I don’t know about you, but bedtime is not my favorite time of the day.
I’m cranky. My kid is cranky. My husband just wants to sprawl out on the couch without having to clear the clutter of toys and crumbs and unfolded laundry. And I just want her in bed.
It’s selfish, really. But it’s the reality of being home all day with my kiddo. I’m ready for that quiet, sitting, dark of night…without a child demanding something of me every two minutes.
Unfortunately, bedtime has become a struggle as she’s gotten older. I blame part of it on an erratic season of traveling and sleeping in different beds (with Mommy). But I also think she’s figuring out what pushes my buttons. And she pushes all of them at once. Every night.
Finally exasperated, I presented the problem at a mom’s night out when one mom suggested we try a sticker chart.
We’ve tried these before. For chores. And for potty-training. But when we tried those, I was discouraged to find that she was just not very extrinsically motivated. Snacks and prizes and special trips to the park didn’t register in her little brain then, so I was afraid they wouldn’t work this time either.
But praise the Lord, things change. And my little girl is finally at the age where she can understand positive and negative consequences. Including the collecting of stickers that can lead to fun activities!
So one night I whipped up this sticker chart featuring the biggest problems we were having at bedtime:
– Having a “Good Bedtime” Routine (without whining or complaining or stalling)
– Letting Mommy leave the room with “No Crying!” (this had become a big problem)
– Putting Herself to Sleep All By Herself (instead of me laying in her bed until she dozed off) and finally
– “Sleeping ALL NIGHT LONG” (this one is a little more out of our control, what with bad dreams and being scared of animals in her room and stuff, but it’s on the chart anyways…because I want to SLEEP!)
There’s room for three days worth of stickers. For subsequent days I just print out a new chart.
How it Works:
Every time she succeeds, she gets a sticker. If she doesn’t do great, she doesn’t get a sticker. And occasionally, if she is being particularly stubborn or whiny, I will take stickers away. But rarely! I have worked out other ways for her to get those “lost” stickers back. For example, one morning I told her that if she went into her church classroom without crying I’d give her back a sticker, so for the first time in MONTHS she kissed me goodbye and walked in like a big girl, without even a glance back. Little stinker.
In the beginning we set rewards on a smaller scale to get the system established. For every three days (one whole chart) she got to do something little, like go to the park or go to the mall play area. Then we assured her that if she got “lots and lots” of stickers (this ended up being after about two weeks of consistently good sleep habits), she could do something BIG and special. (BIG=Costs money.) Like go to the local trampoline park or go to Dollywood.
For her first big reward she chose the Trampoline Park and can I just tell you…that was a very, very fun day! I let her pick a friend to bring, she got to wear her new Batgirl shirt with the pink cape, and I praised her all week (and we told EVERYONE we saw) that she got lots of stickers on her bedtime chart so we got to go to the Jump Jam! I’m not sure who enjoyed it more – me or her.
Unfortunately, the very next week we ended up having to travel for a funeral, which shot our bedtime consistency all to heck. But the chart remains, and we’re slowly building back up to where we were…
For a family trip to Dollywood…and a good night’s sleep.