We bribe our kids to get them to sleep

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Disclaimer: This post is so long it might put you to sleep.

Some time long ago our kids wouldn’t sleep through the night.  Oh wait. They have never slept through the night. Well anyway, I think at Angel’s 3 year (or maybe it was her 2 year?) well baby check up the doctor recommended the book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. We thought it was fabulous and helped tremendously in getting the kids to sleep in their beds.

Shortly after we started potty training and the kids were never able to make it through the night without waking up to go potty. And Angel is a crazy light sleeper and her legs always hurt and she always needs to be close to mom and dad.  We kinda just surrendered and allowed them to get in bed with us when they woke up thinking that we didn’t care where they slept as long as they slept. Unfortunately Angel is also the world’s most restless sleeper.  A few weeks ago I awoke to feel her legs wrapped around my neck.  And I am totally serious.  

Also a few weeks ago in our couple’s Bible study group we were talking about this and how the lack of sleep negatively affects our marriages.  We received great encouragement from our friends and we also decided that we needed to get back to being mean parents who make their kids sleep in their beds all night. Since both kids are able to hold it all night long most nights we brushed up on the suggestions from the sleep book and started a new routine a week ago Sunday night.

I worked Sunday night and got home about 12:45 am. At about 1:00 am they started waking up. One of the tools from this book is to use a baby gate so that the kids still have their own space – they don’t necessary even have to stay in their beds – but they need to understand that they stay in their “space” after bedtime. The first night was tough. I would go down and console them and give hugs and kisses and then go back upstairs. You are supposed to let them cry for a certain period of time depending on how old they are and then go back down and do the whole routine again. Eventually they get the hint that you are serious. It only took us about 2 hours for them to finally realize mommy was serious and they fell asleep about 3:30 am.

Monday night we sat down with the kids and Pat explained to them a little more about the gate. He told them it wasn’t because they were naughty but that it’s important that everyone sleeps in their own beds. And sometimes when we wake up in the middle of the night that it’s easy to forget to stay in our bed. So when they see they gate they can remember and go back to their bed and go to sleep.

We also thought we needed a few more tools to help encourage them. With the kids help we talked about everything we do before bedtime and I made each of them a poster. 1. Go potty. 2. Brush teeth. 3. Put pj’s on. 4. Have devotion and prayer with mommy and daddy. 5. Read books in bed. 6. Lights out. Sleep all night in bed. 7. Get present in the morning!

It was pretty fun Monday night because we would ask them what was next and they’d run over to their poster and tell us. It definitely made bedtime more fun for them then us yelling about what they need to do.

The present thing was something I thought of when I went to Wally World Monday night to get dog food. They had a bunch of their junk accessories and small toys on sale for $.25. So I decided to create a bribe present box and we told the kids that every morning they’ll get to pick out a prize if they stayed in their room all night.  I ended up spending about $25 and we have enough stuff to last at least two weeks so I think that was a pretty good investment. The presents are things like stickers, candy, small toys, glow sticks, jewelry and lip gloss for Angel, trucks for Bubba, gum, etc.  And of course I let them look at and admire every thing before putting it up on the counter.

Another thing with the book is that while you are “training” the kids to learn to sleep in their room all night you move back their bedtime so they are super tired and fall asleep right away. At 9:00 pm we started getting ready for bed and were done with our list by about 9:45 pm. When I asked them what number 6 was Angel yelled, “Lights out!”, turned off her light and by the time I finished tucking in Caleb she was already asleep. Caleb wasn’t far behind. It was certainly later than normal for bedtime but so much more peaceful than normal also.

The kids slept until 4:00 am! OH. MY. WORD. I seriously do not think we’ve gotten 6 straight hours of sleep in 4 years. Except I couldn’t sleep so didn’t go to bed til 11:30 pm. But still, even 4.5-5 hours is amazing!  At 4:00 am they both woke up and called to me from the gate. Surprisingly they weren’t crying. Caleb needed a kleenex and Angel asked if it was time to get up. I explained that it was too early and that we would tell them when it was morning. They both went back to bed and Angel slept til 6:30 am and Caleb til 7:30 am.

Tuesday night was again a pleasant bedtime ritual as the kids were excited to tell us what was next on the list.  They both slept until 3:00 am and then woke up and yelled for me at the gate. I went down and gave them a kiss and reminded them they need to sleep in their beds if they want a present in the morning. Angel ran back to her room. Caleb wasn’t so sure and it took a little coaxing but eventually he went back.  They both slept until 7:30 am. WOW!

A few days prior to our deciding to get back into kids sleep in own bed mode, I purchased this clock for Angel. A friend had told me about it last year but it’s pretty expensive and so we didn’t buy it. Well I broke down and bought it and it arrived on Wednesday. Angel was pretty excited about it and we showed her how it’s yellow during the day, turns blue when it’s bedtime and then in the morning when it’s time to get out of bed it turns yellow and sings a wake up song.

Wednesday night was similar to Tuesday night. They woke up once around 3-4 am but went right back to bed. Again, Caleb struggling a little more than Angel. I’m not getting too worked up about it though because he’s been so sick lately and he’s just an emotional wreck!  Thursday morning her new clock was set to go off at 7:00 am. At 7:40 am she finally came upstairs so excited that her clock had turned yellow. I can’t believe it took her 40 minutes to wake up!

The best news of all? Thursday night she slept straight through the night. Not one little peep. I’m not sure if she was just extra tired or what. But she did tell Daddy, “I layed there and layed there and layed there with my eyes open all night!” She’s so funny.

Unfortunately Caleb had a pretty rough night Thursday night. He woke up at 3:00 am and again at 3:30 am and climbed over the gate. Little stinker. I broke down a little and let him sleep on the couch then but he knew he wasn’t going to get a present in the morning and he chose the closeness of mom and dad over the present. Again, I hope it’s all because of him being sick because usually he’s a really sound sleeper.

Friday night was a little rough. They were both up quite a few times.  The other thing with this clock is it has music or music/white noise or white noise. We put it on white noise and I think that has helped Angel. Well I worked Friday night and Pat didn’t realize I had set it on the white noise. He went down and heard it and thought it was static and not working and so he unplugged it! I’m not sure if that was why she was up so much Friday night or not.

Saturday and Sunday nights Caleb slept all night but Angel wet the bed both nights. Saturday night it was at 5:00 am so I just let her come to our bed. Sunday night when it happened I changed the sheets and made her go back in her bed. I’m wondering if she’s doing it on purpose so she can come to our bed? I hate to think that but she is one smart cookie.

We cannot yet declare that our kids are sleeping through the night. But we are doing so much better than a few weeks ago. I’m so thankful for the extra sleep. I can’t believe what a difference it makes. Not only in me but also in Angel. Did you notice her amazing smiles in this post? I know we’ll have setbacks but I’m hopeful that we’re at the beginning of a really good thing!

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