There’s nothing quite so devasting as taking away hope from a person, particularly a small child. I was struck by this anew the other night, when Ava lived in hope that she would actually get ice-cream despite not touching her dinner.
Her devastation at the reality was heart breaking.
It was as if all her hopes and dreams for the future had been completely destroyed with the firm utterance of the word no.
And seeing as she is two, and has no hopes and dreams for the future, apart from the possibility of ice-cream, I suppose they had been.
Boatman and I experienced a similar type of devastation last night.
We have been working with Bailey in regards to sleep. As far as kids, and behaviour goes, he is generally pretty good. But the one area he will always fight us in is sleep. Even as a new born, he fought it every step of the way.
He wouldn’t cry, wouldn’t get upset, but he also wouldn’t sleep.
I learnt, fairly early on, that the only thing that would help with him, is a very strict routine. So strict, that you could pretty much set a clock by him. A moment too early, and he would not sleep. A moment too late, and the same thing. It had to be precise.
As he has got older, he has got better. There have been periods of conflict, but on the whole, he sleeps ok. However, since starting preschool, everything has changed. Extreme fatigue has meant that he is so overtired, sleep does not come easily. On his days off, when I make him lie down, he fights me for a whole two hours. His evening bedtime gets pushed back further and further as he fights us, despite us remaining consistent in the routine.
His nights have been characterised by constant waking and coming into our room; sneaking onto the foot of the bed, or climbing up next to me. Several times I have had a battle of the wills with him as I’m going to bed. He determined not to sleep by himself; me determined that he will.
The end result of this is a tired, cranky and overly emotional little boy, who is struggling with everything. It wasn’t good for us, and it certainly wasn’t good for him.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve been implementing a new program, to help him go to sleep and stay in his bed. I was under the impression that most people are co-sleepers, and so wouldn’t really care in this, but after a discussion on Facebook, I’ve come to realise that most of us mums like our space.
And a good deal of our children don’t. 🙂
Here’s what we’ve been doing.
The idea of couch time comes straight from the Growing Kids Gods Way handbook. A lot of the time the most time that we spend as a couple, is when our kids are in bed. During their waking hours, we are often either a tag team, or busy focused on their needs. A lot of night time waking comes down to the child desperately needing to see mum and dad together as a couple. It’s important that our kids know that their world is secure, and the basis of their world is mum and dad. If all they ever see is us busy with them, or the house, and not enjoying each other, a small amount of anxiety can form, and this results in night time waking. They then come in and see us, together, which is exactly what their little hearts need.
Boatman and I have a great marriage, but we have been making a conscience effort of late to model that to our kids, by taking time when they are awake, to spend together. Just the two of us. The children are not allowed to interrupt or come up for a cuddle. It’s about us only.
When Boatman had his old job, he would often get home not long before bed time, so an quality time with the kids was then. Being a rough and tumble sort of dad, most of their play time consisted of kids running around the house chasing him, or extended tickles on the mat.
Right before bed time.
Because of a change in his hours, we’ve adjust this, and now the 15 minutes leading up to bed time, is time for stories and cuddles and winding down.
Bailey’s usual bed time routine was go to bed and then get out several times.
We have strictly forbade this. He is made to have a drink and go to the toilet before bed, and if he does for any reason get out, there are firm consequences. I have even instructed him that he is not to move. Head on the pillow at all times and close your eyes. It might seem harsh, but sometimes you need to take away the option to push their limits.
A Reward Chart
Our final effort has been a reward chart to encourage him to sleep in his own bed all night. If he is successful, he gets a smiley face the next day. We have set increasing goals for him, and there are three of them, to encourage a change in routine.
For three nights in a row, he got a giant lolly pop.
For five nights in a row (still undone), we have a cheap Octonauts toy to give him (value if $12)
For seven nights in a row, he scores a fishing trip with dad.
This is where the hopelessness comes in. If he had stayed in his bed all night Saturday, it would have been his fifth night. We had told him, and he was excited.
At 3 am I woke to Boatman sending him back to bed, and we were both devastated. The thought of breaking his heart in the morning by not giving him the toy was horrible, but I had to do it. There’s no point doing anything if you’re not consistent.
And so we’re back to starting the five days again.
Obiously this is a work in progress, but since starting this, we have had a drastic improvement. Day naps when needed are not longer a source of confrontation, and he is going straight to sleep at night.
I realise this post has been long and sorry for that, but I just want to encourage you that there is hope. We don’t have to be like the two year old who doesn’t get ice-cream. We can make the changes necessary ourselves.
And eat all our dinner 🙂