Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Tip: When toddlers say no-no to naptime

People always seem to marvel when I tell them our kids still take naps.  Not all of them, of course.  At six years old, Liam is hard-pressed to sit still let alone lie down during the day but even so, our family frequently enjoys "quiet time" on weekends; Liam will read, Ciara (now almost five) will still take an occasional nap and at 2 1/2, Kevin, Declan and Cormac still take a 2 1/2 hour nap on most afternoons. 

How?  Why?  I suppose because in our house, NOT napping was NEVER an option.  I confess that we are blessed with naturally good sleepers; we've been extremely lucky in that regard.  However, even good sleepers will occasionally engage in a "survival of the sleepiest" battle at naptime and our house is no exception.  When the battle begins, we armor up and agree to never surrender.  We just can't give in to a trio of toddlers throwing a tantrum.  If we do, chaos will reign, they will take over and be swinging from the chandelier before I can say "back to bed!"  That's my fear, anyway.  And I think my fear has a lot to do with my good nappers.

I love to sleep. And frankly, I am afraid of the me I become when I don't get a good night's sleep; this is why I would force feed bottles to all of our kids at midnight -- not because I was innately concerned about their nutritional intake but rather, I knew if their bellies were full, this Mama would have a shot at six uninterrupted, blissful hours of shut-eye.    The sleep-deprived me is kind of scary; she is not someone you'd want to leave your five kids alone with. I'm not proud to admit it but when I'm overtired, I act just like an OTT (OverTired Toddler) -- irrational, stubborn, prone to crying, you get the gist.  It is because I know this about myself that I am dedicated to ensuring my kids get the rest they need.  At naptime as at nighttime, their sleep time is my downtime.  Those Sunday afternoons when the whole clan is down are the only moments Des and I have to sit and read the paper... or, perhaps more likely, mow the lawn or chop veggies for the week ahead.  Either way, nap time is time we need and we count on and I think a few simple ground rules have laid the groundwork for our success with sleepers:

  1. Resiliance.  As I mentioned, no nap was never an option here in the Lyons Den.  No matter how intense the whining, the crying, the screaming, the tossing of toys and taking off of sheets and on more than one occasion, the famed Triplet Diaper Toss, we never caved in.  They stayed in their cribs.  They cried it out.  And they eventually tired out.  And went to sleep.  Usually, anyway.  On the days where two hours went by and sleep never came, there was still quiet time.  And even if it wasn't so quiet, it was still two hours that I wasn't tripping over toddlers. Is it always easy?  No way.  But Is it worth it in the end to battle through?  Absolutely.
  2. Rewards.  For now, the triplets are still in their cribs but, it won't be long before they are out and relishing the freedom of a "big boy bed."  When this day comes, I'm sure they will test us in the same ways Liam and Ciara did -- appearing every five minutes in need of a glass of water or another book or another kiss or hug or back rub or... you get the idea!  This one stumped us at first.  And our first attempt to regain control wasn't successful -- the route we initially took was the punishment/deprivation route.  As in "if you get out of bed one more time I will take away your (fill in the blank)" or "you won't be able to watch TV for a week!"  This proved totally ineffective and doubly frustrating as we were met with responses like "I don't like that anymore anyway!" or, worse yet, "I don't care!"  I expected to hear these words from a sullen teen, not a tired toddler.  Far more successful for us has been positive reinforcement.  As in "if you just lie down for an hour, you can watch a half hour of TV when you get up."  More often than not, by the time the hour rolls by, their eyes have rolled back in their heads, they are sweetly snoring and when they wake up quite possibly grumpy because they lost the battle, you'll be glad to offer them their consolation prize -- which in our house, is a half hour of The Backyardigans.
  3. Repetition. When it comes to parenting, we've rarely had success the first time around (see above: force feeding bottles at midnight actually resulted in more spit up than anyone should ever experience!).  That's why we tend to live by the mantra, if at first you don't succeed, try try again!  Don't give up and before you know it, your little tot will be having sweet dreams... and hopefully you will too!


Gillian Griffiths said...

I'm the same way without my sleep! It's scary:) so we'll be having nap time as long as possible in our house!

Tiny Blue Lines said...

This is pure gold!! I'm about to start working nights as a labor and delivery nurse, which of course has coincided with my oldest (3) thinking she is going to give up naps. I'm deathly afraid of this combo, as I am definitely like you--a grown-up toddler when I'm tired. So long story short, this post came at the perfect time, thank you so much! I came to your blog through Blogstar, and I love it. Triplets, oh my gosh, I can't imagine! So inspiring!

Melissa @ Love Affair With My Brother said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been sleep deprived for 3 days because of a recent hospital stint and last night was the first night I got to sleep in my own bed and not on my toddlers floor. Sometimes being persistent and consistent is the only answer!

K. C. said...

When my kids nap, they're up way too late at night for my taste. I actually discourage naps because I don't want to give up my evenings. :)