Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Getting into a Routine...

It's no secret that night time has been the most challenging aspect of parenting for me.  Most parents enjoy quiet, productive evenings to themselves...not us!  
Since Dovy reached toddlerhood we've struggled nightly on getting a routine in place.  Dovy is a night owl, he could stay up until midnight if we let him.  Of course mornings are terrible for him-which makes for a huge problem since he's in school now and expected to arise at a certain time.  During the summer he would easily sleep until 10.  
Moshe has always put himself to sleep at a reasonable hour.  And if it was a forced bed time, he went in willingly and did not take long to fall asleep.
However, with a sibling still awake, you tend to stay awake.  There have been many jumping parties, cuddling parties, tent buildings, second dinners, third desserts-you get the idea.  
My anxiety was sky high every night when the babysitter brought them home.  I knew my nights were a lost cause and with a list a mile long-that just won't do. 
The problem was I just wasn't equipped to deal with the situation.  
I didn't know what the routine should be, how to implement it, what to say to convince the kids to buy in, and how to deal with the tantrums surrounding night time.  

I mentioned, probably two years ago that I had purchased a parenting course called Chanoch L'naar.  I'm happy to report that almost three years later, I have finally committed to completing the year long course with a partner. Partners always make things better.  We have successfully met every week we've both been in town.  We will complete class 9 tomorrow night.  

School started a week ago, and I know it was no coincidence that last week's lesson was all about the night time routine.  

Before I lay out our bedtime routine, I want to note that none of these are my ideas-this class was created by Dina Friedman.  Her belief is that by creating a solid bedtime routine, we are teaching our children about healthy separation.

The steps to the bedtime routine are outlined as follows, I will give more specific detail later.

Step 1: Bedtime should be a process, not a sudden change of tasks.  
All of the nightly tasks, such as eating dinner, taking a bath, brushing your teeth-are all part of the routine of going to sleep.  We don't just pick our kids up and put them in bed.  The speech therapist in me wants to add in that it's always helpful and beneficial to explain what the schedule is-don't just have the schedule in your mind, repeat it to your children over and over. At every step, remind them what comes next, what the final goal is, and ask them what comes next, ask them what their favorite part of the routine is and why.  I see my kids for such a limited amount of time during the day I want every second to count.  Why not make as much time educational, interactive and intentional as possible?  

Step 2: Go through the routine
Different ages have different expectations.  Hannah is still too young to grasp the concept of following a routine. She can follow simple tasks, but she can't grasp routines.  Moshe and Dovy are old enough to discuss the routine, remember the routine, and follow a picture schedule.  
Once again, the Speech Therapist in me when right to creating a picture exchange communication system (PECS).  It provides the routine in sequential order, shows each step in a picture because my boys can't read yet, and allows them to actually "complete" the task on the chart by matching the pictures attached with velcro to the printed picture.  

Step 3 & 4: Stagger bedtime & private time 
I had never thought of this idea before.  I just assumed my boys were of similar enough ages that they could go through the same routine together.  Hindsight is 20/20 and even on the first day of attempting the routine I can tell you that so much of the problem are the problematic interactions the boys have.  The fighting, the teasing, the silliness-if they were separated, each child would have a much smoother transition.  Also, by staggering, each child can have their one-on-one time with the parent that is putting them to sleep.  I spoke with my friend for almost an hour on how she executes her bed time routine, got ideas and figured out how to apply these ideas into my own life.  I knew that allowing Moshe to stay up later would strike a cord with Dovy who would immediately claim how unfair life is.  Truth is, we've been struggling a lot in the unfairness department.  Dovy is always proclaiming his woes, but Moshe is always being told he's older so he has more responsibilities.  And my friend pointed out to me-along with being more responsible comes privileges.  We always tell Moshe what he has to do simply because, "you're older," "you're the big brother," but we don't extend privileges along with those responsibilities. A staggered bedtime is a privilege.  He won't know the difference between 10 minutes or 30 minutes. He just knows while Dovy goes upstairs to sleep, he can continue partaking in an activity of his choice.  He'll feel good about himself and maybe next time he's told he has to walk, simply because he's the oldest, maybe he won't react as negatively.  

Every child is different.  Moshe is much more independent than Dovy and I know he would be perfectly fine without private time, but I think this is crucial for Dovy, and Moshe greatly benefits from it as well.  Because the boys share a room, and Dovy will be in his bed when Moshe is to receive his private time, all private times will take place in my room.  This works because they love to cuddle in my bed, so that in and of itself is a huge treat to them!  This private time is also supposed to be bonding time-at this point it isn't quite time to tell them to close their eyes and begin counting sheep.  Play a game, read a book, or talk about the day. It's all about bonding.  

From this parenting class I've learned that my go-to disciple method is an if/then statement.  Essentially lay out the consequences.  It almost always works.  So in this case, I gravitate towards telling them that if they come out, they'll lose their special time tomorrow night.  

Tonight was my first night attempting the routine.  It didn't work out exactly as I had it planned but I learned how to tackle tomorrow.  
I ran through the routine with the boys and had them practice moving their pictures into the correct area.  They were super thrilled about pretending to complete the items and I'm sure tomorrow they'll be eager to move the pictures themselves. 

I created their chart on Word by inserting clip art as well as drawing text boxes.  I laminated the sheet and attached velcro in the necessary places.  I apologize for the poor quality pictures! 



And here is an example of the chart in action!

   

If you have any questions about creating a night time routine, I'd love to help!

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