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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Turning party time back into bedtime

You have two kids. Your house has two bedrooms. That makes four people in an 1,100 square-foot house. The baby has outgrown the walk-in closet. You share a bedroom with your wife (for your sake I hope this is the case.) You have to face the inevitable mathematics. The kids are going to have to share a room too.

Dun, dun, DUHHH!

Dramatic pause.

That puts a nasty kink in bedtime, which formerly involved placing one child in his bed, then walking across the house to put the other child in her bed. Now, the children, who also happen to be best friends, find themselves in the same nightly cage. Party mode naturally follows. So what can you do to quell the bedtime bedlam?

Another dramatic pause - mostly because I have to gather my thoughts.

Basically, you're hosed. At least during the honeymoon period. Unless you're willing to use some pretty harsh discipline to keep the kids in their own beds, there will be miniature havoc wreaked in that bedroom - fact. Let me just share a typical experience during our "combined resting antics period" - CRAP for short. 

We put the children in their beds. Easy enough. We turned out the lights. Check. We left. Wrong answer! Instantly we would hear the flick of a light switch from the living room, which our son had recently discovered he was tall enough to reach. Uncontrollable giggling promptly followed. We returned to the room to find the pillows piled at the end of the bed, sheets torn apart, and our son climbing the bars on his younger sister's crib so he could perform the daredevil feat of a quadruple back flip with a half twist onto the pillows waiting to stop his fall on the bed. Our daughter, loving the show, squealed in delight from her crib.

We firmly ordered all to return to a sleeping position on beds. After they rush to obey Mommy and Daddy, we flick the switch and walk away again. Mere steps down the hall, the click of the light switch stops us in our tracks while introducing a new nervous tick.

We found we had to use some pretty firm discipline to get them to stay in their beds in the end. They're best friends. They are 14 months apart and love each other to pieces. We work hard to keep it that way. However, we just want them to ignore each other when the lights go out. After various failed or lackluster methods, we finally came down in physical discipline's camp. 

Yes, we spank. And it works beautifully. During the first three months of shared bedroom, we avoided the S-word like it was an actual swear, like so many touchy-feely self-help books would have you believe. Consequently, bedtime was not so much a single event but a string of less-effective disciplines that stretched bedtime into a nightly 3-hour occurrence. We often fell asleep on the living room couch at 11 p.m. to the sound of delighted screams from the back room. 

As soon as we began doling out immediate retribution for something they knew they weren't to be doing, the results came quickly. The best part? We only had to spank a couple times before they knew we meant business. Now we'll sometimes listen to one or the other singing or gabbing away for an hour or more from the confines of their bed, but they don't leave it unless they have to use the potty. 

Try to get those results with timeouts and loving talks.

I'm open to other methods, but that's what worked for our fun-loving children. We always made sure they knew we loved them after "reproving them with sharpness," but that's what we had to do. It's the only thing that worked. Do you have your own methods for turning party time into bedtime? 


  1. Duck tape or tranquilizers...?? :D

  2. Once we put them down in their room, we just leave them. Unless there's hitting involved, then we intervene with toys being taken away for a while. If they want to play, that's okay with us. They usually fall asleep in an hour or so if they do that. This just means that quiet time gets to be longer or start earlier the next day, cause they are tired sooner.

  3. We did the "OK with playing routine" for a while, but found that one hour stretched into two, three, and even four hours sometimes before they would crash in fetal positions behind the door. Plus we had a lot of interventions during that time. Then we had cranky kids the next day. So we tried something else.