I posted some dire pleas for help on the ole faceb.ook the other day, bemoaning the child sleep situation. I've read books, scoured the internet, examined our own lifestyles and habits, and have come up with something that is working for us. Well, working better at least.
In short, the problem was that since the beginning of summer (and our move to this new house), the kids were taking FOREVER to go to sleep each night. And then naps were horrendous crying messes because they were overtired. And then a certain little girl regressed horribly in the bladder control department because she was so tired all the time. And the hissyfits. OH, the hissyfits.
Highlights from my research: the average three year old needs between 12 - 13 hours of total sleep per day. Some kids nap, many don't at this age. Just keep in mind the overall total needed sleep per day.
Another highlight, perhaps obvious in its simplicity - consistency is key. Whatever your method, whatever the routine, whatever the wake-up/go-down times, keep them consistent.
After many trials and tribulations, the kids are now going to sleep by 9:00 each night and around 7:00 in the morning. Naps are around two hours in length.
I had mistakenly thought before that since the kids were still up and running around at 8:30 each night that they weren't tired enough to go to sleep. We'd do our routine and the kids weren't going to sleep until 9:30 or 9:45 each night (which left both the kids and us parents EXHAUSTED).
To combat this, we've actually lengthened our nighttime routine and moved the start time up earlier. It's a long routine, but it allows us to shift gradually from playtime to sleep mode.
We've also instituted a "ticket" system. Each child has three "tickets" to come out of their room. If they have tickets left when it's time to get up, then they earn five minutes on the ipad (ipad is really the only consistent motivator for Cora). If either one gets up four times (one time after the tickets are gone), then we put the child-proof door knob on the door. (I take it off when I go to bed.) Mac can take the door knob off, but for whatever reason he won't do it when he's tired. And it's totally dark.
At 7:30 ish, Bryan's phone quacks. This is the "clean-up" alarm. The kids are "paid" for their clean-up efforts with skittles (0-3 depending on the quality of job and extent of mess). Then it's ipad time - set another timer, each kid gets five minutes. Then it's time to go potty, brush teeth, and put on pjs.
We settle into their room and read books. Say prayers, climb into bed, and turn out the lights. But wait, there's more!
The following are the new additions which further the theme of quiet and calm before bed. Oh, side note, Cora and Mac share a room and will indefinitely.
With the lights off but the bedroom door open, we parents split up and say goodnight/give blessings to each child individually. Okay, the only new part here is the lights are off for this phase.
Next we each lay (lie? I have never learned a trick to use lay/lie correctly) down with a child. We switch out nightly whom we lay/lie/whatever with. We snuggle for a few minutes and just whisper quietly with the child about their day or if "they have any questions" (we always get "what are we doing tomorrow?"). Then we sing the Salve Regina while rubbing a back or tummy, or holding a hand.
One last kiss for each child and then one parent (and the dog) leave.
We really had struggled with what happened after we left the room - it had become playtime part 4000. We tried staying in there but if a parent is there, then you are the focus of attention, the target. And we found ourselves losing our tempers long before the kids lost interest.
Now, after reiterating the rules off and on throughout the day, the kids know to stay in their own beds while the remaining parent says the rosary. We just say it softly, not expecting the kids to participate like they do with regular prayers. After the rosary is over, the remaining parent tiptoes out. Usually it's about 8:45 or a little after by this time.
About 75% of the time, Cora is asleep before the end of the rosary. Mac frequently gets up four times right in a row after the rosary concludes and "earns" himself the door knob, but then goes to sleep without a peep. It's like he has this compulsion to use all the cards each night. Ever since we tacked on the rosary, both kids have been asleep by 9:00. please don't let me jinx myself!
After much thought, I tackled naps too. The kids are put in separate rooms for naps, which helps immensely. Other than that one day when they realized if they yelled loudly enough, they could hear each other...
I moved nap time up slightly earlier so I could wake them earlier. They nap on the average for about two hours, usually from around 1:30 - 3:30. plan was foiled today by an over eager boy who decided to wake his sister whom he missed so very dearly
Overall, it's a huge improvement. Hissyfits have been reduced, though I haven't discovered a magic cure for those. Bladder control for little girls is dramatically better. In all, the kids are just more pleasant to be around now. :-) And I'm more pleasant too.