Action Plan for Getting Grumpy Kids out of Bed…

Serve your little one “breakfast in bed.”  

Many kids wake up starving especially those finicky picky eaters who refused to eat the night before.  So why not have a granola bar waiting for them at their bedside when they wake up to help them get their blood sugar flowing and help them to start off on the right foot?  One client recently told me how this worked so well for their oldest child that they have begun to use it with all their kiddos.  Their son was extremely slow to warm up to the idea of getting out of bed, but with a yummy snack ready for him he was more apt to jump out of bed.  That boost of energy helped him be less moody and more ready to accomplish his early morning routines… Of course like all our action plans, this is just an idea but one worth trying if you are at your wits end.  If you do this or any new response with your parenting, remember you have to TEACH MODEL and PRACTICE the expectations. You can’t just “willy nilly” start this plan tomorrow without boundaries and expectations.   They need to know the procedures so they can follow them.  

How does your child unwind before bed?

Here are some quick tips on getting kids to sleep…
1.  Meditation:  There are some great apps, CD’s, and books out there that focus on mediations for children and help children reboot their brains as they attempt to fall asleep or calm down when they are revved up.  My favorite are books are by Maureen Garth: Moonbeams, Starbright and Earthlight.  They have make believe stories that parents can calmly read to sleepy kiddos.  The goal is that the child will be able to revisit the meditative scene in their minds when mom and dad are away or when they are trying to cope with stress or worry.
2.  Calming Sensory Tools:  Depending on what your child’s sensory choice is, find something that he can fiddle with that helps to calm his senses.  Oral children might use a calming chewy necklace to chew on.  Visual children might like to count stars on their ceiling or watch a lava lamp. Tactile children may want to lay stuffed animals around their bodies to make them feel snug.  Auditory children may want to listen to a sound machine or a comforting box fan as they fall asleep.  Whatever they need make it part of your bedtime routine.
3.  Storytelling about their day… Catch your child being good throughout the day and send them off to sleep with a recap on all the growing and blooming they did that day.   Don’t spend time lecturing or debating right before bed, but instead spend time affirming how you saw them making progress (even if it is the tiniest bit of progress).  Remember it is our job to help our child retell their storyline so that it is more positive than negative.  As you send them off to dream their night away,  help them to see that you have noticed they are really trying and really BLOOMiNG!
4.  Keep it simple and calm…  Many parents I work with have designed the most intricate bed time rituals.   Do you feel like your list of to do’s before bedtime continues to grow and grow… turn on the fan, rub their back twenty times, sing four songs, tell about your favorite part of their day.  Whatever you do for your systematic bedtime, make is short and sweet.  End with a quick I love you and you love me… come across confident and not nervous about bedtime.   They will feed off of your confidence or anxiety and mirror each back at you.  So keep it less emotional and more matter of fact.  A few steps for each part of the routine should be all you need.
Next Day prep: clothes picked out, backpack ready to go, lunches made.
Bathroom steps: potty, teeth, possibly a bath (but you really don’t have to do this every night!)
Bedroom steps:pjs on, one to two stories and prayer
5.  Visuals and Charts to Support:  If you are using a visual chart to support your bedtime routine, make the children in charge of it.  The reason I like to put the kids in charge is that I am just so busy (like you) and odds are I will forget to follow through on it.   So make it so that they own the chart.  If they want to earn the sticker or stamp they have to remember to do the things on the chart AND remember to give themselves the credit.
6.  Leave your timeframe Open ended:   Who says we need a hard an fast bed time?  It IS best to have a regular bedtime, but who says we have to have a hard and fast bed time?  In order to release the power plays that sometimes go with bedtime rituals, give your child a window of time that they may hop in bed… For Example:  Quiet time begins at 7:30 and lights out will be 8:15.   You can hop in your bed at any time between 7:30 or 8:15.  If you are not following expectations and hurting, fussing, or disrespecting the rules (too loud, too rowdy), then you will go to bed right then.   This open ended approach gives them the pseudo power they love to gain, and helps you have a system for lights out!
7.  If you have an escapee… Whatever works…. within reason and respect and as long as you have given them a preview of what will happen, you have gone through it visually, and you are dealing with it “in the moment” without a lot of emotion.
Here are some tried and true methods that I have seen work!

