Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rant about Putting Kids to Bed

Kids need their sleep. If you've ever watched Supernanny, you've seen examples of parents who don't put their kids to bed at a reasonable hour and how cranky and grouchy the kids are. Sure, the kids think they want to stay up and that they'd be happier if they could watch TV till all hours and such, but as their parent, you need to decide a reasonable time to put them to bed and keep them on a schedule. They may resist, but in the long run they'll be happier and more well rested.

Sure, if there is a special occasion, it's fine to keep your kids up. Doing so every once in awhile is not going to upset their routine too much and they can make up for it later without too much trouble. But if you keep your kids up too often, that sleep deficit is going to grow, and you'll find yourself with cranky, tired kids on your hands.

So why is it that so many parents do not put their kids to bed at a reasonable hour? I don't get it. When Alex was 2 months old, we started him on a sleep routine putting him to bed at 7 p.m. He didn't sleep through the night yet, but he got used to the routine and when he was old enough to sleep through the night (and after we trained him not to wake up--or if he did wake up, to be able to get himself back to sleep), he started sleeping about 11 hours a night. Now he goes to bed at 7:30 p.m. so I can sleep in a little later, but he still sleeps around 11 or 12 hours each night.

Then I have these neighbors. On a regular basis, I see their kids running around at around 10 at night. Between the two apartments, there are over 8 kids--6 of whom are 7 years of age and younger. The neighbors next door have a 1-year-old. I've seen him through the window still walking around at 10:45 p.m. I just don't get it. Why would you just not put your kid to bed? Sure, some kids resist more than others, but at 1 years old, you can train them to go to bed without complaint (though you may have to endure a few tough nights while they resist it). Once they realize that's how things are done and you're going to put them to bed like that every night, they'll stop. Last night it took Alex 40 minutes to fall asleep (not sure if it was because he wasn't tired enough or was over tired), but he didn't cry during that time--he just made little fussy noises and jabbered till he fell asleep. He rarely if ever complains when I leave him at night--he knows that's how it is.

When they get older and understand, it might be harder ("Read me one more story," "Can I have a drink of water?" and so on), but as long as that bedtime is established and you're consistent, the kids know that it's time and the most they can do is delay it a few minutes.

And why wouldn't you want to establish a regular bedtime? Not only are the kids more well rested, but the time you have after they go to bed may be your only time where you and your spouse can relax together and have a break from your kids to unwind and recharge. Why would you give that up? The only thing I can figure is laziness, which is ironic, since it actually means MORE work to deal with cranky kids till late at night than to establish a routine and stick with it. Sure, if your kids are older and will resist it longer and harder, it will be harder and more work at first. You'll have to go through quite a struggle to get your kids used to the routine and know that you will follow through each and every night, but once you've proven that to them, it will be much easier, and you'll have happier kids to boot.

So yeah, I just don't get it. One of the major things I've pushed as a mom is routine. It makes Alex feel safe, and it makes things easier (although admittedly can be somewhat boring at times to have the same thing every day). If I need to go the store, I go between his naps, or when Aaron is home to be with Alex. I don't interrupt his naps for anything (except church, which is too bad, but what can I do when church starts in the middle of his nap? I do put him down early so he still gets a short nap). Of course it will be harder when we have more kids who have different nap schedules and such. But I hope to keep them on schedule as much as possible. The kids feel secure knowing what to expect and are less cranky since they're not lacking on sleep often.

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