My hubby has been deployed for two weeks and ever since he left, my two daughters (ages 2 and 3) have been staying awake after I put them in bed. They've been making messes, doing dangerous things, coming downstairs wanting this and that and everything they can come up with... I think part of the problem is that my two year old is trying to give up her nap (the 3 year old has been done with naps for a long time). She refuses to stay in her room for naps and ends up falling asleep on the couch or the floor... And then we have bedtime battles again. I've tried to cut the nap out completely, but I cannot for the life of me get her to stay awake until bed time--even an earlier one! What can I do?
Nights are hard as is, but I can only imagine what you are going through. I'm guessing that nighttimes aren't just hard for your girls, but for you too. Here are a few thoughts...
I wouldn't give up the two year old's nap just yet. If it is three hours, you could always wake her after one, but I would probably just let her sleep. So, here are some ideas to help with the bedtime routine...
1. Dark. I think it helps to get the room as dark as possible. Then, they aren't able to get up and make as much trouble. It is hard in the summer because it stays light so late, but I would even pin towels up to give it a try, if your windows aren't dark enough.
Bath before Bed. I think that one of the hardest things before sleep is just calming our bodies down. And the more calm the children are before you put them in their beds, the easier it will be for them to drift off to dream land. And there is nothing like a WARM bath to calm the muscles.
Music. I remember trying to sing to my children as they were in their bed, and one of them saying, "Mom, please don't sing any more." And even with a wounded ego I think that lullabies are awesome for ending the night. I think that a turning on a CD as you leave the room is one of the best things. We have a bunch of lullaby music that I rotate. It is nice to have something to listen for...tell them to listen for the song about Winne the Pooh (Kenny Loggins has a Return to Pooh Corner lullaby CD).
Choose Wise Words. If I hear, "But I don't want to go to sleep." I always respond with, "OK, You don't have to go to sleep tonight. But you do have to lie still and quietly and rest your body. But don't close your eyes. Have a nice quiet time. Love you (kiss, kiss). Now if you get out of bed, you are going to have to go to sleep. But if you stay in bed and lie still, than you can stay awake." I think Mary Poppins has her own "Stay Awake" song, now that I think about it. I guess this idea is centuries old.
Don't Give In. If you let them stay up with you on the couch, they will know that if they push hard enough, there is a chance you will do it again. So, stick to your word (whatever you decide your word should be).
Stagger Bedtime. Sometimes, I think that two just fuel the fire. So, often I will put one to bed (whoever sleeps the most soundly) and then put the other one down a half an hour later. Sometimes I switch it, so it isn't really an age or specific child each time. But, sometimes it helps.
Break the Cycle. It sounds like getting out of bed is the new routine. So, sometimes it takes something to break the cycle. Stay up really late with movie and popcorn. Put up a tent in the front room, and sleep in it. Put a sleeping bag in their room for a sleepover. If you can do something a few nights in a row, you can start with your new plan with a fresh start.
Think Ahead. Whatever the viable excuses they give, try and preempt them...have them go potty last thing. Bring a glass of water with you, and let them have a final sip.
Take Away a Sleep Friend. When I am really at my wits end, I usually take away a privilege. So, if they sleep with a pacifier, or a blanket, or a certain stuffed animal, I use it as leverage. I say, "Blankie Blue doesn't want to be in bed with you if you aren't sleeping. So, if you get out of bed again, I'll have to take Blue." Sometimes the tears that come from Blankie leaving are perfect for then returning Blankie minutes later with the immediately relief.
Those are a few ideas! Good luck - let us know if anything works - and if not, I can brainstorm a few more!