11 April 2011

Sleeping in- you CAN do it

I'm tired.

It's basically a permanent state of being for me and probably for many of you, if you have young children. Probably if you have older children as well, but for different reasons. I'm not looking forward to losing sleep over worrying late at night about my boys' whereabouts. For now, though, my sleep deprivation is due to my young early risers.

I remember having a conversation about kids' sleep with some mom friends a few years ago. At the time, I was expecting my fourth child and someone asked me which of my boys was my good sleeper. My reply was, "I'm hoping this one will be. So far, I don't have one."

I was not exaggerating. The boys take after their father who is an early riser- he leaves for work at 4:30 a.m. without complaint. I am most definitely not an early riser and I like my sleep; I really like it. So, from the time the boys could identify numbers, I began to teach them the rules of the house.

I know some families who have a rule that their kids can't get out of bed before 7:00, but that is unrealistic in my house, so I chose 6:00. As soon as children can recognize a number, you can teach them that until they see that number on the clock, they cannot get out of bed, or at least cannot get out of their room.

I found it helpful to cover the minutes of the digital clock so that there could be no confusion as to which number to identify. A simple post-it note is enough to cover the numbers. Once the children are older, you can tell them that it's the fist number that must be a 6 or 7. My older boys still remember saying that they could not get out of bed before six-oh-oh.

You can instruct the children to play quietly in their rooms if they wake up before the specified time. Once the time has passed, you can set up a safe environment that allows the kids to be up and fed and you to lie peacefully in your bed- REALLY.

Children as young as 2 can be set up with an age appropriate dvd, a pile of books and quiet toys and a sippy cup of milk. This can buy you 30 minutes to an hour. Sure, you will have to get out of bed to set it up, if you don't have older children to help you, but you can easily go right back to your cozy bed.  Be sure the home is child safe first, of course.  (Lock up any cleaning chemicals, put away small, choking hazard toys, close the basement door, etc.)

For slightly older children, you can set up their cereal, or other breakfast, on the table, set the tv to the correct channel and they can turn on the tv and eat quietly.

The earlier you teach your children to do these things independently, the stronger their confidence and feeling of independence will be. This is a great trait for kids. It will help them in all areas of their lives, when they are young and as they grow. So, you are not only helping yourself to more sleep, you are helping your children into confident, productive citizens of the world!  It's win-win.

Sure, a three year old will beg you to stay in the room with him, but that's what three year olds do. If you tell him that he has the choice to stay up and play and watch the dvd and drink milk or he can may go back to bed, I can tell you from experience that he will choose playing quietly 95% of the time and you will be able to get some extra sleep.

If you start to question the course of action and wonder if you are copping out, reassure yourself. You are getting your much needed rest and that will make you a better parent for the rest of the day. I know it works for me.

If I'm tired, I can be cranky, and if Mama's not happy, nobody's happy!

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