Kids & Family:Parenting
My kids are staying up too late!
“I am wondering what type of consequences to set for my 10 year old daughter. She shares a room with her 12 year old sister. I am having the toughest time with them falling asleep at night. From the moment my husband and I kiss them goodnight, it is almost an hour and a half before they are asleep. The repetitive getting out of bed and coming to us with all sorts of things: “I am scared about a show I saw or snakes under my bed”, or whatever! They have twin beds and will try to get in each others beds to “help calm each other down but rarely this works”. My girls are thinkers and thus when they lie down both of them are ruminating about the day, etc.
I am getting to bed too late and unable to have down time.This frustrates both my husband and myself.
I struggle as to either take away things (what would those be—don’t want to take away play dates as those are important for building social skills for her right now) or reward (marble jar, or no?). I like to intrinsically motivate my children but this is affecting the whole family and I’m unsure what to do.”
I asked Andria what she has tried that worked or didn’t work and she told me what consequences her kids currently valued. She also added:
“The 10-year-old wants to use my 12-year-old as a coping mechanism to help her fall asleep. My 12-year-old being the compassionate, nurturing person she is, will go and lie with her. And then....they start bickering about the stuffed animals on the bed, etc.”
Parent Education Answer:
How to get kids to fall asleep at night?
Let’s take a look at what you have control over, and what you don’t.
You cannot make your children sleep. You cannot stop them talking, climbing into each other’s beds, or coming to find you. You cannot turn off their brains for them or make them feel tired and peaceful.
You can control what you do when they come to your bedroom asking for water, attention, etc. You can help them create an environment that is conducive to rest and relaxation. You can HELP THEM problem solve THEIR issue of busy, overstimulated brains and a sister who sacrifices her sleep to try and help her sister.
This is such a classic Supermom question. I define a Supermom as someone who is very involved with their kids, loves mothering, and tries really hard to do everything right. We tend to think every problem our kids have is ours to solve. If you find yourself banging your head against the wall, unable to effect the change you want, chances are, it’s because you are trying to solve something that is not your problem to fix.
We live in an anxious, overstimulating culture, visual and auditory information coming at us all hours of the day, without enough physical movement to process, purge and rest in the non-verbal, creative part of our brains. Generalized anxiety is highest in rich countries like the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. You could solve this problem by moving your family to a poorer country with lower levels of anxiety, relaxed people, reduced mental stimulation, and an abundance of nature and watch your daughters drift peacefully off to sleep at the end of a day.
If that isn’t on your bucket list for 2020, let’s move to something else you have control over.
You could help your daughters create an environment that is more conducive to rest and relaxation. For example:
-No media input an hour before bed.
-Time for the girls to sit, talk, and process the day with each other.
-Do yoga stretches together to get them out of their heads and prepare their brains for sleep. -Meditate together or listen to a guided visualization designed to help prepare the brain for sleep.
When it’s time for them both to sleep, it sounds like having something for their brains to think about would help. Because you mentioned your girls are "thinkers" you might try a bedtime story podcast like Be Calm on Ahway Island or the Stories Podcast. (Listening to things like podcasts and audiobooks doesn’t count as “screen” time because listening activates the areas of the brain that are good for us.)
The idea is to address the core issue of your daughters’ busy brains at bedtime, rather than seeing it as a discipline issue that requires consequences, and to empower THEM to experiment and figure out what works for them and what doesn’t. Making sure they get enough exercise in the day time or doing calming yoga stretches before bed can help get us out of our brains and into our bodies.
You might consider giving your 12 year old permission to ignore her sister. Can she wear noise cancelling earphones and read a book in her bed? She is trying to be kind but her “helping” isn’t working. It’s teaching the 10 year old to look to someone else to solve her problems instead of learning that she has the ability to calm herself down. Just like Momma thinks this is her problem to solve, older sister might be thinking the same thing.
What else do you have control over?
You get to decide what time YOU go to bed and how to handle it when they get up and come to you. You can model for your 12 year old what it looks like to ignore the 10 year old. Not in a mean way, just a way that makes it really boring and unrewarding for her to get up and come to you.
