A big topic for families with kids of all ages is how to get kids to sleep and then how to get kids to stay in bed.
How to get kids to sleep
I wrote about How to get kids to sleep a couple years ago. The best thing we ever did was create a bedtime routine for our children. Kids respond better and feel more secure when they know what to expect. Each night is the same in our house. We go upstairs to take baths and put on pajamas, go back downstairs for a healthy snack of fruit & veggies with milk, then back upstairs to brush their teeth. Next, mom and dad switch nightly between kids to read 2 books each. Then it is prayer time and final hugs and kisses.
How to get kids to stay in bed
We have had our routine set in place for years now and it works most of the time. My kids know when it is time for bed and that playtime is over. However, lately, they have been playing a few “games” on mom and dad. They have been tag teaming coming downstairs or yelling from upstairs that they are scared, “can’t sleep”, thirsty, hear something, are afraid, still can’t sleep, etc. Soon, this became part of their bedtime routine, it seemed.
We tried checking for monsters, getting drinks, looking for what made noises, etc. It continued. We ended up taking toys away – putting them in time-out as we say. I hated this. I hated threatening to take away their favorite toys if they didn’t stay in bed. I wasn’t sure what to do – it seemed like a negative approach.
Then came my son’s fascination with Pokemon cards. He was looking for ways to earn Pokemon cards. Hmmmm, could this work? I told him and my daughter that if they stayed in bed for 7 nights, they could each earn something. Elijah, my 6 year old chose a pack of Pokemon cards and my 4 year old Elizabeth chose a coloring book.
Next, we made behavior charts. It was simple. They each made 7 squares to be filled in each night they stayed in bed. If they did it for 7 straight nights then they would get their reward sooner.
We wrote their goal at the bottom of the behavior charts so they could see what they were working toward. We put the behavior charts on their nightstands and reminded them each night what they had to stay in bed in order to get another box marked on their charts.
Believe it or not, it worked! My kids were so excited to have something to work toward. Suddenly, they were not afraid, didn’t hear noises, were able to sleep, and were not thirsty. Amazing! Each morning, they eagerly marked off the next box.
So, after 7 days, we took a trip to pick out their prizes. They were so excited. It was worth it for them and for mom and dad. So, do we start another chart? Does it turn into a bribe if we give them a prize every 7 days for doing something they should already be doing?
We decided to make the next round 2 weeks long. And it continues to work…. If you are having a hard time keeping your kids in bed at night, I suggest you give this positive reinforcement idea a try. $3 prizes go a long way!