  • The gate goes up if you get out of bed.
  • The door is open as long as kids are in bed.
  • The light stays on as long as you are on your way to dreamland.
  • Some parents will start by sitting in the room as the child gets calm, then moving little by little towards the door.
  • Some parents put the kids in the bed and then tell them confidently that mommy will be putting a few towels away and come back and check on you.
  • I have even resorted to telling them that their favorite animal will have to sleep with Mommy tonight if you cannot stay in your bed… “Lamby is tired and will come to sleep with me if you get out of bed”
  • If they are 4 or 5 they might have a solid enough sense of time that you could postpone a reward until morning if they fall asleep without problems.
  • Younger than that it might be too big of a time lapse to get them to connect the dots between reward and behavior.

8.  When all else fails design a Social Story/Picture Story detailing how we go to sleep… NO NO’s and Yes Yes’s to help them visualize how this will go.  Read the book during other parts of the day so they can begin to visualize it.

Give your family some legs to stand upon…

If you read my Mealtimes Matter passage from my August Newsletter, then you know how important I think it is for families to gather around a table whether it be for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Call it my soapbox, but I have a few more ideas on how we solidify our families. These essential things can both enrich a family’s mealtime and can strengthen your family in general. When a family comes to me for guidance on their parenting issues we can usually find that one of these essentials is missing from their family life and without it they’re feeling a little wobbly (like a table with only three legs). Having all four of these essentials present in your family life can fill in the gaps of your parenting and give it a solid base to stand upon.

Faith time: Coming together in faith conversations and experiences can support parents by helping them to answer the big questions… Who do we need to model? What do we need to avoid? Why does it matter? How can I survive all this? Faith can help parents come up with boundaries, routines and priorities and can be an excellent starting point when coming up with your essential family rules and procedures. It can be a rock to stand on or a shoulder to cry on when parents are feeling alone, confused, or overwhelmed. Find moments within your week to connect your child to your faith. Share your experiences, add to your own knowledge of your faith by reading and learning about your faith, and then begin weaving it into the fabric of your family life.
Playtime: Coming together to be silly, joyful, and playful gives us a chance to  breakdown the walls that too many boundaries can harbor and allows us a chance to think or act like a child. By playing with our children (I mean really playing not just going to their sporting events), we get a moment to see things from their perspective. You will see that there are so many skills to teach them embedded right into these tiniest moments of fun. Playtime offers us a chance to foster sportsmanship (how to win and lose with grace). It also gives us an opportunity to help our children learn how to wait, take turns, problem solve and plan. Self esteem and taking risks are a part of playtime and creative juices are always overflowing when we step into the realm of play. So get down and dirty with your kids: dress up, act out, roll around and get your sillies out. You’ll see your family bloom from these spontaneous positive playtime experiences.
Book and Learning Time: Coming together to share stories and information gives us teachable moments and conversations that help children understand their world. I don’t mean doing flashcards at the pool in the middle of the summer (all work an no play makes Johnny and Mommy very dull). I mean cuddling up in a soft chair and delving into a great book, or what about, using the characters in a story as models or examples of how to get along in their world.  Let their worries from the day release as they share how the story reminds them of their own experiences and help them to see a fresh perspective when they read or learn about people who are different from them. Sharing books provides a golden opportunity for parents to connect with their kids on many levels… In your busy day don’t let sharing a good book or teachable moments go away.
Rest or Down Time: Coming Together to sit and do nothing or taking time apart to veg-out without a plan can be a very rare occasion in this hustle and bustle world of GO…GO…GO… It’s so easy to flip the calendar and find it suddenly filled from Sunday to Saturday with extra activities and scheduled places to be. In fact, it seems we do these calendar catastrophes to ourselves so we don’t have to hear the dreaded, “I’m bored!!” We think: “ I have to fill up their days with activities so they don’t have a minute to get themselves in trouble.” But being bored can enrich your child’s imagination, bring their stress levels down to a healthy state of mind, and allow time for them to express creative ideas and problem solving strategies. Plug down time into your schedule… Help your child get healthy amounts of sleep and don’t forget to include enough rest and down time into your own schedule so you can consistently be at your best.

Is one of these essential things missing from your parenting plan? How can you add it in?   Weed out your calendar so it’s nearly blank.  Then fill it back up with the essential things that matter most: Mealtimes, Faith Times, Books and Learning time, Playtime and Down time… Put everything else on the calendar as secondary concerns, and I think you will see your family begin to bloom.