27 August 2009

Sleep 101

When you have 4 kids sleep is a luxury. Everyone is sleeping through the night, usually, and everyone was sleeping past 5:00 every day. 5:00 may sound early, but in our family, I'm the only one who does not like to rise early. 6:00 is the earliest the boys are permitted to get out of bed once they can read a clock well enough to know "six-oh-oh" and it is a hard and fast rule.

Harold, our 20 month old, does not read a clock yet and has not gotten the message that it is important to stay in bed past 6:00. Lately he wakes between 4:30 and 4:50 and it is starting to wear on me.

I've read the books and the biggest message I've gotten from them is that sleep begets sleep. When the children were babies and woke up early, everyone told me to keep them up later than I had been so that they'd sleep later in the morning. No matter what time I put them to bed, though, they'd always wake up early, never sleeping past 7:00. I am not exaggerating. Eventually, I got a few books about babies and sleep.

I read Babywise, and took the scheduling ideas as guidance when my 2nd, 3rd and 4th babies were new. Feeding, playing, sleeping... in that order, but fed on demand. I tried the Ferber method and, while it works, I don't particularly like letting babies "cry it out" and never would use it before my children had reached the age of 9 months or older. Later I read Healthy Sleep, Happy Child and while it also advises a version of the "cry it out" method, the "takeaway" for me was the message that more sleep leads to more and better sleep.

I definitely found this concept to be true. My first son was crabby all the time until he was over 7 months old and I figured out how to get him to nap. He started napping and then started sleeping better at night. My second son was a pretty good napper from the start. He slept so much, in fact, that when I was staying with my parents during my husband's deployment, they wondered if something was wrong with him. He slept so much. He'd wake up at 6:00ish, then nap from 8:00-10:00ish and 1:00-3:30ish and then go to sleep for the night at 6:30. If I did not let him sleep that much, he would be crabby. People would express doubt in my methods, but in the end, I knew I was right.

So, Harold is 20 months old and is suddenly waking up at 4:30 in the morning and will not go back to sleep. I've tried every variety of going in and telling him to go back to sleep. I started tough, walking in, checking to make sure he's not wet or hurt, giving a quick kiss and telling him to go back to sleep. I tried letting him nurse for a few minutes before putting him back in bed. I tried calling to him from the doorway. I tried shortening his 3 hour afternoon nap. (Never a good idea, especially in our family where no one wakes up from a nap in a good mood and no side of the bed is the right side if someone is woken up from a nap before the nap has run its course!) I tried putting him to bed later. Nothing has worked. No matter how I adjust his day time sleep or bedtime, he continues to wake at 4:30. So, I revert to the tried and true... "this too shall pass." I will wait it out and I am sure that he will soon be sleeping until 5:30 or so. Yes, it's early but it is tolerable. Despite the early wake up, he is happy and in a good mood, so I am grateful. Also, he does not fall asleep when we go for a drive during the day, so I know he is getting enough sleep. (A side note... If your child falls asleep every time you get in the car, he/she is definitely not getting enough sleep.) I will wait it out and look forward to an extra hour of sleep, eventually.

I will keep you posted.

06 August 2009

1-2-3 Cool It Refresher

8 years ago I started using a modified 1-2-3 consequence/time out technique and it was life changing. At the time, my 3 year old was throwing major tantrums, whining, and not doing anything independently, it was a daily trial.

The main premise of the technique is that using the technique will eliminate the battle of wills that occurs when parent and child are on opposite sides of an issue.

For instance:

"Mom, I'm hungry, can I have a snack?"

"Dinner is in an hour, so you need to wait."

"But I'm so hungry."

"Sorry sweetheart."

"But I want something. If you don't feed me, I'll starve..."

I probably don't need to go on, we've all been through it and it lasts for the entire hour leading up to dinner. Using the cool it, 1-2-3 technique, you put an end to the madness! The key is to use it consistently and not waver from it.

"Mom, I'm hungry, can I have a snack."

"Dinner is in an hour, sweetheart, so no."

"But I'm starving."

"That's 1." Say it calmly and matter of factly. No need for an explanation, your child knows why you are saying it.

"But, Mom..."

"That's 2."

If you get to 3, the child pays a consequence. A time out of 1 minute per year of age might be appropriate, but whatever it is, it should be consistant and fair.

In our house, we also use the technique for ongoing problems, like whining. Kids seem to enter the whining stage at age 5. I institute the 3 strikes and your out method to attempt to minimize the whining. The child gets 3 strikes per day. The rules are discussed ahead of time, so it's not a surprise when the child gets his first strike. If he gets 3 strikes, a consequence that is meaningful to the individual is given. Right now, loss of video game time is the most common consequence.

When I use the method consistantly it is very effective. The key is to always use it so the child knows what to expect.

As I type this entry, I am using it! My 8 year old is asking for a snack and dinner is in 45 minutes. He asked for a snack, I said "no" he protested, so I said, "that's 1," and he stopped! It's a little trickier with the 5 year old.

Coming soon...

Time outs- what works and what does not work...

03 August 2009

Grocery Shopping With Kids in Tow

OK, so it's not the ideal situation but we all have to do it. I mean, really, what would you rather pay a babysitter for? Time spent at the grocery store, or time out on a date with your husband (or a mani-pedi...)?

So, today I set out for a major stock-up trip at the commissary. We live about 20 miles from the nearest base with a commissary, so just getting there is an adventure. We set out at 9 a.m. and by 10:00 we were there. I was feeling in-the-zone, so I decided that we could also accomplish a short list at the Post Exchange. Of course, that turned into a 45 minutes journey up and down the aisles, "stop poking each other, stop pulling things off the shelf, no, we can't get pokemon cards," etc...

On the the commissary...

I quickly realized that I must utilize some sort of strategy or I'd barely survive the adventure. So, I took one of those carts that can seat two big kids in the blue seats and a toddler in the cart itself. I had the five year old sit in a seat across from the toddler and rotated the 8 year old and the 11 year old in and out of the other seat. This way, only one child was out on the loose at a time. This turned out to be a great strategy, though I kept finding myself looking for the kids to be scattered around the aisles, only to find them exactly where the should be... seated in the cart.

Before I knew it, it was 12:30 and I could hardly believe no one had complained how hungry they were. I guess I owe this to the fact that I had them each choose a snack to eat in the car on the drive to the store. By 12:45, the toddler had begun to melt down. By this I mean he was pulling items out of the cart and dropping them on the floor, quickly escalating to him taking the frozen pizzas and bopping his brothers on the head. So, I planted the 4 kids and the cart at the end of an aisle, ran back to get the packaged cheese and yogurt drinks and quickly headed to the check out lanes.

I enlisted the help of my brawny 8 1/2 year old to move the overflowing cart of groceries on the belt, paid the $271 bill and headed home.

Lessons: Give the kids jobs, keep them contained, and let them each choose at least one item you don't mind buying anyway.