It was another horrifying bedtime. My child was way to hyper to settle in and concentrate while I attempted to read a book, he didn't want to talk, he couldn't sit still, he didn't want me to leave the room. You get it, it was bad. I was almost in tears, and realized that somewhere along the way I had allowed something to happen that had created this nightmare.
You see, his older siblings were bedtime TRAINED. Bedtime was at a certain time that increased with age. Bath time, teeth brushed, books read and goodnight. No nonsense. No one slept with us, no one appeared in the middle of the night, no one cried. It took time and energy to create that peace, and it was a necessity as there were three of them and only two of us. Our youngest was trained as well until about a year ago where things just went off the rails.
That night I sat in his room, rubbing his back willing him to sleep thinking about why things had gotten so out of hand. Was it me? Was I slacking on my mom skills and allowing the baby of the family to get away with everything? His older siblings would tell you yes for sure. Why is he allowed to ride his scooter in the house they ask? I laugh and say I am older and wiser and know when to pick my battles this time around. But did I? What was really different with this child compared to the older ones?
Then it hit me. My older children did not have phones to have constant stimulation on. They had about a half hour before school and maybe an hour or two at night with a tv and with three of them it was rare that they would all sit and really watch something. We were outside all the time, board games were always happening and they had each other to play with if I was busy. They got Nintendo DS's when they were around 10 and no one got a phone until middle school. They didn't have computers in their rooms and the only computer they could play on in the house was a old Dell that they played Webkins World on.
Fast forward to our last child, he is almost like an only child. At five, only one of his siblings lives at home full time and he is almost out himself. With two parents that work from home, it is a balancing act of us being able to get things done. When we have to keep him occupied, he is handed a phone to play Minecraft, watch videos and play games. He has a Nintendo Switch he can play at any time. The TV is basically all his all day long. It became a habit to put the tv on and have it as background noise all day. I know every Nick Jr. theme song. Like really well. And the kicker is, he didn't even watch TV. He was addicted to the phone.
So here we were, almost terrified to take it away. What would happen, would we still be able to work, what would keep him occupied? I know that he likes crafts and puzzles so that was the start. A trip to the dollar store gave us a stack of puzzle books, craft supplies and little containers to keep it all in. Then I had a conversation with him. Told him things have to change, we cannot end everyday in chaos and phone time is going to be very limited. He just nodded and asked to start a puzzle book. Um. Ok.
So we started with before school phone time before breakfast, and when he came home and had a snack he could have it for about a 1/2 hour. And that was it. On weekends same thing - morning and a little in the afternoon, never going past 4. (his bedtime is 7:30).
It was obvious immediately what a mistake we had made allowing unlimited phone time. I mean, we do not allow unlimited sugar and it was basically the same thing. The stimulation was just too much for him, which is why he couldn't turn off at the end of the day. The change was almost instant. The crafts piled up and it has become fun to go to the store and find new things for him to make and create. His mood improved, he actually seemed relieved to not have the phone! Bedtime became easy again, he was listening more and sleeping longer. We found him playing with his toys, creating lego worlds and making castles with his blocks. And for the first time, when we did put on the tv, he watched it. Sat down, had a snack and watched it. So we have movie nights now, and it is adorable.
Everyone is happier, my time with my husband at night is peaceful and not full of after bedtime angst. I just wish I had realized this sooner, or maybe listened to my pediatrician when she told me he should have 1-2 hours of tv/phone per day. The biggest lesson I learned here was four kids in and I am still learning how to be the best parent for my child. Older and wiser.........