Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bedtime Hearts to End Battles

Bedtime at my house used to be a peaceful event, which left everyone in the house with warm fuzzies. I'm not sure what caused the change, but at some point in the recent past, bedtime turned into battle time.

The calm before the storm. This is my youngest with her lovey. She rubs her lips on the frayed corner of her blanky. I think it's the cutest thing ever! Almost makes up for all the drama.

We tried sticker charts, earlier bedtimes, later bedtimes, skipping baths, adding more songs, more cuddles, teddy bears. We tried positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, spanking and ignoring. No matter what we did, our kids still insisted on coming out of their rooms a trillion times and making their refusal to sleep well known throughout the house (and maybe even the street). This added an hour to bedtime (and took an hour away from parental free time).

Then we had enough. After brainstorming and talking with friends, we came up with a plan that worked like a charm. Tonight was the forth night in a row that each kid went to bed without coming out of her room once.

Since it was so successful, I thought I'd share. Maybe one of you might need it as much as we did.

The plan:
  • Each child is given a heart at bedtime. This heart is her "pass" to come out of her room. Bathroom trips are allowed, as long as they go back to bed quietly. And obviously mid-night nightmares or illness get cuddles from mommy without losing heart.

  • Since she only gets one, she is only allowed to come out once.

  • The first time she comes out, we collect the heart

  • If she comes out a second time, she loses a privilege the next day

  • If she comes out a third time, we will actively ignore her (pick her up, carry her to bed without saying a word - and no eye contact - yikes).

  • Here's the catch - if she doesn't use the heart, she gets to keep it. When she gets 10 hearts, she gets a prize!
That's it. Neither of them came out of their room once for 4 nights!!!

Here's why I think it works:

1. Instead of having to earn something, they start out with it in their hot little hands. It's harder to give something up than to not get something that you haven't had. It also puts the control in her hands. Does that make sense?

2. Since we sat them down and explained details, we were all very clear about the expectations (including me). This gave my husband and I confidence that we were on the same team and we knew what to do. I think they could sense our confidence too.

Note: I reused these cute little hearts that were used last year in our "love garden" (another behavioral enticement that worked well). They are just wooden sticks with wooden hearts, painted and glittered.


  1. Great idea! Hope it keeps workin.

    PS- to answer your q i do not live in OC.

    I am in Corona. :)

  2. GENIUS!!! I thought I was smart by putting a "tent" in my daughters room, but then I found out even though she pretended to camp she really wasn't learning to sleep in her bed - the ultimate goal. I love your idea.

  3. Even I could'nt resist those hearts ~ they're gorgeous! Good Job! xxx

  4. Very Cute Idea & love that there hearts for Lovey Day!

  5. Positive reinforcement, works like a charm. I think you are right when you say it works because they start with something in your hands. Hopefully one day they'll fall asleep with it in their hands...

  6. That is a great idea! I think you are so right about the giving something up vs. loosing something you never had. Pure genius!!

  7. back in the day (2 yrs ago) LOL! We did a similar thing - I love the hearts! ;) We said nightly.. "if you are not bleeding, hurt, throwing up or need to potty - you are not allowed out!" ;) and used a similar reward system.... they still need nightlights and music... but we tired many many many things before this all worked! ;) Best of luck!

  8. Good for you!!! I hope this continues to work for you guys. Our little one is only 17 months so we haven't had to endure this pain yet.Though we do get upset when he is almost asleep and one of us wakes him by mistake.... my quick rule to my husband, "you wake him, you hold him"!

    Well good luck my dear!

  9. Summer -
    I have just realized part of the problem! When I tried to chat back with you via your 'comment' it redirected me to blogger - not you! ;) If you take a look on your comment on my site... click on your name... the 'url' is half web address and half email!? oops! for yours. Mine... the problem is that I am using word press - but I signed up for blogspot as well to 'secure' the name - somehow blogger is finding that and using it as my 'defalt'... (which has no posts... just keeping the name!) I am now going to post using the URL option instead of google account! Email me on my email about this so we can keep it out of our 'posts' LOL! ;)
    Jenn @ ;)