Ask the PEEP Lady
Like Super Nanny before the TV show, Clark Kent before the comic strip, Sasha Fierce back when Beyonce needed a last name, and Bigfoot to this day – the true identity of PEEP Lady is unknown.
Is she one person or many? Is she even a she? Is she – he – virtual or real?
Regardless, you can send PEEP Lady your questions about parenting and kids, and she’ll get real with you – answering those questions for, better or worse, until, well, your child’s adulthood do we part.
Dear PEEP Lady:
My child won’t go to bed. What can I do?
– Exhausted in Kazoo
Besides accepting that parents are sleep-deprived beings who have perfected acting like fully functioning adults when they’re actually sleep-walking, try this:
Put that young ‘in on a schedule! Children thrive on routine – and by extension then, so do their parents. Write the schedule on a paper plate going clock-wise or list it on paper or a piece of cardboard with your child. Let him or her draw pictures for the different parts of the schedule. After all, you want – need – your child to “own” and follow it.
So, first, write the time your child gets up in the morning, then what comes next – school – then lunch, then whatever happens after school which should include Doing The Homework of Reading 10 minutes a day, then – and now we’re getting to the key to getting your child in bed and asleep before they’re climbing over you snoring on the couch: The E.R.
No, that’s not the Emergency Room, it’s the Evening Routine – which might just keep you from having to visit the other E. R. when your child jumps over a snoozing you and lands too hard.
The Evening Routine, sometimes known as the Evening Recipe, Route to Respite Care, or Road to Redemption for parents is your surest path to some R & R:
Getting your child to bed and asleep, starts with getting together for dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a regular part of your day.
*** Heat up a can of soup and make a sandwich together. Get out the bowls and a couple boxes of cereal. Then for 15 minutes, eat and talk together at the table.
*** No TV. No cell phones. No nothing, except maybe a little background music – not hard rock or rap. Switch to mellow jazz or classical music. You’re going for a relaxed, “I’m winding down at the end of the day” vibe.
*** Get the “conversational ball rolling,” by saying, “Tell me about a story your teacher read you today.” If your child asks, “Why are you talking to me like this?” just say, “Because I love you and want to know.” Remember, the more you get your child talking, the more you can just keep eating and nodding.
After dinner on a weeknight, allow no more than 30 minutes of screen time – be it a video game or TV show – feature length movies, don’t go there until the weekend. Here’s why:
*** Artificial light makes small humans feel artificially awake – for hours.
If it doesn’t work to have your child Do The Reading Homework for 10 minutes after school or before dinner, this is the time to do it – before anything else. It's that important. Reading a little bit every day will rocket-boost your child into higher orbit as a learner from now onward, not a little thing, at all.
Next is getting your child out of their street clothes and into their sleep clothes. A bath is generally a great way to do this. Think of it as a bridge over troubled waters to bed. Many children like playing in the bath tub or letting warm water from the shower wash over them. Wash is an interesting word. Stay nearby for safety and to give your child some coaching:
*** “Here’s the soap. See how slippery it feels going over your arm... Here’s the wash rag. See how it stops the soap from slipping around so much and feels rough, like a dog’s tongue licking you. Woof! Woof!”
Attending now to talk time with your child means not having to attend The Late Night Show with your child later where talk turns into yelling, as in “go to sleep already!”
After the bath, your child gets to “squeeze a worm” or “ribbon of frosting” on her “teeth comb” and “tickle her teeth” with it. In boring adult lingo, this is known as brushing your teeth. It’s easier and more fun to do things, though, when we make it playful.
Don’t forget afterwards to offer your child that last drink of water before bed – or it may come back to haunt you later, when your child begs for a drink like someone lost in the desert. Not to be a nag, but don’t forget to remind your child to go to the bathroom once more, too, before leaving the bathroom for bed. Try saying, “You just drank some water, now see if you can make some come out!” Once again, it’s all in how you play the game, whether you’ll win or lose the bed time challenge.
Last is PSST! or Pre-Sleep Snuggle Time:
This involves you and your child getting cozy on the couch or – better yet – in The Bed Where Sleeping Will Soon Occur – and reading a fairly brief book or two together. If it’s a chapter book, stick to one or two chapters. Then, it’s “lights out” – no artificial light except maybe a night light – and a firm but loving, “See you in the morning” from you.
Now is the Time to be Strong:
Do not go back in your child’s room, unless you become worried about his or her safety. And then, just peak in, confirm all is relatively well, and flip the light back off, if it had mysteriously come on in your absence. Do not give time, talk, or attention to your child when said Child is supposed to be sleeping. Do not respond to pleas for drinks of water. You and your child had dinner together, so you know eating and drinking has occurred. There was also the drink-of-water offer after teeth brushing. There was the last tinkle or pee-pee. You must pretend that your child is sleeping. If your child suddenly appears at your side and “breaks the pretend,” without a word, just lead or point him or her back to bed in a matter of fact manner. Don’t get upset. Conserve your energy. You need it. You’re a parent.
The Key that Unlocks Your Future:
Make sure your child gets up at the scheduled time the next morning. A few mornings of having to be the early bird cures night owls. Try to keep about the same schedule on the weekends for wake up and bed times – or Monday will be like starting over.
Good luck, friends. You can do it. Parents are super heroes.
~ The PEEP Lady