Making an eight year old to go bed should be fairly straight forward – or is it?
In my fairly simple world, there’s a two keywords to make it all go fairly smooth.
Keep doing the same bed procedure every school night. For an eight year old, that should be (according to yours truly) a first notice of bed time at 19:45, and action by 20:00. “Go to the bathroom, put on a pyjamas”. If there’s any loose ends that shold be dealt with (like last notice info that the child is hungry she can grab a banana) or finish anything else before 20:30. Routine is key.
- Clear messages
I like to be rather short and sweet with my messages. At eight, preperations for bed is starting. It should be done by 20:30. That is with a fifteen minute warning at 19:45. If that is met, I can offer a bit of reading time in bed. There’s no «would you like to go to bed» in my book. It’s just «it is now bed time, finish up what you are doing, and come with me».
This is not up for discussion. Discussion can be a lot of things, but bed time is bed time. An eight year old is not old enough to understand how sleep schedules work and physical state that comes with it.
But that’s just my theory. Here’s what happened last night – something entirely different.
Around seven in the evening, the child ate three slices of leftover pizza. It was a holiday after all. I deemed this to be enough food for the night based upon the marginal intake of food she usually does. The child was increasingly getting tired, and showing all the symptoms by increasing activity and more and more not responding to requests or communication. I forgot the 19:45 warning, but bed time was announced around eight (from my side). Unluckily, her mother did not notice the time, and started to make the child some fruit by request. And with that plan set in motion, I backed off a little. And so the kid started to eat fruit at 20:15, and continued this until 20:30 when I felt it was time to do something again. The child was not hungry any longer, and she could easily save the rest of the fruit until tomorrow morning. With 21:00 rapidly closing in, and the child still not responding to my clear requests of coming to the bathroom, I picked her up from her chair, and carried her to the bathroom. She increased activity once again in the bathroom, not responding to requests of putting on her pyjamas. When she eventually did, the time was now 20:55. She, eyeing an opertunity at staying up late, said she was hungry. I replied that she could eat a banana in bed. She declined, and kept on wanting to escape the bathroom routine. I stopped her from doing so a few times (but I admit this did not help). In the end, I turned her around facing the bathroom window – and brushed her teeth for her (by this time we had been in the bathroom for about 20 minutes with no real progress). Otherwise we would never have made it in proper time – which was already out the window.
The child then leaves the bathrom, and goes back to eating the fruit she left behind half an hour before. With no real support from her mother in regards to the bedtime now gone, I simply gave up and let them settle this (reminding myself that I was not her father, but a simple step father with no real jurisdiction in these matters).
After finishing the fruit, the time by now had turned 21:30. The child starts playing with her 8 month old sister, and her mom is now taking charge – telling her to go to the bathroom. The child ignores the request, and the mother leaves, frustrated by lack of response, for another 10 or so minutes. By 21:45 the child decides, basically on her own, that she would like to sleep and ask for assistance. I reply that I have tried to give assistance, but neither child or mother was very supportive of it. The mother then gets annoyed with my lukewarm attitude. I decide to help the child to bed, but before being able to, the child decides to tell her mother that I had called her «an old bitch» in the previous stint in the bathroom. I did not call her such things and I refuse to apologise to either of them for something I have not said. The child starts to cry because I do not want to apologise. I say I can’t apologise for something I have not said. The mother, increasingly frustrated, tells me; «just say sorry! She’s a child!». I still refuse, because it simply ain’t right to give in.
By 22:15, the child finally goes to bed. She asks to be read to. I decline because it is too late. The child screams; «you promised!» and cries a bit more. She then blames her mother for «hating her» because she too supports the fact that there will be no bedtime reading at this hour. The child heads to her room, but hides under her desk. I pull her out from the desk, and tell her to go to bed. Her mother joins in, starting to question my skills of upbringing because «I am forcing the child to bed». She is clearly uncomfortable with this more direct approach. I know this from earlier as well.
At 22:20, the child is in bed. She wants to be tickled. Even though she deserves no such thing after such bravado, and her mother now frustrated and angry at me for my direct approach, I give in and tickle her feet for five or ten minutes time. At 22:35, the child is finally asleep, and I exit the room.
In the living room I am confronted by the mother. She waves with a book about child upbringing, and refers to the notion that children this age should be in cooperation with their parents – not this direct “it is now 20:00 and bedtime» approach I do. I respond to this by saying I have seen her more cooperative approach which doesn’t work because too many times, this child is going to bed too late for her own physical and mental good. We discuss the matter for an hour or so without agreeing until I realise that I have to go bed as well.
And so that concludes Thursday evening.
Onwards to the next.