Jeni Marinucci: Panic Button Years


Teaching Kids Independent Sleep Habits

It's Never Going to Happen, Is it?

getting kids to sleep on their own

My teenager sleeps until noon or later on a regular basis. It’s a point of contention in our relationship but I’m learning to let it go because I realized that more sleep = less fighting and I’m all about less eye-rolls these days. Fifteen-and-a-half is kicking my ass 100 times harder than two or four or seven-and-three-quarters, but I can honestly say that sleep and sleep issues have never been an issue for my daughter.

The boy, however, is another story. He’s almost sleeping through the night on his own and at 100-and-something months old he’s right on track, yes?

The problem stems from my need to be on nightly vampire look-out duty  for almost the past year. It's now at the point where neither of us even remembers exactly why or when it started, only that it's the way it is now.  When my son spends the night at his dad's house and I get to sleep in my own bed my back hurts because my muscle memory is gone in regards to that mattress. I no longer recall what it’s like to snooze atop a Sealy "Comfort Sleep Pillow Top" queen. Nope; my spine now only recognizes the lumps of an Ikea "Who Cares If It Gets Pissed On" twin. I lay down with him at bedtime (to guard against vampires) and inevitably fall asleep. I then either: a.) wake up at midnight, thoroughly refreshed from a three-hour "nap," only to crash at 6am when normal people's days begin; or, b.) wake up at 9am cuddled up to a snuggly fleece-clad child, well-rested but covered in elbow-size bruises from nocturnal jabbing.

I have to start sleeping in my own bed again. Otherwise how will I get used to being alone forever? Really, I'm just spoiling myself. So I've consulted experts in the field (a lady at the liquor store) and experienced veterans (my Gramma,) considered their sage advice and come up with the following list for getting your child to sleep at a decent hour, in their own bed.

Good luck. I'll be having an afternoon exhaustion nap on the couch if you need me.

  1. If your child says they're afraid of, say, vampires, make sure to tell them there is no cause to be afraid. Explain that a vampire won't actually kill you, but rather that they would merely bite you on the neck causing you to become a vampire yourself. This ought to lay their minds to rest immediately.
  2. The best bedtime snacks are nutrient dense and highly caloric. Smoothies are a great night-time snack option.  I like to purée a pound of butter with some turkey gravy. Add a splash of chamomile for resistant sleepers.
  3. Wine. Just keep drinking until you don't care anymore. Heads up: This tip will appear in many future columns.
  4. Avoid television before bed. No media means no scary images for your child to worry about in the dark. Last week my son caught the tail end of an American political debate about women’s reproductive rights and I was up until the wee hours explaining that a.) we're Canadian and b.) my son doesn't have a uterus, and even if he did, he could do whatever he wanted with it.
  5. Wear that kid out. Sometimes a simple trip to the playground will be enough exercise for a child. If your son or daughter is particularly high-spirited, you may need to go beyond that. Does your roof need to be re-shingled?
  6. Change the clocks. You’re already going “no media,” so they won't know what time it is. As long as the sun isn't high in the sky, they will probably fall for it. Start yawning at 5pm. around 6, makes offhand comments about how tired you are, and how "fast this day has flown by." Don't worry about the antique clock in the hallway you lost the key for; no kid has known how to tell analog time since 1978.
  7. Make your bedroom as unappealing as possible to night-time travellers. Mouse traps under newspaper as effective and don’t hurt for long.
  8. A hot bath followed by a lavender oil foot rub is conducive to sleep. Just make sure your child rubs your feet for long enough to really wear themselves out.
  9. Start the bedtime routine early. Most children dislike abrupt transitions, so try to make “awake to sleep” times seamless. I like to give my children ample warning when bedtime is approaching. When you send them more to school in the morning, say something like, "Have a great day! It's bedtime in 9 hours!"
  10. Host a sleepover. Chances are your child won't want his friends knowing he still sleeps with his mom. Peer pressure is a strong force, and it’s going to bite you on the ass later when your kids want every gadget Apple pumps out of China, $200 running shoes and tickets to One Direction concerts. Peer pressure OWES you. Sure, sleepovers mean you'll have extra kids in your house, but as long as they flush the toilet and don't tell anyone how often you say "shit" in an evening, then who gives a shit? At least you'll be getting some sleep in your own bed.

If you've tried these tips and nothing seems to be working, rest assured: Your child will not sleep with you forever. Once they're married, their spouse will probably put an end to it.




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