Monday, August 19, 2013

Lesser known sleep advice for children

Everyone thinks that people like Dr. Marc Weissbluth, Dr. Richard Ferber, and Dr. Sears are among the experts of sleep advice for babies and children. Well, here in the Langdon household we like to make our own rules.

The other day Jacob accidentally took a nap in the car while we were out running errands. (Dr. Weissbluth would say that if your kids fall asleep in the car it means they are overtired -- so we're already in dangerous territory here). Now, Jacob stopped taking naps about a year ago, so of course that night he didn't want to go to bed.

For awhile, we played whack-o-mole with him. He would pop out of his bed. We would put him back in. Usually his appearances would come with some sort of feeble explanation. "I need a book to look at." "I need another book to look at." "My water cup is empty." "My blanket is on the floor."

Perhaps at this point, we should have given up. But, still, we persevered! All those birthday parties at Chuck E Cheese's growing up had to pay off somehow, right? So we whacked our little mole back into bed a few more times until finally he came up with this one: "Can I have breakfast early?"

Now, this was around 10 pm. Andy and I just looked at each other and laughed. And that's when we pulled out the getting-your-kid-to-sleep big guns. Oh yeah. We're talking major parenting strategy here.

"Are you hungry, Jacob?" Andy asked.

"Mm hmm. I want pancakes," he said, coming downstairs with us. "Or actually, maybe I want chicken nuggets."

"Do you want me to take you to McDonalds?" I asked. Am I a sleep nazi or what?

"Uh huh."

So we got in the car and drove to McDonalds. On the way there we played red light green light (we'll leave that explanation for another post). On the way back I told Jacob sleep stories from when he was younger.

"Do you know that when you were a newborn you hated riding in the car?" I said to him. "You would scream every time we drove anywhere. So the first time we took you to Brown Grandma's house, we left  at 2:30 in the morning just to make sure you would sleep on the way!"

"Tell me another story about when I was a baby."

"Well, one time when you were about Drew's age, you woke up late at night and didn't want to go back to sleep. Daddy and I tried for hours to get you to go back to sleep, but you just kept crying. We thought it was no fun being awake in the middle of the night at home, so we took you to iHop, which was a lot more fun."

"Tell me another story about when I didn't want to sleep."

"Well, that same year when you were about Drew's age there was another night you didn't want to sleep. I had taken you out to the sunroom to play with you until you got tired. And as we were playing, we heard a noise tapping on the window. I was nervous because I didn't know what the noise was. So we went to the window and checked and saw that it was just cicadas crashing into the window!"

"Now tell me a story about when I was two."

"When you were two, we moved you into your big boy bed, but we weren't sure if you needed bed rails or not. So we decided to let you try to sleep without the bed rails. Well, one night I heard a loud thump. I was wondering what it was, so I went to check on you and guess where you were? You were on the floor! You had fallen right out of bed and were sleeping on the floor with your blankie."

"Now tell me a story from when I was three."

"Okay, this is a story from when you were almost three. We were taking a trip to Chicago and we had brought the pack n play with us for you to sleep in. We were worried about letting you sleep in the big bed at the hotel because we thought you would fall out. When we set up the pack n play, though, you were so sad about not getting to sleep in the big bed. And you had big tears in your eyes and said, 'Maybe I just try the big bed?' So we let you and you loved it! And you didn't fall out all night."

By this time we had arrived home and Jacob and I went back in the living room where Andy was waiting. Andy got the chicken nuggets out of the bag and handed them to Jacob. Jacob took one little nibble and then just sat on the couch starting to zone out.

"Are you tired, Jacob?" I asked.

"Mm hmm."

"Just finish up your chicken nuggets then and we'll go to bed," Andy said.

"Actually, I'm not very hungry yet. Let's save them for later," Jacob said.

We laughed, put the food in the fridge, and the kiddo to bed. So there you have it. A step-by-step plan for getting your kid to sleep, courtesy of the Langdons.

What's your most unusual sleep strategy?

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