, routine. You’ve already heard this tip, of course. So if you aren’t already doing some form of routine, it’s your own fault. But there’s a bit more to it than repetition – a fact I’m sure you’ve come to realize, hence, here you are. The key is to make sure your routine is efficient, i.e., no-nonsense, no frills, and fast. Like, too-fast-to-object fast. Don’t be frivolous with your wine. Typo. I meant time. Also, as called for in the Japanese art of decluttering, just table those activities that don't bring you J-O-Y.
I know a few moms who bathe their kids every. single. night. If you have time for that - and the ritual brings you joy - more power to you. I neither have time for that nor see the point in doing it every night. Once a week seems fine to me. At least until sports come into play and sir-stinks-a-lot's sweat glands start to develop into full blown stink factories.
Before I go on, ponder this: will your kid remember those nightly baths? Will that memory trump the memories you’d make if you were in a better mood because you had more me time? If the answer to either of those questions is no, why bother? Is your kid that dirty?
My routine for my one-year-old is simple: warm up a bottle, slap on a fresh diaper, crank up the Winnie the Pooh mobile, lean in for a kiss and DONE. Works like a charm.
Bribe them. This works best if you use something they actually want and that you were planning to give them anyway. For example, we have a birthday party coming up this weekend, instead of threatening them (which is number 3 on this list…), I employ the perceived reward method. “Go to bed now and I’ll take you to a birthday party tomorrow.” Or, "Go to bed now and I'll let you brush your teeth in the morning." Whatever works. Important note: you have to use this at the beginning of your nightly routine, before the bad behavior ensues. If you wait until they’ve begun misbehaving, then you’ll only be rewarding their bad behavior with a bribe, and that is a serious no-no.
Threaten them. Okay, so if you’re like me, by the time you actually get to bedtime, the bad behavior is already in full swing. So first, ask them nicely to listen to you and get their little behinds into bed. When that inevitably doesn’t work, threaten to take something away from them. Make it something easy to take away, or better yet, something they shouldn’t be doing anyway. Like four hours of screen time. When you threaten to take away Peppa Pig, they usually fall in line pretty quickly. And by fall in line, I mean completely melt down and lose all self control. Which brings us to step number 4…
Let them cry it out. I have a three- and a four-year-old who share a bedroom, and we only have to use this method once in a blue moon when things get really bad. Here's how it works. First, the kid starts crying uncontrollably (in my case, the older one, who is literally my biggest baby). You, oh wise one, walk away and close the door. Make them think you aren’t coming back. When they stop screaming at the top of their lungs and are reduced to sniffles, go back in there, wrap your arms around said kid, and tell them how much you love them. You just want them to listen to you, that’s why you left. But you would NEVER go to bed without giving them a hug. You love them so much. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
The next night will go much more smoothly. Mission accomplished.
Give them a sneak peek. If you don't love tips 1-4, tip 5 might be right up your alley. Kids are just tiny humans, and as such are predisposed to always looking forward. Use this. Tell them that they need to get some good sleep, because when they wake up we’ll go to the store together, make a game out of cleaning the playroom, play outside, etc. They’ll begin to associate sleep with getting to the next day, and voila! Sleepy kiddos.The long game here is that you begin to instill a joie de vivre at a young age. The kiddos will learn how to live in the moment and appreciate life as they go through it.
Practice your gratitude. A double whammy, reframing your kid's experience into one centered upon gratitude will do wonders for their psyches - and yours! Ask your kids, "what happened today that you really enjoyed?" The funnest part about this tip is that their answers may really surprise and delight you. Who knew Little Johnny liked folding clothes so much?! What's more, this nightly exercise will have you and your kids savoring all that life has to offer. Your kids will get in the habit of being thankful and happy pre-bedtime... and that's what we call a win-win.
Have your own tricks? Don't be shy! Share with us so we can learn from one another and make this world a better place. Is locking your kids in their rooms and throwing on the noise cancelling headphones your thing? Sending them along to boarding school? Letting them sleep between you and hubby until they're only 12 years old? I'm joking, of course. Kind of...
Godspeed, fellow time savin’ mamas.