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Mommy Tricks: Single Mom's Guide to Bedtime Routines
Mommy Tricks for Bedtime
Go. To. Bed.
For any single parent out there, the most fun words of the day are usually, "let's get ready for bed!" Too bad it's not that easy for many kids, especially mine.
At first, the bedtime routine was very daunting. My son is a supremely energetic child. Strangers stop me and give me sympathetic looks, and the elderly will say, "I wish I had half his energy!" Meanwhile, I mutter to myself, "I wish HE had half his energy."
Unfortunately, it's not like he's wiped out at the end of the night. Of course not. That would be too ideal. Instead, he's just as unwilling to go to bed as he is to eat vegetables or quit running everywhere.
Lately, though, things have gotten a lot better. Here are some tips to save you time, stress, and save your hair, too (since it is probably close to falling out, like mine).
#1 Get Control
I don't like to use the word control a lot when talking about kids, but let's face it: a 3 year old in control is a really scary thought. I'm the momma, and I need to be in control. I can't leave it up to my toddler to decide how his bedtime routine will go, and neither can you.
This step is really about playing and winning the mental game of control. Who's the boss? You might say you're the boss, but when it comes time to get ready for bed and your kid throws a tantrum, making it take an hour rather than 20 minutes, he/she is actually the one in control.
Decide right now that you are in control and know better than your child about bedtime routines. When you decide that you know better, you will make the right choices. It's that simple.
#2 Come Up with a System
Order. For my son, our bedtime routine goes like this:
- Bath or shower time
- One story
- Brush teeth
- The remaining stories
- Lights out
Now, it's not smooth sailing every night. But this is the general order of things. Because there is an order - a system - he knows what's coming next. He knows that by the time the last story is read, we're pretty darn close to night-night.
As humans, we get conditioned easily into following systems. It will help your child fall asleep more quickly if every night, they can expect the same things to happen before bedtime.
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#3 Add Fun and Admiration to the Mix
I always try to add a little fun to the mix. Recently, I started tickling my son during his temper tantrums. At first, he starts screaming even more, but after awhile, he laughs and lets his tantrum go.
I will sometimes throw in a song or two, or pretend to chomp his toes. I will do the "This Little Piggie" game with his feet, too, or sing the "Thumb Man" song.
This is a good time to unwind and admire your children. A good piece of advice my older sister gave me once was to just sit and take in the beauty of your child. This little being came from you, probably looks like you, and is perfect in form. I soak in my son's little hands and feet and realize how precious he is.
When you are in control AND having a good time, your children will relax and have a good time as well. All they want to do is have fun. Show them that they can have fun getting ready for bed, too.
#4 Be Calm and Consistent When They Get Out of Bed
Tonight, I could have sworn I was going to have to walk my son back to bed twenty times. Instead, it was only three times.
Tips: Remain calm when you have to go put them back in bed. It's really hard sometimes. But I've found that it's a lot easier to get him to sleep if I don't raise my voice and instead just take his hand and walk him back to bed, giving him a hug and a kiss, tucking him in, and saying goodnight again (and again).
The third time tonight was the last. He cried for a few minutes and then fell asleep.
It's crucial to remain calm. I've made the mistake in the past of getting upset, which just gets me nowhere. But when I'm calm and just repeat myself in the same tone, it seems to shorten the cycle.
Tip: Leave a Little Light On
Toddlers like lights. Leaving a little light on, whether it's a night light, or a cracked door where the bathroom light shines through, or something else, is going to help.
Kids fall asleep at parades, in cars, and in your arms. Light doesn't bother them the way it does you and I. If it helps your child to sleep more easily, do it. My son isn't afraid of the dark, but he likes the light, so I keep the light in the bathroom on with the door cracked, and leave the bedroom door open so he can see it. It works great and also encourages him to not be afraid to get up to go pee (even though he doesn't... yet).
Final Thoughts: Push Through the Fatigue
I know it's late... I know you're weary. If you're reading this, you're probably a single mom and you've had it up to here with trying to get your kid to sleep. All you want to do is spend a little time with yourself.
I've found that pushing through the fatigue and focusing on helping my son get through bedtime more easily is worth it. Some nights I just wish it would go more smoothly, but he's in learning mode and I comfort myself knowing that it won't be this way forever.
If this is any comfort to you, just know that tons of single moms out there are struggling with bedtime just like you and feel like they are trying to do it all alone, and that stinks. You will get through it, though. Pretend like you have all the energy in the world and all the time in the world to get it right. It will get better and easier.