Q: How do you get children to sleep?
I can finally say that I think I know something about this. My son is now 7 and my daughter is now 5. I started having success when we started getting into daily rhythms (which I have to work very hard at because I would love to do everything on my own schedule and different every time… except that now I love it that we are into a routine because it helps everything else work better!)
My kids do so much better now that we stay as close to the routine as I can. Period. I can tell the difference the next day if they went to bed 1 hour later than usual. This manifests as being very cranky when I pick them up from school the next day, as well as not waking up easily. Waking up easily is a good sign they got enough sleep. The window for both of them is 7 pm, turning off the lights BEFORE then is best. (I actually shoot for 6:30 lights off, and if we do it by 7 pm I give myself a pat on the back–or I go take a hot bath!). That means I try to be brushing teeth and then reading a book at 6pm. A good friend of mine once said,
“When the kids come home from school, my shinanigans are done!” –Sarah H.
and taking that advice is when I do my best.
I just try to focus as much as I can on making dinner at 4 pm, bath at 5:30. We of course are all getting distracted from the job a lot. I am doing better just keep plugging away at nudging them gently along. I put in a load of laundry when they are in the bath tub. I tidy as we go along so that I feel I am getting something done. Ryhthm, Rhythm, Rhythm is the Waldorf mantra and I have found that it works! The closer I stick to the same routine every night, the easier it gets. They get a spray of lavender mist as the last moment before the lights are out (DD has a light on to go to sleep and a CD of Jim Weiss “Sweet Dreams”). They get a last minute snack of something that needs no preparation like nuts, dried fruit, banana. [See Bedtime Snacks for more ideas.]
I focus on getting them magnesium every day because this is generally calming to the nervous system and most people are deficient. Calcium is the opposite of magnesium to the nerves. I would be okay with milk and honey every night* as part of the routine if you want, but you can use other things for establishing Routine–even coconut milk and honey or a yogurt. I just give them magnesium in juice with dinner and breakfast (and if they don’t drink it, I just serve it again at the next meal).
*If you give something sweet like milk and honey every night, make sure you give it before teeth brushing! If the child is exhausted, skip the teethbrushing and have them swish out the sugar with a few swishes of water. Then whisk them off to bed, like the sleep fairy!
My Mother’s experience with Cal/Mag before bed is that it strongly interferes with her sleep. Her experience was so strong with it that I recommend doing Cal/Mag early in the day. And, ONLY do Magnesium without Calcium after 4 pm.
If you have a child young enough to take naps I would recommend DAILY RHYTHM with a nap at 10:30 or 11 a.m. Our Pre-k and K children in the Waldorf school get a “quiet time” at 1pm. But, I felt that my little ones at home not yet in school needed their nap earlier in the day as to not interfere with the bedtime. So, breakfast, then a walk outside, then snack and then nap. Worry about lunch and dinner after the nap/quiet time.
It will take time. They will likely resist at first if you have not established rhythm yet. It has to be gently and if you lay on the floor/bed and do not respond to them, eventually they may get it; maybe not every time, but it is good for them no matter if they sleep or not.
If someone told me this 5 years ago, I didn’t believe them. But, now I get it. It’s true for me.
Oh, and me going to sleep at 3 a.m. would totally trash the whole system. My body goes cold at 10pm and I notice brain lags the next day if I stay up to 1am. By 3 am I cannot fall asleep or get warm. Me getting enough sleep is the #1 priority of our home (Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint puts it as #5, but for parents and children I put it at No. 1.). Everything is better with sleep. All tasks melt like butter when I am well slept.
So, how do you get it done? What is something you have learned or are struggling with about how to nurture your family and create a more peaceful home?