NAMA WINSTON: Tween bedtimes. A story of tears (mine).

By the time a child is ten, like mine is, you’re supposed to have a lot of stuff sorted out, right? They can do the basics independently: take care of their own hygiene, pack lunch, tie shoelaces, read and respond to your texts messages for you when you’re driving, order Uber Eats while you dash into the bottle-o on the way home from Friday night sports. The basics.

The stuff that drove you insane on a daily basis when they were younger is supposed to now be a non-issue. Like bed times. There shouldn’t be tantrums. You don’t need to fortify yourself with a large wine at 6pm to prepare for bed-time drama.

And yet, when I saw this meme the other day, I died a little on the inside:

The trouble is, whilst Real American Dadass seems to be a dad to small kids, and he’s not talking about tweens, I could relate to this meme more than I want to admit.

You see, even though we’re supposed to have our bedtime routine together by now, in recent months I’ve found it getting harder. No one told me this would happen. I wasn’t prepared for this. And it’s grossly unfair, because I was seriously seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. One would think that if this kid can have his own Netflix account, he can put himself to bed in a timely manner.

Apparently not.

So, what do you do when they are old enough to understand the real meaning behind the bedtime book, Go The F*ck to Sleep? What do you do when you can’t shove (lovingly) a dummy in their mouth?

If your kid is a little younger, here’s our podcast helping you to get them to sleep. (Post continues after audio.)

Well, necessity is the mother of invention, so here are some of my unorthodox bedtime techniques, which will leave you wondering whether I’m a genius, or if you should feel really, really sorry for my kid:


Getting him physically into the bedroom

My secret weapon is horror. I start to tell my kid a scary story in a creepy voice, “One day…there was a house…in the middle of the woods…that all the villagers neverrrrr went near”.

It may possibly scar him for life, but that’s all I sometimes need to say to get him running to his bedroom after refusing to, so quite frankly, it’s worth it.

Crazy Mum

When I am about to lose my sh*t, I’ll occasionally have the presence of mind to warn my son: “Crazy Mum is coming.” Implied in that is “Run. For. Your. Life.” I use this when he won’t get up from the sofa to go to bed, or on the third or so time he comes creeping down from his bedroom. It’s generally effective, and if Crazy Mum does visit, I find it’s a nice release to get some things off your chest after a long day of parental restraint.

Back massage

Not for him – lol lol lol – for me. If he’s still whining 30 minutes later that he’s not tired and can’t sleep, I get him to kneel behind me while I sit on his bed, and tell him to rub big, hard circles into my back until he collapses. It stops the cycle of his “I can’t sleep” thoughts, clears his head, physically exhausts him, breaks his spirit a little and relaxes me just enough so that Crazy Mum doesn’t appear.

Bedtime luxury

I am so going to be judged for this article, so I might as well come totally clean: I let the kid apply some of my face cream – or what he thinks is my face cream (I hide the good sh*t in my wardrobe). It smells great, and he finds it a relaxing thing to do. I know what you’re thinking: #singlechildsyndrome. But it helps him relax, and I think because he knows it’s an adult thing to do, it makes him feel less like a kid who’s being bossed around by an ogre who unreasonably wants his brain to get the rest it so desperately needs.


Eat something

The advice for adults who can’t sleep is to get up and do something else, or eat some carbs. So sometimes when he’s restless, I get him up and we have a quiet piece of toast together, and it’s also a chance for him to tell me anything about his day that’s suddenly on his mind. Plus, did I mention that I eat some toast in the name of being a supportive parent, too?

Sleep deprivation torture

I’ve learnt to wake this kid up in the morning at the same time no matter what, even if he was messing around until 10:30pm the night before. This isn’t just about getting his pattern set – it’s about not ruining the upcoming evening by having him too alert to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, yet again. So now I let him be exhausted. After a couple of days of that, he eventually makes his own decision to go to bed on time – at least for the next few nights, anyway!

If for some strange reason none of my pioneering sleep techniques work for your child, check out this website for more traditional advice.

So, good luck, bon chance, may the Force be with you, and may the odds be ever in your favour – for getting bedtime sorted.

If you’d like to hear more from Nama Winston, see her stories here, and subscribe to her weekly Mamamia Parents newsletter here.


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