Implementing a new bedtime routine

I’m not sure when it started, but if I was home I was needed for bedtime or McKenzie would stand and scream in her crib. Maybe it’s because I was home when Brian would travel or since I missed most of the day being at work that I wanted to be the one to put her to bed, but either way it became a habit that we were all use to. There was definitely a period of time where bed time was so draining for me. I think it was from the time she was about 2(April/May 2019) up until recently (Feb/March 2020). It was worse once McKenzie was potty trained in September because she started to use “I have to go potty” as leverage for an excuse to get out of bed.

We moved McKenzie to her big girl bed in November and for a little while she did let Brian put her to bed but would still scream for me, I would eventually have to go in there because we were worried she would hate her big bed. She would do all the things every other toddler would do to avoid bedtime, but it was just so draining for me. Even if Brian would come to help put her to bed she would be mean and it just wasn’t worth it having him attempt to help out. The more pregnant I became, the more I pictured myself nursing one child while going through a bedtime routine with McKenzie. I’m sure plenty of parents do it, or you just schedule so that you don’t run into that situation but I just thought if Brian is home why is it so difficult for him to be a part of bedtime.

Early March, we did our first sticker chart. Around this time, McKenzie was going through a screaming phase so we really just needed help with behavior overall. It had 4 tasks on it “Get Dressed nicely”, “Go to bed nicely”, “Take a bath nicely” and “Let Dada put me to bed nicely”. She was about 2 years and 9 months if any other parent out there is currently in this phase or approaching it or even at a different stage but remembers it. It was rough. We basically just got screamed at all the time and it was just out of control. I’m pretty sure “Let Dada put me to bed” never got a sticker. There was alot on the chart in my opinion for someone her age. Any time we spoke about the chart she just knew she had to be a good girl to get a sticker, nothing really stuck in her head. Plus we were at a point where she was nasty to me even for bedtime so I didn’t really even have hope for her letting Brian put her to bed, I just didn’t want to get screamed at anymore. The next chart we did was maybe 2 weeks later, she was still putting up a fight for everything so I was desperate. This one was way too close to the first one, and I think we eventually just got rid of it because she didn’t even care about it. Needless to say, maybe after 2-3 more weeks she definitely wasn’t screaming at us as much. Perhaps it’s because by this point we were in quarantine mode and she was just loving it, we were going outside more and just always focusing our time and attention on her which probably gave her more routine and consistency that helped with her behavior.

We were at a point in April where she was asking me to do EVERYTHING. I don’t think Brian had been in the bathroom with her while she pooped in a good month or so. It was like she would wait until her nap or bedtime when I was with her right before and all of a sudden poop for the day. So the first week of May I said “let’s do another sticker chart and only put “Let Dada put me to bed” on there”. I think this was when it finally started to click. It was one focus for her, and if she wasn’t good and would scream for Mama, she wouldn’t get a sticker. Once she got 5 stickers, which would take 10 nights since we were switching every other night, then she would get a toy that we basically just left out so she would be reminded/bribed every day. We also talked about it ALOT. When she would wake up she asked who was putting her to bed that night, or at random points throughout the day we would say “who is putting Kenzie to be tonight” so that she knew. Trust me, it was still a debate every night when it came time to go to bed. “Mommy, can you do it?” or “Mommy can come, I don’t want Dada”. It became more important for Brian at that point for her to not say things like that to him because I would even hear them upstairs the entire time where she would ask where Mama is. It sucks to not be the preferred parent, but then when you are it’s like “Holy s*it just ask your Dad”!!!

I think it has now been 3 weeks where we have been switching every other night. We went from Brian not being allowed to be involved, to a minor improvement where she would go upstairs with him but would cry for me the whole time, to even more of an improvement to where she would ask me 10 times while we were still downstairs if I could put her to bed but then would be fine for him when they finally go upstairs. We’re now at a point where she will ask me once or twice, I’ll walk her to the stairs and then she goes up with Brian. She still does a song and dance for both of us with excuses to avoid going to bed but I think overall she has gotten so much better.

Consistency has been key to getting her to behave how we want her to for bed. We could have easily given up after the 1st or 2nd night that Brian put her down because it was pretty bad. You feel like a terrible parent just letting your kid scream for you but I know for a fact if I went in there then I would still be doing bedtime alone every single night. There are even some nights that if she isn’t listening we just say “ok if you are not going to listen then you can get into bed yourself and I will see you tomorrow”. She starts to knock on the door and yell that she has to go potty and we let that go on for 2 minutes. We then open the door and ask if she is ready to listen and then we go through the routine with her (potty and a book, brush teeth and wash hands, then she gets into bed and we sing 3 songs together). We use to have to do the shut the door teaser every single night, but that isn’t the case anymore. So like I said, for us, consistency has been key. If you’re expecting an outcome in 2 days with a 3 year old then don’t bother, if you get an outcome in 2 days then please give me all the tips!

Has anyone else been through this before where only one parent is allowed to be apart of bedtime? I’m sure once the new baby comes we may regress on our progress a little but we will figure something else out then, wether it be making McKenzie think I’m putting the baby to bed before her and it’s something she can be apart of or maybe doing some part of the bedtime routine all together and then Brian or myself take the baby down so that the other parent can finish putting McKenzie to bed. It’s crazy that it takes this much effort even into the thought process of changing a routine, but damn toddlers/kids are very smart and I will not back down for a good night sleep for everyone!

Can’t wait to hear from you guys!
xo
Liz

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