Many years ago when I my wife and I were first time parents we began a journey called “trying to get your kid to sleep when they’re supposed to.” #1 was tough. She did not like sleeping. She hated taking naps. The problem was the absence of these two led to demon possession and we were frustrated. We were so confused that we would wait for #1 to nap. Most of the time we would be doing something and she would just fall asleep on the floor in the living room. We didn’t pick her up and take her to her room because she would wake up and all misery would set it. So we would take a blanket and just put it over her. We would turn of the ringer on the phone. We dare not flush the toilet. We whispered. We tipped toed around the apartment.
Sleeping at night was worse. My wife would lay down next to #1 every night stroking her face till she fell asleep. Most of the time this took at least an hour. One night a couple of hours pass by while I wait for my wife to finish the “getting #1 to bed” routine. I am getting frustrated because I got everything ready for us to watch tv. You see I would move the sofa within two feet of our 25in tv and got the closed captions ready on the dvd because any sound could wake up #1. We made sure our cell phones were on vibrate.
Well the wife is taking really long so I go into #1’s room. My wife was on the floor sleeping with her hand on #1’s face. I had it. This had gone too far. We had a new season of 24 to finish. I was tired. My wife was tired. I could not imagine us going on like this for 1-4 more years.
We to talk to our friends who lived above us. Their kids were amazing. Not perfect but they were great. We asked them how they did it. One of their kids was close in age to #1. They gave us the single greatest training we have ever received in all our years of parenting. They gave us our lives back. Below is a little glimpse into that training.
1. Commit to stay up all night for 1-3 nights. They told us to get dvds, play cards because this could take awhile. We were scared when they said this. The reason you have to stay up together is that one parent inevitably breaks down so you need two committed people who keep each other accountable. They said we would cry (or one of us would). They said you will feel like the crappiest parents on the face of the earth.
2. Put the kid in the crib and let them cry. They told us to go in every 15 -20 minutes just so #1 doesn’t think we abandoned her. They told us not to take her out no matter how sad it looks. Just pat her on the back and let her know that mommy and daddy are in the other room. I would stick my head in sometimes and wave just so she knew both of us were there.
3. Step two took a long time for us because #1 was really something else when it came to endurance and perseverance. We played Scrabble. We watched a few disks of 24. Finally the kid got so tired of screaming she exhausted herself into deep sleep.
4. Night 2…same thing except we were told to go in every 30-45 minutes for the first couple of hours. Same thing…she exhausted herself into sleep.
5. Night 3…now this is something they don’t tell you in the books. Well maybe they do but I didn’t read any of them. Our friends warned us about something I thought was crazy. They said when they were sleep training their son, he found a loophole. He would puke on purpose because somehow in his genius mind he intuitively knew his parents would not be able to withstand that. Now at first they took him out because they thought he might be sick. They took his temperature and stayed with him. Next time…he would do the same thing! They told us that our kid might do this too as an extreme measure. So what is a parent to do with this kind of genius? They said that if a kid does this, one parent cleans off the kid immediately while the other one changes the sheets and blanket. After that is done, we put our kid right back in the crib.
Well #1 puked. If it were not for our friends we would have totally fallen for it. #1 puked. We made sure she wasn’t sick. I changed her while the wife changed the sheets. We put her down. She cried and fell asleep.
5. Night 4…she cried for about 35 minutes when we put her in the crib but finally went down.
6. Night 5. She went down without a fight. The rest was history.
Had our friends not told us about the possibility of our child throwing up, we would have never been able to overcome that night. As a warning to parents…It is important that you are positive your kid is not sick taking every precaution. Checking their temperature is one way. Another way is to clean the child up and hold them. If they are showing signs they are sick, sleep training must be stopped and you must care for that child. If it is obvious that they just wanted to get out of bed…then our friend’s advice comes in play. Sometimes if you are not sure, then stop the sleep training for a night or two and try again later. I share this warning because a parent should never sleep train a child when a kid is really sick. That could be really bad.
Some of you are reading this thinking we are crazy parents. Why go through all of this just to get a kid to sleep. Well, it is my deepest conviction that getting your kid to sleep at a reasonable hour is important for the kid and for the parent(s). Why? For the kid…it is a fact that kids who don’t get enough sleep are gonna act crazy when they are awake. Also, kids who sleep late do not necessarily wake-up late. How many of us parents put our kids down one or two hours later hoping they wake up one or two hours later. This very rarely happens for most parents. Kids are super active physically and mentally. They are also growing and developing. Sleep for adults and kids is when the body heals, restores, and rejuvenates.
For the parent(s)…I believe putting kids down will help you get the rest you need. Every parent, I mean every parent goes through each day exhausted. Do you find that you are screaming at your kids more than normal? Are you and your spouse fighting constantly? The solution is not always a simple one however I think it is wise to at least consider whether you are well rested and as a couple are you having enough time with each other without having to take care of your children till the wee hours of the night. When you exercise doctors will tell you to let your muscles rest so they can build up and get stronger. If you over exert yourself you can injure yourself. I feel like this is true with parenting. You need rest. Even if you don’t sleep at 9pm, having each night to yourself or with your spouse is invaluable. If you over exert yourself in parenting you will get injured because raising kids is a workout mentally, physically, and emotionally. Gotta pace yourself.
Who died and made me king of parenting? No one. I am not an expert. If you knew the stuff that goes on in my home you would laugh at any advice I dispense. I share this because people always ask us how we do it with five kids. I can’t tell you how many times people say, “We only have 1 (or 2 or 3)…how do you do it?” Well the stuff I shared above is, in part, how.