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Our Totally Amateur Parenting Mistake

My husband and I consider ourselves very fortunate. Our child is, and always has been, a great sleeper. We have never had major issues with sleep.

She did experience night terrors when she was younger, but we learned what triggered them and how to handle them when they did occur. And they seem to have ended.

Our bedtime routine is simple and has changed very little in the past six years. I dubbed it “The Three Bs” when our daughter was really young: bath, books and bed. When she was old enough, we added brushing, as in teeth and hair.

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After books, we tuck her in with her lovies and special blanket, just the way she likes them. Then I sing her a lullaby. She yawns and rubs her eyes as I give her one last kiss. Most of the time, as soon as I leave her room, she is asleep.

We try not to deviate, even for special occasions. On the few times we have, it has not gone well. As a result, I am very strict about her bedtime.

But recently, my husband and I both noticed our daughter was not falling asleep right away as she usually does. She was lying in bed awake for a half hour or more. Consistently.

After about two weeks of this, we did some research. We found the average child her age normally needs a little less sleep. So we decided to push her bedtime back by 30 minutes.

She was excited. From her perspective, adding half an hour to her day offered endless possibilities. But it quickly became clear we had not thought things through. Here are three things we didn’t consider:

1. Changing a child’s schedule impacts the whole family

It wasn’t until after we instituted the new bedtime that my husband and I realized how much the change would affect us. He normally does not get home until 7 or 7:30. In the past, he might have time to read one quick book to our daughter and kiss her goodnight before the lights went out. Then he would rush downstairs to eat, because he was starving. I would take a shower. (It has been easier for me to do it at night since becoming a mom.) Then we would have time together. Her new bedtime threw all of that into a tailspin.

2. An extra 30 minutes can feel like a really long time

Since we had such a strict routine established, I found she and I continued on as normal, getting her ready for bed and then having an extra 30 minutes to kill. Which was harder to do than it sounds. I mean, how many books can you read to a child before bed anyway? Often hubby and I would be looking at the clock and each other going, now what? Our daughter, on the other hand, would want to jump out of bed and play in her room. Which caused her to get wound up and made it harder to get her to go to sleep.

3. Small changes can have a big impact

Why we did not consider this is beyond me. Daylight Savings Time anyone? Every parent knows how much one hour can wreak total havoc on your household. At first, things seemed to be going well with our new schedule. About two weeks in, I began to notice our daughter was very grumpy in the afternoons and evenings. Epic whining would often occur. Major meltdowns were happening for no apparent reason, which is out of character for her. She was not functioning at her best. I realized she hadn’t adjusted to the new bedtime as well as we had initially thought.

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In the end we learned the adage is very, very true: don’t fix what isn’t broken. We have gone back to our daughter’s old bedtime and peace once again reigns in the Ross home. No, I don’t expect she will go to bed at 7:30 when she is 16 years old. But for now, it is what works best. Before we make changes in the future, we will think them through much more carefully.

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Image by Elizabeth Flora Ross

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