The two of us were sharing back and forth and the conversation shifted to our kids. My friend was very open and admitted that his daughter really struggles with bedtime routines. I was grateful for his openness and honesty. I asked him a pointed question, but I was careful to not be judgmental. I simply asked, "Have you ever thought back to what you did as a parent when your daughter was younger?" I then added, "I analyze decisions from the past to see if they impacted the present." At this point, I didn't want him to think I was being critical, so I shared a story.
A little over twelve years ago my wife and I had our first child. He was/is a fantastic kid! As a baby everyone told us how easy we had it. He was smiley, happy and healthy. As a first time parent I didn't have a handbook or guide. My wife and I were doing our very best. We held him all the time, and put him in his crib once he fell asleep in our arms. What I remember about those days is that we loved being parents, but we were absolutely exhausted, and life was a little tougher to balance.
As Drew got older, we found routines that worked and allowed us a bit of sanity. The best example I can share is bedtime. Bedtime with babies and toddlers is tough. As parents, and more specifically me as a father, I resorted to giving Drew a bottle to help him fall asleep. Looking back I completely blame this for his inability to fall asleep easily as an adolescent. Holding him and feeding him until he was asleep made things easier back then but made things more difficult later. Our mistakes have a lasting impact.
Now please understand, it's never to late to change.
Eventually Drew grew out of bottles and we wised up. He stopped falling asleep to the bottle and we adjusted bedtime. Our routines changed as well. I began reading to Drew on a nightly basis. We would head to the bedroom and read for 20 or 30 minutes. It was never about a set time, it was whatever felt right. I'll openly admit, change didn't happen over night. We changed the routine and we made it a lifestyle. Just last night I continued reading Treasure Island to my two boys as they prepared for bed.
What's the big deal?
A few things are at play here.
1) The sleep patterns of kids directly effect the entire family. Poor sleeping habits can create a divide in the adult relationship. This isn't good for anyone. My belief is that kids should see parents being affectionate and loving each other. I encourage holding hands, hugging, laughter and affection in front of kids. Don't we want them to see that we love each other? Don't we want to model a healthy marriage?
2) Poor sleep can hurt school performance. This is a no-brainer, but let me clarify why. Poor sleep can cause drowsiness during the school day that manifests into being either lethargic or attention-deficit. Really it's simple, without a good night's sleep most people are not at their best. If you truly want your child to be successful in school, shouldn't you help set them up for success by getting a good night's sleep?
3) Research says people that don't get an adequate amount of sleep are often less patient. I, for one, completely agree with this. When I become tired I become touchy. When kids are tired they become cranky, inflexible and angry. I always know when my children are tired because their attitude changes. They become whiny and often display temper tantrums.
I say all of those things because I realize that sleep, sleep patterns and bedtime routines are not easy for many families. I encourage you to make the necessary changes now...there's no time like today to try and make a positive change for your child and your family. For many of you still struggling with bedtime issues, I've walked in those shoes. I'm not judging, I'm trying to let you know that you aren't alone.
If you have a child who still sleeps in your bed, encourage the child to move to his/her bedroom. Ask your son or daughter to pick out new bedding for their room. Talk to them about their fears (my younger son wanted a thicker curtain on his window because "monsters" were outside peeking in). Switch up your bedtime routine with a hot bath or shower, reading, or falling asleep to music. And although it will be difficult at first, stick to it and be firm. Try your best to make the positive change your child- and your family- need. It could be the most important change you make.
Articles Worth Reading:
Sleep For Kids
11 Reasons Why A Good Night's Sleep is so Important
the only thing parents need to know during read-alouds
22 Things We Do As Educators That Will Embarrass Us in 25 Years
Tech N' Taco Night Slideshow
Starfish Story (definitely worth your time)
18 Reasons To Give Up Trying To Live Up to Everyone's Expectations
Videos Worth Watching:
Rockin' Robin! (3 min)
Cool story! (3 min)