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How to Get Your 3-Year-Old to Go the F*ck to Sleep

Photograph by Rebekah Henderson

“I woke up this morning and had a leisurely stretch in my bed. Birds were chirping gently. I could smell the coffee brewing, and I thought to myself, this is heaven, I am so well rested!” said no parent ever.

Remember when Samuel Jackson read “Go the F*ck to Sleep”? It was so funny before we had a kid. It is only now, in this third year with my son, that I truly understand the text of that great and influential work.

If you already have a successful bedtime routine and your kid just goes to bed without a struggle and you are rested, well, bully for you. Oh, and the rest of us HATE YOUR GUTS. Get out of here, this is a safe space for sleep-deprived parents who just want their dream to come true and that dream is for their kid to go the f*ck to sleep so we can see what happens on "Outlander"! (Fingers crossed for nudity!)

My son is amazing. The past three years on this journey we call parenthood have been joyful, stressful and life-altering on many levels. My boy is funny and smart, and growing more independent every day. He is potty trained (during the day anyway—I'm not a damn miracle worker). He says “please" and "thank you” regularly. He shares with other kids. He has a delightful habit of telling me he loves me and that he wants to cuddle.

But the thing is, he's also trying to kill us with torture tactics on a nightly basis.

If this sounds familiar to you, fear not, you are not alone. And I am here to share all the things we tried to get him to go the f*ck to sleep.

** Spoiler alert: None of this sh*t works and the interwebs and your mommy friends are full of LIES. **

Start Dinner Earlier

Theory: This will allow more time for winding down and it's hard to get kids to settle down after they have just eaten.

Great idea, except my husband and I both work, so we try to feed him as soon as one of us gets home but it's not particularly early. On the weekends we have tried this, he still will not go to sleep—so I'm calling B.S. He just says he's hungry at bedtime.

Make Sure you Have a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Theory: Kids need and love consistency and routines. This makes them feel safe and like they know what is going to happen.

We give him a bath, we read him books, we tuck him in. He says goodnight. We say goodnight. Thirty seconds later, he is out of bed. We tuck him back in consistently, sing him an extra song, and give extra hugs and kisses. He then consistently gets out of bed 5,000 more times.

Super Nanny Method

Theory: They will eventually stay in bed if you remain consistent and keep putting them back in bed.

Just keep putting him back to bed over and over and over. He gets out of the bed over and over and over. Trading off with your partner makes this one super fun, especially if you are trying to watch T.V. You start to hate each other even though neither one of you did anything wrong, except say, "It’s your turn—you put him back to bed."

LIES, LIES, LIES. He will putter around for an hour while we ignore him and still go to bed too late.

Ticket Method

Theory: Child knows they have a limited number of times to get out of bed.

This is the one where you give a limited number of tickets that the child can relinquish each time they get up. We gave him three. And still had to Super Nanny his butt back to bed thousands of times.

Limit Liquids

Theory: Child won’t have to pee as much at night.

OK, so I tried this because of all the bed wetting, but the crying for water turned me off so I put a Pull-Up on him and we let him drink all the water he wants. We live in a dry climate and I might be a momster, but I’m not a monster.

Provide Consequences

Theory: Child will not continue with the behavior because he understands that his actions have consequences.

Oh, we tried. We take things away, we pretend to throw toys in the garbage. Sometimes we actually throw them in the garbage. We say "no TV" and follow through on it, we offer positive bribes, then we get to the threatening portion of the evening where we take turns saying "I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE" to each other.

Ignore the Behavior

Theory: If you ignore undesired behavior and highlight the positive, your child will stop behaving in unacceptable ways.

LIES, LIES, LIES. He will putter around for an hour while we ignore him and still go to bed too late.

Spend More Quality Time With Child

Theory: Child is wanting more of your attention, so when you are with your child, be present.

I love this one. Taking a few minutes to really connect with my little homie is one of the joyful parts of parenting. Kids are hilarious. Only problem is there is no cap on the amount of attention a 3-year-old desires. I could spend the entire day raptly listening to every random thing my kid says and he still pulls the same tricks every night.

Let Child Sleep in the Bed With You

Theory: You and child can sleep at last.

We are not a co-sleeping family. In fact, we all have our own beds because my husband snores. But I confess, sometimes after all of the things we try to get him to go to his bed, I let him get in my bed and I tell him to go the f*ck to sleep. Of course he snores just like his daddy, so only one of us sleeps.

The general theme for all of this advice is consistency. My husband and I both feel that we are consistent.

Consistently tired.

We keep thinking it’s going to kick in one day and he will just go to bed. We will sit on the couch, rub each other’s feet and finally find out if Claire and Jamie get naked on "Outlander." But for now my fellow parents and partners in suffering, it’s only a dream—an unattainable dream.

I'm sorry if you thought this article was actually going to help you get your 3-year-old to go the f*ck to sleep, but unlike all those other articles and advice-givers, I'm telling you the truth. Sleep is part of your old life and it's never coming back.

Happy holidays!