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 the Pre-K Lady is unknown.
Is she one person or many? Is she even a she? Is she – he – virtual or real?
Perhaps she’s just someone who knows that parenting is the hardest job in the world and wants to help if she can.
Regardless, you can send the Pre-K Lady your questions about parenting. She’ll get real with you – and answer your questions for better or worse – until your child’s adulthood do we part.
Dear Pre-K Lady:
My child won’t go to bed. What can I do?
-Exhausted in Oakland County
Sadly, parents are generally sleep-deprived. Pat yourself on the back though for being able to act like a fully functioning adult – while sleep walking sometimes. Then try this for a little more shuteye:
Put that child on a schedule! Children thrive on routine and, by extension, so do their parents. With your child, write his or her daily schedule clockwise on a paper plate or list it on a large piece of cardboard. Make pictures or take some photos together to illustrate the schedule. After all, you want – and need – your child to “own” and follow this schedule. Don’t give stickers or stars for compliance. These just distract from the focus. Also, short-term bribes prevent long-term transfer. Keep the schedule real but not too long.
- First talk about and write a few key words for what happens when your child gets up in the morning, such as eat breakfast, put on clothes, brush teeth, go to school. Whatever happens during the day, include a read together time, if even just 10 minutes.
- Finally – here’s the key to getting your child in bed and asleep before said child is climbing over a snoring you on the couch: The E.R.
No, that’s not the emergency room. It’s The Evening Routine. Just do it. This prevents visits to the other E.R. when your child jumps over a snoring you but lands on your schnoz.
The Evening Routine is your surest path to more rest and relaxation. To get your child to bed and asleep on time, start with dinner. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy, just a regular part of your day.
- Heat up a can of soup and make a sandwich together. Or get out the bowls and a couple boxes of cereal. Then for 15 minutes, eat and talk together at the table. Pretend you’re dining out. Call it the Kid’s Café. No matter what:
- No TV. No cell phones. No nothing, except maybe a little background music – as long as it’s mellow. You’re going for a relaxed, “I’m winding down at the end of the day” vibe.
- How to get the conversational ball rolling? Say, “Tell me a story your teacher read you today.” If your child asks suspiciously, “Why are you talking to me?” just say, “Because I love you and want to know.” Remember, the more your child talks, the more you can eat and nod, eat and nod, throwing in a paraphrase once in a while to keep the talk growing.
After dinner allow no more than 30 minutes of screen time – a nonviolent video game or TV show. Save feature length movies for a weekend morning or afternoon. Here’s why: Artificial light makes small humans feel artificially awake – for hours.
If you missed Reading Together for 10 minutes earlier in the day, make that happen now. Reading together for even a little while each day is what will rocket-boost your child into higher orbit as a learner from now going forward. And that’s not a little thing at all.
Next is getting your child out of street clothes and into 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 bathtub or by letting warm water from the shower wash over them. Wash, now that’s an interesting word. Coach your child about how to soap up:
- “Here’s the soap. See how slippery it feels going over your arm. Here’s the washcloth. See how it stops the soap from slipping around so much and feels rough, like a dog’s tongue licking you. Woof! Woof!”
Attending to “talk time” now with your child means not having to witness The Late Night Show with the same child later when your talk turns into yelling or whimpering, “Go to sleep already!”
After the bath, your child gets to “squeeze a worm” or “ribbon of frosting” on a toothbrush and “tickle lots of teeth” with it. In boring adult lingo, this is known as brushing your teeth. It’s easier and more fun to do everyday things though, when we make them playful.
Don’t forget 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 water as if parched in the desert. Also, not to nag, but do not forget to remind your child to go to the bathroom once more before the final departure of the bed bus: You drank some water, now make some water!
Remember: Winning or losing the bedtime challenge is all in how you play the game. Keep the emphasis on a playful lightheartedness but follow the same routine. Children respond well to the security of known reasonable limits for how they spend their time: aka routines.
Last but not least is PSST! Pre-Sleep Snuggle Time:
- Here’s when you and your child cuddle on the couch or – better yet – in The Bed Where Sleeping Will Soon Occur – and enjoy one more book together. If it’s a chapter book, stick to one or two chapters.
- Your child who doesn’t get to choose bed time gets to choose the book – even if you have read it a mind-numbing, soul-sucking, kill-me-now 100 times. When you give a little control, you get more control.
- Then it’s “lights out” – no artificial light except maybe a night light – and a firmly loving, “Kisses and see you in the morning.”
Now Is the time to be strong.
- Do not go back in your child’s room, unless you are worried about safety. And then, just peak in, confirm all is well, and flip the light back off, as if it mysteriously came on in your absence.
- Do not give time, talk or attention when dear child is supposed to be sleeping. Do not respond to pleas for drinks of water. You had dinner together, so you know your prisoner of love had bread and water. There was also the drink-of-water offer after teeth tickling on the way to beddy-bye. Then there was the last tinkle or pee-pee wah-wah making which will help you not fall for the “I have to go to the bathroom” SOS.
- And now – you must pretend – believe – will it – that angelic child is sleeping. If demon child suddenly appears at your side and “breaks the pretend,” just smile and wordlessly lead or point Beelzebub 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. Keep about the same schedule on the weekends for wake up and bed times – or Monday will be like starting over. Accept that Daylight Savings Time changes may upset the apple cart for about two weeks but stay the course.
Good luck, friends. You can do it.
Parents are super heroes.
~ The Pre-K Lady