Sweet dreams

Those of you who have followed me along the way know that I don’t fight with my kids in the morning anymore. You may also know that I don’t fight with them about homework, or clothes, or the state of their rooms either. As for bedtime, that got a lot better right away through this program, but a sliver of tension remained … until now.

For the past two years, I’ve given our girls the choice of being “on time” for bed. Being on time earned them an extended good night visit from mom and dad: 5-10 minutes of quality one-on-one time when we can talk or read or play a quick game or whatever they want to do before saying goodnight. A missed bedtime meant a missed visit. This worked well for a good long while. But during the last few months, it has slowly, naturally unraveled.

The definition of “on time” began to get looser and looser. I would discuss or announce a different bedtime each night, depending on what we had going on, and then enforce it halfheartedly or not at all. We started having more arguments about what exactly had to be accomplished before they were considered “ready” for bed. Fenner would say goodnight to us in her room only to end up coming back down stairs to use the computer for homework. It took me a while to realize—our family had outgrown the system.

I started thinking: What about handing the whole thing over to them? Are they ready for that? Am I ready for that? What about that first week when they all stayed up late watching TV just because they could? Will they do that every night? Will it drive me crazy? Am I crazy for even considering this?

Vicki’s voice was clear in my head: “Give them practice with setting their own bedtime while they’re at home. Otherwise you’ll spend thousands of dollars for college and send them off and they’ll have NO IDEA how to manage this bedtime thing!”

Right. Makes perfect sense. “Girls?” I said, “I’m going to stop telling you when bedtime is. I want you to have the chance to practice figuring out how much sleep you need to feel good each day and figure out how to get it. And as long as I’m still up, you can get a bedtime visit whenever you choose. Ok?” Half-interested nods all around. They knew we’d been slowly sliding toward this approach for months already.

Still, saying it out loud made me nervous. It helped that Jerry was on board right away. Made sense to him too. I explained the rationale and then shrugged, “I don’t know how it’ll go, but let’s try it.”

The result? Quite anticlimactic. Sometimes they stay up late. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they drag in the morning. Sometimes they don’t. Trial and error and the freedom to learn from it. The other night Charlotte stayed up too late and only made it as far as my office. When I went to bed she was asleep under my desk. Before this I would have carried her to bed to make sure she got a good night’s sleep. No more. Her good night’s sleep is up to her now. And at some point during the night she quietly moved to her bed where I found her in the morning, warm and cozy.

Our evenings are, again, transformed. No more deadline. No more haggling. No more guilt over my own inconsistency. Just trust and calm and space to learn.

Then, the other day, any lingering doubts vanished when I found that Ellen’s blank road-map I printed out for her had recently been filled in:

  • Start: “Tired. Bed too late. Waking up too late.”
  • middle: “Go to bed a little earlier. Set my alarm later.”
  • Finish: “Getting up at 6:30. Not tired. Find a good time to go to bed by myself.”

So once again I find myself wondering what I was so worried about.

Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Contributions

13 Comments on “Sweet dreams”

  1. Mandy Says:

    I LOVE the idea of giving them a blank roadmap to fill in. That’s great. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Caroline Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. How refreshing, inspiring, and wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to share so we can all benefit and be newly inspired!

  3. slawebb Says:

    Remind me how old your youngest is again. My almost 9 yo dd has been pushing bed time since the beginning of the school year. Maybe it’s time to let her have control of it. Part of me says wait until summer but that seems to defeat the point of not being able to sleep in when tired. So the end of the year seems better so she will be prepared for the next school year.

    I totally LOVE your Roadmap worksheet, so I borrowed the idea and made my own. Hope you don’t mind.

    Thanks for the encouragement to do things that scare you and allowing for the opportunity to see amazing results!

    • flockmother Says:

      Charlotte will be 9 this July — so same age as yours! So far she’s totally stepping up to the challenge. Of course you can use my idea – I’m honored!

      • slawebb Says:

        Sabine will be 9 in June so I’m going to go for it! Probably should ask DH first. lol. Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. flockmother Says:

    Keep me posted!


  5. You rock, and that’s fantastic. Rob keeps saying “they’re too young, they’re too young,” but I have plans for next year. I worry that Sam’s going to get too old!

    • flockmother Says:

      Yes, go for it! Rob will be surprised how capable they are. And then just tweak as you go — trial and error for the parents too…

  6. Shalagh Says:

    I love it. I saved this email until I had a good time to really sit down and read it – so glad I did. I have a few items in our family that have “slipped” and this is a great motivation to fine tune them or – hand them to the kids!
    Keep writing – we love it!
    Shalagh

  7. slawebb Says:

    we’re on day 2 and things seem to be going pretty well. DH is on board with our oldest doing this. Sabine’s eyes lit up when I told her she could set her own bedtime. I explained that she needed to pay attention to what it feels like to be tired and put herself to bed. She said, “Yea, because when I’m in college you’re not going to call me at 10 and tell me it’s time for bed.” So smart.

    The first night, as she was reading, I reminded her that she still needed to get up for school in the morning for school. She decided to go to bed at 8:30. Last night she said she thought that 8:30 worked pretty well so that’s when she was going to go to bed at that time. And did.

    When she had a bed time we used to spend 30 mins playing a game or talking. So I told her I would spend 5 mins with her whenever she was ready for bed if I was still up. If she wanted to have more time she would need to be ready for bed at 7pm. Last night she asked to play a game at 8:30. I reminded her of our agreement and we went and talked for 5 mins.

    So far so good. Not sure if I’m ready to let our almost 6 yo dd do that yet, though. She’s a night owl and then spends the day sass mouthing me, screaming and throwing temper tantrums. Maybe next year. 🙂

    • flockmother Says:

      Thanks for the update! “she thought that 8:30 worked pretty well so that’s when she was going to go to bed at that time. And did.” — Woot!


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