Friday, March 4, 2011

Never fight bedtime again! Foolproof plan.

I have seen the nightmare.  There are tears, anger, pleading and that hopeless hollow look in the eye of the parent.  They say they have tried everything.  No - It isn't life or death, hunger or hell - It's BEDTIME!

       Most people have been told that reading to kids is a great way to make them readers later in life.  That sweet picture of a parent tucked into a huge bed with well behaved little angels on either side, as Mommy or Daddy open a familiar fairytale is - well a fairytale!

      The real story is that the little darlings will do anything - including put up with you yelling and crying - for just five more minutes of wakeful antics.

      I can show you how to never live that sort of evening again. 
 Yes it works with every child.
 Yes you can do it in a week.
 Yes, You must put some effort in it.

      There are rules -
       You must devote 1 hour every night no matter what to sitting in a chair - not in their beds.  (this is easier if they are in one room - even if they have separate rooms, as you begin, let them all sleep in one area for the moment.

        You may read one picture book - as a warm up, then it's on to the BIG kid book. 

        You will choose the book - they may vote on the next selection, but even if they whine that it's dull - you must finish one to get to the next. (you will understand later - when you have read everything in the house including the bible and a truck repair manual out loud) Yes I did actually read 'How to win friends and influence People' to them before they were out of grade school - it was there - I was not starting Harry Potter over again, and one of them was having some trouble with a bully - nope didn't fix it - but it didn't hurt either.

        You will read in a quiet voice - including accents if you can - bad words if they are there, and there are no questions allowed til the end of a chapter.

         There is no time limit except a minimum of one hour - if it takes three - you will have to buck it up and do it.  If they are asleep in three minutes - yippee!  Sit quietly for another 20 and enjoy how pretty they are.  Somehow they know you are there.
          Hang a string of white Christmas lights in the room - this is your magic reading light - turn them off when you finish - they may only be on during reading time. (any favorite color is fine - but purple is hard to see with)

The rules They must follow.
                            Reading time begins at: (30 minutes before old bedtime)  They no longer have a Bedtime - they may stay up as late as they want - but must be toothbrushed tucked in and eyes closed (to better see the story) at the beginning of reading time.  (in the first week fudge a little - you have to prove to them that this is better than I need a drink of water - there is something in my closet - I heard a noise outside - etc.) This rule is why picture books are useless - eyes must be open for picture books - open eyes and sleep don't happen in most cases.
                             If they flop about- start acting like creatures - or bicker - You will close the book and reading time is over ( give them several warning for the first few weeks - you must give them time to like this before enforcing it not to happen)  After a little bit, a short pause in reading will be all it takes.
                              If they don't understand a word - they may raise their hand - all other questions take place at the end of chapters only.
                               This one is hard at first - They get to decide how late they stay up - You will read as long as they are awake or up to (specific time- at least two hours - seems like a huge deal to them and as your throat dries out you will wonder 'what the heck I have signed yo up for?') You must erase the old "have to go to sleep fight".  Once they trust that this is no trick - they will drift off long before they plan every night - unless the book is at a very exciting spot. 
                               Begin each evening by asking - What was the last thing you remember?  That is where you start reading - this is another battle ender - doesn't matter if they drift off to sleep - you will back up to accommodate them.  They don't have to fight - to keep from missing the good parts.
                               Always read two pages past the point you are certain they are asleep - nothing like the sound of a voice stopping to snap eyes open.  If this occurs (you got caught) simply get a sip of water and continue.

                               Why it works -
                                             Your voice calms your child - remember to keep your voice modulated in a soothing tone - you are not speaking -you are Reading.  The cadence and inflection should not be a dull monotone - but you must not read fast to try to get Done either.  Concentrate on pronouncing your words correctly - we do not enunciate properly anymore - think Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn or Alan Rickman (Harry Potters -Prof. Snape)  Your accent - but precise.  That will slow your words without making you boring.
                                           You have just given your little controllers - alot of control.  If you tell me to do something I may fight you.  If I get to drive - I go where I want and there is no energy needed for battle - you might as well give them a kid sleeping pill - your total attention - no need to argue -warm cosy bed - soft light - and things to dream.

