Last night, I was putting my daughter, who is 20 months, to bed. She has ‘The Mamas’, as I call them, so that’s our normal. I put my daughter to bed and, when he’s home, my husband puts my son to bed. My daughter has been struggling with bedtime. She wants more time in the rocking chair to talk. Or more water. Or more cuddling as we stand near her crib. Or she wants me to get in her crib, which makes us both laugh, but she keeps asking, keeps pulling my head over it’s edge and toward the mattress. And when I put her in her bed and go to leave the room she cries. Hard. When this struggle started a few weeks ago the crying was heavy-duty and I went back in her room to comfort her some. The thing is, the struggle just continued.
So one week ago I heard my own voice, speaking with clients, in my head. “Keep your bedtime routine simple, loving, and brief.” And then, “At some point you have to decide when you’ve done enough and trust that your child is safe, clean, and well loved and say goodnight.” Instead of spending more time in the rocking chair, giving one more kiss, hug, and singing another song, I started taking my own advice and simplified our routine back to it’s original form. I started telling myself, “you’ve done enough,” and I started really saying goodnight.
In the last few days I had noticed that my daughter was throwing less and less of a fit getting in her bed and that the “mama? Mama? MAma!” cries were not lasting as long. Then, last night, I went to put her in her crib and she made one feeble, giggling attempt to push me in. Then she dove from my arms toward her blankets. I said goodnight and love you and as I crossed the room to her door she simply said, “Bye”, which in her language is the ultimate sign of being ok.
No crying followed. A little chatter, but no calls for me and then just quiet. And this is what struck me: It’s so essential to trust our children’s abilities. Sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way and let them do it themselves.
Keep the bedtime routine simple, loving, and brief.
Trust that you’ve done enough and that your child can use the comfort you’ve given them to learn to comfort him/herself.