I just realized today is Thursday and it’s my day to post so this will be kind of last-minute. Today is a chilly fall day here in Idaho and I’m currently huddled up under a blanket in the corner seat of the couch (we have one of those big comfy wrap-around couches –a sectional– so it has a corner seat that is my favorite spot) with my favorite little guy Eli, who has a blanket of his own and socks on his hands (don’t ask). He’s sitting so close to me he is practically on top of me but I don’t mind. He’s watching a show while Sophie naps and I relax a bit. We went on a walk around the neighborhood this chilly fall morning with some friends so it’s been a great day so far for them. They love to get out of the house, and if I have an adult buddy to talk to so do I.
None of that has anything to do with what I’m going to post about today, I just thought I’d share a little description of our day today for you all since it is such a nice, happy day over here.
What I want to write about today is a recent parenting success I’ve had. This parenting thing… well, it’s hard. There’s no one right or wrong way to do things, and even with each child things are different. You have to take so many things into account for so many different issues that come up along the way. I make mistakes. LOTS of them. Every day. I am learning every day how to be a better parent than I was the day before but sometimes I even go backwards for a while. Like I said, it’s hard. We all have those “backwards days” and trying moments/ongoing struggles. I in no way attribute my recent parenting success to my own cunning. I think it was partly a change in Elijah’s developmental growth, but mostly divine help. I also don’t think this will necessarily work for every child as they have different personalities and respond to different things. I am still learning what my kids respond to best.
So for the past several months I have struggled with Elijah’s bedtime. For the first while when he and Sophia started sharing a room it was difficult because Eli just wanted to play with Sophie instead of sleep. He would get out of bed, turn on the lights, and it became a real struggle getting them both to go to sleep at a decent time. After a while of struggling, and trying EVERYTHING, I just started putting him to bed first (him first because he doesn’t nap during the day like she does and also he is a much heavier sleeper so he won’t wake up when I put Sophie to bed later) and then bringing Sophia in once he’s asleep. Even so, it has still continued to be my biggest struggle with this child (it just doesn’t affect Sophie anymore). Sophie is typically fairly easy to put to bed. Even when she protests, her protests don’t last long and then she’s like “yeah, ok. I’m tired. Let’s go.” Eli will fight to the death, and not just with words. At even the mention of “bed” or even “let’s go upstairs” he would scream, run away, fight, kick, scream, fall on the floor, etc. I tried different things with him from putting him in the corner for that kind of behavior to “If you come upstairs nicely we’ll read TWO books,” or “Which pjs do you want to wear, YOU choose,” or “Let’s go get on pjs and then I’ll tickle your back for a while.” All have worked for a few days at most. Another one that works is offering a bath before bed (they both love baths) but I just can’t keep that up EVERY single night, especially because the struggle then turns into not wanting to get out of the bath so it doesn’t really solve the problem. Then there is the issue of staying in bed and I have literally sat outside his bedroom (or IN his bedroom) for longer than an hour putting him back in bed every time he gets out, every night for weeks. The problem with this is that it works but doesn’t last. Eventually he realizes I stopped waiting outside his door and he starts getting out of bed again. It also doesn’t work well because I have another child I need to take care of (and Alex is often not home yet) so sitting outside a bedroom door for an hour and a half is hard to do.
Because of this, his bedtimes have often ended in tears for him and near-tears for me. Reading stories will always go well and is enjoyable for both of us, but then when that’s over it’s back to the struggle. And at the end of the day, I am NOT at my best. I’m tired. I’m physically, mentally, and emotionaly spent. I’m ready to go to sleep myself. In other words, I’m just as cranky as he is. My patience is spent. I’m just… over it. I just want him in bed and to STAY THERE. I also just want him to go to sleep quickly so Sophia can go to sleep too.
I know I have prayed about it at some point, although I know I haven’t recently. I had just kind of given up and accepted this as my life now. But then, one day, a thought crept into my head… “what if, before bedtime I spend some time praising him for all the good choices he has made throughout the day and pointed out how he chooses to follow Jesus every day by these good choices he is making throughout the day?” (and there really are a lot of things to praise him for because he really is a very good boy, even if this post hasn’t made him sound that way so far). A few weeks ago we had a Family Home Evening about the pre-existence (before we came to earth) and it has really resonated within him. He really cares about choosing to follow Jesus (and NOT Lucifer! like he would say) and make good choices. He talks about following Jesus at some point every single day. By far it is the one Family Home Evening lesson that he has really stuck onto and seems to understand perfectly. So I figured, why not take what he has so quickly and easily recognized to be truth, and use it to make bedtime easier? I don’t think I thought of it on my own. I really think it was an answer to a prayer I offered up a loonnggg time ago. In fact, the idea to talk about the pre-existence for FHE was probably also a part of the answer to that prayer, which is probably why I felt a prompting to do that lesson in the first place. On top of this praising idea, I also offer him a treat (a few chocolate chips) the next day when he wakes up if he makes a good choice and goes to bed nicely (this at least gets him upstairs nicely so we can begin all that praising as I get him ready for bed)- this treat idea hasn’t worked until recently because he was just not old enough yet to respond to a treat so far in the future.
Now his bedtime routine consists of me announcing it’s time to get ready for bed and then quickly cutting the protests off by reminding him about his treat when he wakes up if he goes nicely without fighting me. As we go I start praising him, starting with what a good job he’s doing going to bed so nicely. He usually reminds me of a few as we go and then I remind him that making all those good choices is how he follows Jesus. I ask him if he wants to keep following Jesus and he always says “yes!” and then I remind him that Jesus wants him to obey his parents and go to sleep both because it is what his parents want him to do, and because it is good for his body to rest. I remind him that Jesus, and mommy and daddy, want him to be happy and for him to be well-rested and grow big and strong. We read a book or two, sometimes we talk and tickle and giggle, I help him with his prayer, and then when it’s time for me to leave the room we are both in a great mood and he is determined to show me (and Jesus) that he can make good choices so he stays in bed and is usually alseep within 10-15 minutes. The difference has been like night and day.
I’m grateful that we aren’t alone in having to make these parenting decisions. Our Father in Heaven knows each one of us, and our children, even better than we do. He knows how we think and what we respond best to. He knows Elijah and He knows what works for him. He also knows me and my capabities as a mom and He knows how to help me help him. He wants us all to succeed, we just have to ask for the help. And that help doesn’t always come right away, but He will always answer those prayers, in His own way, and His own time, when we are ready to recieve the help He is offering.
It has been a few weeks now and this new addition to the bedtime routine is proving to be divinely inspired. It has made a real difference in our home. Bedtime for Elijah has become 100% a joy from the beginning, to the end (the part where he stays in bed!). I’ve even started putting Sophie to bed at the same time as him and haven’t had very many issues. What makes me happiest, though, is that I know he is actively choosing the right every day and wants so earnestly to follow the Savior. What more could a mom want?