After a year and a half of horrible bedtime issues with Jack, we finally stumbled on a solution. Or a few contributing factors that added up to a solution. For the first time since I can remember, Jack put himself to sleep in his bed with no issues at all. Good Lord it is about time!
So the magical solution you ask? Well, the first step is that we moved Jack into his own bedroom a week or so ago. We bought him a loft bed from Ikea and are working on creating a space that can be a bit of a retreat for him. A place where it is quiet and he can read books or just chill out. This was significant for two reasons. First, since it is a loft bed we can’t lay with him at night. This is key because a good portion of the issues with bedtime were him having a hard time relaxing. If we are in bed with him then he never really settles down. The second is that Jack has an abundance of energy and having his own room gives him a place to go to keep himself out of trouble when his energy is getting the best of him. At night-time it is key because even if he is having a hard time, he can’t bother his brother.
When we moved Jack into his own room, it quickly decreased the amount of time it was taking to put Jack to bed. However, he was still having a hard time and not putting himself to sleep without a big fit. And when we say it decreased the time, I mean it was no longer taking an hour and a half or longer to put him to bed but more like 30 to 45 minutes. It was an improvement but still exhausting. Lots of getting out of bed for one reason or another, that would finally culminate in one of us holding the door shut while he threw a fit and then got in bed and went to sleep. The holding the door method just plain sucks. You feel terrible, he gets angry and it is way too emotional for everyone. BUT, it was working in the sense that he would get upset and stomp to bed. Realizing this is totally a control issue at this point, we decided to try to give Jack a little power over the situation in the form of bribery.
I’m not a fan of bribing your kid to get the results you want. We tried it briefly with potty training and it was useless. Frankly, I think you should set expectations and help your kids to learn how to fulfill them. And honestly, I just don’t have a lot of patience or creativity in this department. I’m more of a “this is what I expect, you are capable, now get it done” kind of parent. Travis is much more patient and since he and Jack aren’t exactly alike (as in Jack and I are exactly alike and thus oil and water at times) he is much better at finding solutions to such situations. This is where the bribery comes in. He told Jack that if he could put himself to sleep without coming out of his room, throwing a fit or us having to hold the door, then he could pick out a puck at the next Caps game. This promise started at the beginning of the week and with lots of encouragement and reminders, bedtime has gotten increasingly better every night. The last two nights he was so close to earning the puck, but just not quite. Tonight he hit the jackpot. No crying, no running out of his room at every turn, no excessive talking. Just the normal kid stuff. He had to come out once to go to the bathroom and I had to help him with his covers once, but nothing contrived. So, Jack earned his puck.
I’m doing a jig and hoping this new found independence will last. I want my nights back. I want to see my husband in the evening without kids and actually have conversations, not just grunt in his direction as I collapse into bed spent from the kid drama. Mainly, I want peace for Jack. It can’t be good for him to have a huge fit every night before bed. I know he’s going to feel better all the way around. And he’s going to be so proud tomorrow morning when he announces to his Dad (who wasn’t home before bedtime tonight) that he earned his puck. Yea, for Jack.
Oh, and G puts himself to sleep like a champ. AND, he would sleep in every morning if we didn’t live in a shoebox and accidentally wake him up most mornings. Have I mentioned that Jack is just like me and Garrett is a mini Travis?! Yep, you get the picture.