Frequently argued - by parents
Well your kids must be weird - it won't work with mine.  Mine are monsters at bed time.  (that is because you have BEDtime not - You have my total attention time.  Not This is my special gift to you time. Not I adore you enough to give up my favorite TV show/ cleaning the dishes/tapping on my computer, Time.  You have BEDtime which equals Battle Every Day Time! 

I don't read out loud well.     Practice on people who don't care if you are perfect - you will get better very quickly. (my husband did - he hates to read -but has read books he likes - the left behind series - to the kids.) {I don't approve of those books - lol - they are too depressing to me - but they love them - isn't that a lesson for me to discover - everyone should read exactly what they want - my favorite books may not be the only books that exist -gasp}

I don't have time - then do not bother to try - you will crush them if you are too sick - too tired - too lazy - or toooo busy for them.  Instead continue upon you current path and watch the Battle Every Day - Become.  It will grow into many wonderful things - battles over friends, cloths, drugs, grades and many other exciting life choices.  This is your first opportunity to say to your child - I think you are big enough - smart enough - good enough to let you decide.  I can advise you - but I won't be there to make all the important choices for you.  You are driving my child.  {this tiny bridge - is how I go forth with you - into your future} 

If you don't have time - you don't have time.  They will find the way with or without you.

My Kids are too Old!       Really?  I read to people in pain who are older than I am - How old are your children exactly? - Are you vampires perhaps?  Are you still Telling your teens?  Do not raise Children dear ones - Raise Adults.  Raise people who drive carefully without you, not people who think you are to stupid to work the car - because they had to learn where the peddles were from some one else as you praised only the joy of walking to school up hill both ways.

How I know -
                 I have a strange house.  It may be trashed and messy - but if we argue here, it is because we have something to disagree about.  It is not habit.  It is not because that's all we have to say to each other.  It is because He stole my book -sometimes.
 Children come to my house who have never been allowed to sleep over anywhere - the parents wouldn't subject anyone to the way their kids act - They often pick them up with - "I'm soo sorry - I tried to tell you..."  Dropping their jaw as I tell them we had a wonderful time.  Then I hand them some book and explain the rules.
 Even older kids, who have never once been read to - like it.  They roll their eyes a few nights - then all of a sudden something changes and like my own kids - start bugging me a 7pm to remember that I promised to read early tonight.

Last thoughts - My son was three years old, my daughter was eight.  I was reading Lord Of The Rings to them and I was sure that all the horrid to pronounce words -endless description and back story, and many many many characters had lost them.  I had finally just about decided there was an end zone - as far as ability to follow.  Then we came to the Dwarven Mines lost in time and sorrow - I was sure they were both asleep.  Gandolf fell.  My Three year old sat up in bed tears in his eyes not caring about the end of chapter rule or raising his hand and shouted "did Gandolf DIE?"  My daugter, eyes open too - whispers " just tell us - I can't stand it if Gandolf dies!"

Do not ever underestimate your children - or the power of love they can feel for a reality that is only a dream.




  1. Love this post. Had me grinning from ear to ear the entire time.
    Reading to my rascals is my favourite time of day. I've had parents tell me I was nuts to give them each an hour every night. (Take that time for you and just throw them in bed) Don't care. Best time I ever spent.
    And when they fall asleep before you're done, that's the best moment ever! Victory PARTY!
    Now they want to hear my stories, even better!

  2. I wish every parent would read this--our kids need us to read to them. Yes! I especially like the points of "why it works," and the argument against "I don't have time." Great advice. Your kids are lucky to have such a wise mother :-)

    And thanks for the comment over at my place!

  3. This is fantastic. I really LOVE this. Thanks

  4. Very nice post. I wish people would do this more for their children but many parents don't even know more about their children than what they "have to" and that's sad. But, then again, I had a great mom who made us her business.

  5. Wow. I don't have kids, but i have worked as a teacher, and I think that job would be so much easier if there were more Mom's and Dad's doing what your doing for your kids.