Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Simple Script For a Difficult Problem

With the miscarriage, move, and extended vacation, Emily's excellent sleep habits disappeared.  While in California, she would scream if we tried to put her into bed before she was asleep. The only way to get her and her brother to lay down for the night was to take them on long drives.  I think we spent more money on gas than anything else this summer.

When we finally moved into our new home, and settled into life, I figured things would return to normal.

Alas, my sweet, party-hardy girl did not feel the same.  It took an intricate locking system (involving bungee cords) just to keep her in bed at night (and alleviate our fears of another knife incident).  But it still required hours of screaming before she would finally succumb to sleep.

Not a happy time at chez T.

After a week, I admitted defeat.  I searched the internet diligently for tips and/or advice and stumbled upon this excellent article, Bedtime battles: How to nip them in the bud.  I bit my tongue against my usual prideful reactions to any advice, and decided to implement some of the tips.

Oh what a world of difference.

Since many parents might experience the same thing, here is what I did.

I made a flow-chart depicting the night-time routine.  In the morning, if things went well, she could put a sticker on the chart and have a small treat.  Doing this provided her with a visual reference of our night-time routine.  I tried to avoid veering from the sequence to give her a sense of security that comes with rituals.

While this helped her frame her night, I also had to allay her fears of being in a new place with new sounds and new shadows.  Right after dinner, I would remind her of our bedtime routine (bath, jammies, stories, bed), and that she would get a sticker the next morning if everything went well.  Once she was bathed, clothed, and ready for bed, I began asking her questions from the day.  This allowed her to talk and connect with me.  I asked about "happy," "sad," and "grateful," happenings from the day (an idea I shamelessly stole from my mother).  I would tuck her in and tell her that I would check on her in 5 minutes.  The first few days, I also kept the light on so she would feel safe.

Because she was truly worried about bedtime, I ended up checking on her every 5 minutes for 2-3 hours.  After a week, this decreased to every 15 minutes for 1 hour, and after the second week, I would check on her once or twice and she would be out.

The important part of my plan was to acknowledge Emily's fears and build a bond of trust.  By promising I would check on her, and actually doing it, she knew I was close by and that, if she felt scared, she could call for me.  Reminding her of her bedtime schedule and the sticker reward gave her a peaceful routine and an incentive to stay in bed.  Each component was necessary to get Emily back on a normal bedtime routine and ease whatever worries she had while in her room at night.

Our household is back to its regular schedule of 7pm bedtime and 6:30 am risings.  I cannot believe the difference it makes when children do not wake up at night (except for when sick) and am enjoying the extra time I have with Ben.

I kind of think age 3 rocks.  Big time.


Do your kids have a sleep schedule? How did you and/or your child handle changes? Need to vent about your exhaustion? Link up and feel the love.


  1. Hi Amber! My Google Reader is a MESS and I've been trying to get it organized. As I was working through it, I realized that Making the Moments Count had fallen off (why does it do that? makes me nuts). So I'm re-adding you right now. I've missed your posts!

  2. Hey Missy! My RSS has been a bit screwed up lately. No worries! Plus, I took a very extended break and am only now back to regular posting. Heh. So good to see you here again! (P.S. My Google reader is a mess, too. In fact, I might have to re-add your blog. Silly reader.)

  3. Good for you Amber! I'm so glad you guys found your groove again. The move didn't really bother my daughter - it was the thunderstorms and at almost three, she started to develop a fear for several things, including thunder. While she has progressed, she is still a long way from the girl who used to go down from 7:30 to 7:30 in the dark and quiet of her own room without a peep. Now it's lights on everywhere, door slightly open and a struggle to get her asleep. Sigh.

    I really hope you're right about age 3. I'm hoping she would just snap out of it and become herself again except I think I might just be fooling myself. I have to remember that she's still growing and developing, which means her personality, fears, and struggles are constantly changing, and I would have to be fluid as a parent and deal with them as they come. One day at a time.

    Thank you for this.

  4. Hi Amber,

    We have a mutual friend in Rivki Silver. She gave me your blog link this morning, and I've been scanning through it a little. I hear you're also navigating the wonderful (and extremely small) fishbowl of the Ville. It's a tough place for a recovering (or lapsed or break-taking) Mormon to be. The number of medical students (and their wives and children) is enormous here, as you are probably already aware. I tried to go to church here when I first moved here with my infant son. By the time my second son was a baby, I took my name off the records and didn't look back. But my parents (until this spring) lived in Provo, and I come from two lines of multi-generational Mormons. I've got some additional recovering Mormon friends (there is a secret group on FB called Relieved Society, but I get too many emails so I had to leave the group-- if you're interested, though, I can hook you up) not in the Ville, but elsewhere (in my computer).

    I don't know if you drink coffee (yet, tee-hee), but I know how tough this town can be to move to. I'd love to meet you sometime at the Costa Rica coffee shop (or a park so the kids can play) or whatever. I work from home, so my schedule is pretty flexible. My kids are nearly grown-- three teenage boys ages 17, 15, and 13.5, but I think we'll find plenty to talk about. :)


  5. Hey - good news! I'm so excited for you! Getting sleep is such a huge deal. I would know. I'm still not getting any. :)

  6. Um, this sounds amazing. I know I've read all the tips before, too, but maybe it's time to actually DO some of them all the way through. Because since switching our girls into the same bedroom, all you-know-what has broken loose with bedtime! It's seriously the least favorite part of my day now, when it could be so relaxing and sweet....

    I need to read that article, I guess :)

  7. I need to start having the "talk about the day" time again, we've gotten off track since vacation. I also like that checking up on them idea, summer has been alot harder on our sleep schedules, so I'm hoping it's going to get better as the days get shorter.

  8. Being three does rock. And so does consistent sleep!

  9. Oh Tay, it wasn't until Andrew was 18 months that sleep became pretty regular around here. I hope the same happens for you! (Seriously, I do.)


Comments are disabled.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.