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8 to 8 (on sleep training)

December 13, 2011


It is hard to say which has been the bigger game changer for me, the laundry revolution or 8 to 8.  This refers to the hours of 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. during which all children regardless of age are tucked safely away in their beds.  While I have never been fond of children surprising us with their presence at all hours of the night or early morning, the situation became especially desperate when we added a 10 year old to our brood.  I found myself deeply resenting the first child to appear on the scene and feeling downright angry that people of all sizes were running in uninvited and leaping into bed with us.  Additionally, Dan and I were faced with the prospect of suddenly spending our quiet evenings as a threesome.  Something had to be done.

With ample explanation, and practicing (via skits) about what to do if you wake up before 8 o’clock, and of course dire threats should anyone break the new rule, we have successfully transitioned the children into the practice of staying in their room until I knock on their door and call, “8 o’clock!”

There are several reasons this has worked so well for us:

1. At bedtime, all of the children are invited to “read” in bed until they feel sleepy. This allows us to put children ages 10, 3, 3, and 1, all away at the same time without feeling guilty that the 10 year old is not sleepy and probably staring at the ceiling.

2. They all keep a stack of books and toys by the bed to play with if they wake up before 8 o’clock.  Even Miss P (or Miss Peas as she calls herself) has a little stack of board books at the foot of her crib that she is usually flipping through when I open her door in the morning.

3. None of the children have a clock in their room.  This allows me to “decide” when it is 8 o’clock depending on the agenda of the morning.  Early doctors appointment?  8 comes at 7.  Saturday morning?  8 might not come until 9.  So far, no one has caught on to my little game.

3. 8 to 8 allows me to prepare myself for the daily shock of seeing the children again.  I am no longer caught unawares or unready and can gear up to greet each of them cheerfully, (which really beats greeting them in tears because it is only 5:30 a.m. ) and I really am excited to see them after the long night of lovely separation.

I could go on and on about all the means we’ve employed to get babies and toddlers to stay in bed longer in the morning including: timers on their lights, room darkening shades, letting them cry, bribing them, punishing them, etc. but I think the bottom line is: if you don’t give in and let them get up, they’ll eventually get with the program.  The only caveat being this: if you put a baby to bed really early they are probably going to wake up really early.  So, we keep Miss P up a little later than the twins (7:30 or so) because she doesn’t have the attention span to play quietly in her crib for an hour or more as the twins will do in the morning.

And that’s a wrap.  Tomorrow’s topic: “Tidy O’ Evening” which I will say now is not actually about cleaning house.  But more on that later….


8 Comments leave one →
  1. Not your Grammie permalink
    December 13, 2011 7:30 pm

    What about when J has to go to school? Do you get her up before the others?

  2. December 13, 2011 7:42 pm

    No, her bus doesn’t come until 9:45 and she gets home at 5:15. The Minneapolis schedules are strange and are set around lots of schools sharing the same public school buses. If school started earlier, we would just do 7 to 7. Or 6 to 6 I guess.

  3. Beth S permalink
    December 13, 2011 8:19 pm

    Our house is more or less a 7 to 7 sort of place and I sure do appreciate the quiet evening times!

  4. December 13, 2011 11:35 pm

    Hi Lucy! I’m not much of a commenter, but your blog is a favorite of mine. I found it one fortuitous day when you shared a link on facebook. I know our paths occasionally crossed at Wheaton, but I have to admit that reading your blog makes me wish I’d gotten to know you better. You are a funny lady. Anyways…I am enjoying this little series, and you have given me the motivation needed to pursue a similar system. We’ve gotten the 8 at night part down, but Maren is always awake before 6:15…not good. My 8-o’clock-life begins tomorrow. Wish me luck.

  5. December 14, 2011 6:03 pm

    I love this, Lucy, way to go. We’ve put the children down at 7 as long as we’ve had children, and they are not allowed to get up or leave their room until one of us comes to get them up. This means some time playing in bed in the early morning, which is fine with us (except for the memorable morning when our then-two-year-old ripped her heating unit off the wall in her bedroom . . . )

    Once and once only, on a famous occasion, our almost-three-year-old emerged brightly from her room and skipped into the living room where we both promptly choked on our coffee in shock and horror. I sat frozen in place while Alex, that Genius, that Ever-Present-Intelligence, gasped audibly and said quietly in horrified tones, “Norah! Did you leave your room WITHOUT MOMMY OR DADDY??!” She faltered to a halt and said in a trembly voice, “Y-y-y-yess.” “Well you better turn around and get back in your room as quick as you can and never NEVER ever come out without Mommy or Daddy again.” I’ve never seen her run so fast–end of problem. Ain’t he amazing?

  6. Grammie B permalink
    December 14, 2011 9:34 pm

    What if somebody needs to use the bathroom?

    • December 15, 2011 2:56 am

      That is not allowed! Just kidding. 3 out of 4 still wear a diaper at night. #4 does have bathroom privileges.

  7. December 16, 2011 2:05 am

    Wow, this looks like a great idea! My almost-3-year old tends to wake up aroun 6:30, but I bet he could entertain himself for a while in the mornings (and might even enjoy the independence). I especially like the bit where you get to dictate when “8 o’clock” comes.

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