In the last few months, Emma’s bedtime routine has been gradually increasing in…well, we’ll just say “difficulty.” There’s whining and complaining and stalling and not listening/ignoring on her part — and growing frustration and impatience and yelling on my part. (And Jose’s for that matter — her behavior isn’t seem tied to a particular parent, which is both reassuring and frustrating.)
After one particularly bad evening earlier this week, Jose and I decided that drastic measures were needed.
Step 1: No iPad on school nights.
As much as I’d love to deny it, both Jose and I agree that there IS a correlation between screen time and her behavior. We’ve been in the habit of letting her watch iPad (or TV) between dinner and bedtime, and there is almost always a struggle (usually minor but sometimes major) when it’s time to turn it off. She ignores us, or asks for one more show, or 5 more minutes, or whatever. So we’re going cold turkey — no iPad on school nights.
(Honestly, we’ve thought about this strategy many times before but haven’t ever done it because taking away the iPad feels like a punishment for the parents too. Letting the girls watch something is a surefire way for us to be able to sit down and relax as well. But…I guess this is one of those times where I have to be the adult, eh? It remains to be seen how this strategy will work when Jose goes back to teaching next week and I’m on my own two nights at week. Oof.)
Step 2: Earlier bedtime.
Emma’s bedtime has been in the 8:45-9:00 range, which I recognize is pretty late for a 5-year-old. (She gets up at 7:00.) I’m sure the behavior issues are at least partially related to the fact that she’s just plain tired by the end of the day. Part of the reason her bedtime is later is that there’s just a lot to do between getting home and going to bed, and there’s only a couple hours to do it. But part of it is just that Jose and I are tired too, and we drag our feet about getting the bedtime routine underway.
So: the goal is now to start the bedtime routine by 7:45 — and 7:30 if it’s bath night. That should have her in bed, lights out, absolutely no later than 8:30, and ideally more like 8:15.
Step 2: A bedtime behavior chart.
Emma has always responded well to bribes — ahem, rewards. She’s motivated by the behavior color charts at school, so it seems reasonable that she’ll be motivated by one at home. If the evening has gone well, she gets to put a sticker on the chart right before we read (which is the last thing we do before lights out).
(The chart is from here. No rhyme or reason to it — I just did a google image search for “bedtime behavior chart” and this was the first one that was just a simple grid, which was all we needed.)
Once she gets the first row filled, we agreed that we’d go out for ice cream or frozen yogurt. When she gets the whole chart filled, she can choose something bigger like a trip to the zoo or children’s museum.
We started the chart on Wednesday night so she’s 2-for-2 so far — hooray! Fingers crossed we continue to have success…