Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Update from the War Zone

If you've been reading this blog for more than just the last couple of months, you know that Jim and I have been fighting the bedtime battle ever since moving the kids into their big beds. (If you're new and don't know what I'm talking about, or just want to read about it again, check out Big Kid Beds and Beatings Will Continue)

Well, the kids have been in their beds for about 4 and a half months now, and I have spent that time praying constantly for God to show us a way to win this war! My nighttime patience with the kids has grown shorter and shorter as time has gone by without any measurable progress in getting the kids to go to bed well. Then one day God sent us a secret weapon, and bedtime has become MUCH easier. What is this miraculous secret weapon, you ask? Well, I'll tell you!

It's darkness! And it's wonderful!

We stumbled upon this idea basically by accident. We were fed up with the nightly nightmare of trying to keep the kids in their beds without beating them senseless or duct taping them to the mattresses! So we decided to turn the lights out as a temporary punishment. We knew that they HATED being in the dark. A few times they had been plunged into darkness accidentally, incidents that resulted in immediate screams of "It's dark! It's dark! It's dark" until the lights came back on.

So one night when we were completely OVER IT, instead of yelling at them to stay in their beds and be quiet, we merely informed them that if they didn't behave, we would turn out the lights and it would be DARK. (The lights on the ceiling fan in their room are on a dimmer switch, and we generally left them on, but dimmed all the way down) They didn't believe us, so I turned off the light, shut the door, and stood outside in the hall to listen to them yell about the darkness for 15 seconds. That's all! Only 15 seconds! Then I turned the light back on and told them they needed to stay in their beds and be quiet or I would turn the lights off again. The next time, they stayed off longer. The last time one of us turned off the lights, they all got quiet and went to sleep before we turned it back on!

That was about a week before Christmas. Our bedtime routine since then has evolved into this:

1. Put the kids to bed, say a prayer, kiss them all good night, remind them to stay in their beds and be quiet or we'll turn off the lights, and leave the room with the light dim but not all the way dim.

2. If they don't stay in their beds or are unnecessarily loud, we dim the lights all the way.

3. If they still aren't quiet, we turn them all the way off. And they stay off.

It's been wonderful! I don't have to sit in their room policing them for half an hour. We don't have to yell at them anymore! We don't spend an hour and a half (or longer) going in and out of their room to get them back into bed or tell them to be quiet and leave each other alone! Some nights we don't have to go back in at all! I go in to check on them before going to bed myself and am surprised by the brightness of the room because they were so good the lights never even got dimmed!

Peace has been restored.


And in case some of you are concerned that our children have been traumatized by their dark punishment, let me assure you that they haven't been. They aren't afraid to go to bed. They don't cry themselves to sleep. They don't scream in terror. They aren't waking up with nightmares. It's not pitch black in there, and after all, they aren't alone. That's been our whole problem! Darkness IS a punishment. If it wasn't, we wouldn't be getting results! But it isn't torture! They are fine! And sleeping soundly! And we are all at peace! At least for now!


Becky said...

So happy to hear this!
It's all about finding what's important to them and it looks like you found our bargaining chip.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I heard once that the trick to training kids is to know your child's kryptonite. You sure got their number on this one. Well done.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to know it is still working! Guess I need to get a dimmer switch bf they visit me again!

Love, K-K