Monday, December 3, 2012
Sometimes the Kid Knows Best
Bedtime has become a battle with our oldest. She's three. She craves her independence and the ability to be in control of her own world. However, we're still responsible for making sure that world is safe, secure, and conducive to her development.
She used to be the easiest child ever to put to bed. Each night we'd go through the same routine. We would give her a bath, get her in jammies, allow her to watch one show (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is a favorite), take her into her room and read one story. Then we'd kiss and hug her, tell her we love her and close the door.
Then....one night (I honestly can't remember when it started), she asked if we'd lay with her. When an adorable little girl asks you to lay with her "two minutes" it's really difficult to resist! So, we started laying with her for "two minutes." Then it stretched to three, four, and at last count she was asking for five. We'd lay with her for whatever amount of time she asked, then tell her it was time we left, and she needed to go to sleep.
And the fight would ensue. We'd be begged for two more minutes, or told she just wasn't tired, wanted to read more stories, had to use the bathroom, was dying of thirst, missing a beloved stuffed animal, or any other of a hundred stall tactics.
I actually began dreading bedtime. What had formerly been a sweet and loving exchange, leaving all of us feeling better, had become a struggle, often ending in tears (sometimes hers and mine).
My husband works on Sundays, so it was just the kids and me yesterday. We had a wonderful day. She was more than cooperative all day, and was her usual jovial, sweet, funny self. We did our bath time, pajama routine, and she watched her show while I put my son to bed. When I came out of his room, she sweetly requested a second show, and asked me to lay with her while she watched. I turned the television off and asked her to look at me while we talked. I told her she could watch one more show, if she promised me no fighting, yelling, arguing or crying when it came time to go to bed. She assured me she was on board.
We laid in my bed together, her on my lap, and watched Team Umizoomi. What she doesn't understand is that I often don't want to give up that time either, and would love to cuddle with her like that for hours. However, that's not what is in her best interest.
We headed to her room when the show ended, and the battle began. She started crying, telling me she wasn't tired and didn't want to lay down to go to sleep. Then it hit me....why am I fighting this? If I give a little here, she might cooperate a bit more there. I told her she didn't have to lay down, and gave her a few books to look at. I told her she had to stay in her bed, and that I didn't want to hear any yelling or crying. She has a little light/music/fishy machine attached to her bed, which is enough light to be able to flip through her books, but not so much that she can't fall asleep to it.
I told her I love her, gave her a big hug and kiss, and reminded her that she needed to stay in bed and stay (relatively) quiet. Lo and behold.....I went downstairs and worked on cleaning the kitchen while listening to her softly talking through the monitor (yes we still have a monitor in our three-year-old's room....and probably will until she leaves home). After about a half hour all I heard was the music from her little ladybug, but no more talking. When that music ended I poked my head in to find her peacefully sleeping, books next to her in bed.
She knew best last night. All I needed to do was listen to her when she told me she didn't want to lay down and wasn't ready to go to sleep yet. She's ready for a bit more autonomy, but still needs some boundaries.
Lesson learned. Here's hoping it continues to work.