If your kids are getting back up after bedtime and coming to find you, the trick is to be non-reactive. If you want to discourage this, you don’t want to be overly kind and affectionate, or overly annoyed and exhasperated. If getting up to see mom is as boring as staying in bed, they will lose motivation.
If your daughter comes to you and finds your door locked, you taking a shower, reading, or sleeping, it’s going to naturally steer her away from getting up out of bed. If you say you prefer your children to be intrinsically motivated, this is how you help create it.
Life Coaching Answer:
What will get in the way?
End of the day fatigue and the feeling of losing control.
At the end of the day, we are TIRED. All we can think about it is “When am I DONE?”
We want to have nice, quality time with our precious ones, give love and cuddles, and then pay attention to ourselves for the first time in 23 hours.
It is REALLY HARD to implement these strategies at this time of day.
Under stress, we regress. Most of us default to either overly authoritative or overly permissive.
When Andria is tired, her default seems to be to look to consequences, “What can I take away” which is another way of saying, “I want there to be an action I can take to feel in control.” If we think, "There's nothing I can do, I have no control over when they go to bed." isn't going to feel good either.
We think, “I just need to get them to sleep and then my husband and I can relax.”
We put our ability to feel relaxed and enjoy the evening in the hands of our ruminating, chatty children. This doesn’t work very well. Any time we try to control something that we don’t have control over, we will get frustrated.
Instead, focus on the things you DO have control over.
What time you go to bed.
How you feel.
How you respond to their problem.
Whenever a mom is wanting to change up a bedtime routine, I suggest practicing it early in the day. Make a game out of it. Walk through the steps of the new routine before everyone is exhausted. Take pictures of the kids: brushing their teeth, getting their jammies on, doing yoga, etc. When night time comes, you just have to remind them of the new routine that they already have a positive association with.Supermom Kryptonite - Thinking every problem is ours to solve.
It is so easy to get stuck in the habit of fixing our kids’ problems. When they were younger, it seemed like everything fell on our shoulders. This is too much weight for one person to carry, especially since problems will increase as life becomes more complex. When kids adolescence starts, it’s good to practice letting go of trying to fix things.
You might notice moms start to lose their status as the one and only “She who must be obeyed”. Kids give more credence to teachers, babysitters, coaches, youtubers, often even Dad’s status gets elevated over Moms. You might give your daughter the same advice as her gymnastics coach, but your words fall on deaf ears while the young, pretty teenager’s words get put on a pedastal.
Trying to maintain that “mother knows all” status can drain your energy when, developmentally, your kids are more interested in guidance from peers, older teens, young adults, or relatives who aren’t so involved in their daily lives.
In Andria’s case, she can encourage her daughters to solve their own problems (ask an older cousin or babysitter for suggestions) and/or delegate to an external resource like an app or podcast designed for tweens. There are many: Calm, Insight Timer, Simple Habit, Headspace, that have bedtime stories, progressive relaxation, or other auditory ways to facilitate sleep. The goal is to cultivate your children’s resourcefulness, and show them that many people can help them accomplish their goal.
Supermom Power Boost - Delegate!
Want to know how to get your kids to eat broccoli? So did social scientists. They discovered one of the most effective ways is to sit your child down at a table and have them watch an older teenager (of the same gender) sit across from them and happily devour a bowl of broccoli. No talking, just role modeling.
You can use this natural tendency kids have to listen to outsiders to your advantage.
Email your pediatrician before an appointment asking her to mention the importance of vitamins, sunscreen, or exercise or whatever you are tired of nagging about.
Email your child’s teacher or coach asking him to please praise your son for making mistakes and trying new things because you are working on developing a growth mindset.
Ask your friend to compliment your child on something her new haircut if he is feeling insecure.
Find a youtuber or “influencer” who preaches self love and care.
Ask your niece to come over and help your daughter organize her bedroom.
Have an uncle you trust, talk to your son about safe sex and respecting women.
You do not have to be all things to your children! Utilize your village and expand your child’s circle of trust. This encourages independence, resourcefulness, and a feeling of safety as your child grows into adulthood. It also frees up your time and energy, helping you feel supported by your village.
Quote of the Day:
“Embrace it. Especially because of the lives we live, a lot of times other people have to care for our kids and you have to have that mommy time. Get your sleep!” Jennifer Hudson
It is Free