With Evyn, I was lucky. She loved to sleep, naptime was a breeze, and she practically sleep trained herself starting the day after we brought her home from the hospital. She rarely woke up for middle of the night feedings either. My friends with kids told me I should buy a lotto ticket. I just thought I was a natural mommy and did everything right. Ha. BOY was I wrong. When Quinn came along right at the height of Evyn's terrible twos, I was outnumbered. Their dad was up at 4 a.m. every day for work so he was dead to the world come 8 p.m. and I didn't know what to do. Bedtime took up to two hours every night. I cuddled, read stories, and made multiple trips to the kitchen for milk and juice (then took them for multiple potty breaks) until I finally fell asleep next to one of their beds.
But eventually, I learned that bedtime didn’t have to be like that. After a lot of experimentation, I figured out a system that works for us:
Start by creating a space of their own
Things got infinitely easier once I was able to move them out of my room and into their own space. I got a bunch of boxes with lids and organized their toys under each of their beds so there was no more bickering. We converted Quinn's crib into a toddler bed that same day, and each girl got a side of the room and their own special princess canopy over their bed. They had their own space, and they were both excited about it.
Practice respecting boundaries
This goes along with practicing manners—ask before you touch, say please and thank you, don’t freak out if the answer is no, etc. It took about a week, but they are now respectful of each other's side of the room—with the exception of Quinn sneaking into Evyn's bed at night every once in a while. I think it's sweet, but Evyn just about has a heart attack and literally kicks her off her bed. We're still working on that.
Create a routine and be consistent
During the week, we get home about 6:30 p.m. then have dinner. After that, it’s homework, bath time, brush teeth, story time or quiet play, and lights out by 8 p.m. It's easy to maintain consistency, simply because of the limited amount of time and things that need to get done. But weekends can be another story. Resist the urge to let your kids stay up late, or change the routine too much. After all, you have a routine for their health and your sanity.
Along with having a consistent routine, I have found that it's easiest to put my youngest daughter to bed first, and to let her fall asleep while we finish up the bedtime routine with my eldest daughter, who gets quietly tucked in about a half hour later. This limits distractions for both of them and gives each of them a chance to have one-on-one time with me before bed. Plus, it gives Evyn a sense of "big kidness" getting to stay up a little bit later.
The “Lights Out” method
There has been some debate about the “Lights Out” method (some people call it the "Cry It Out” method, similar to what has been suggested by Dr. Ferber), and whether it creates feelings of abandonment or neglect. For our family, and specifically for my kids’ personalities, this method works. Bedtime starts once I tuck them in. They can read, play quietly, or do whatever they want in bed. I give them a five-minute warning (or a “lights are turning off soon” warning for Quinn) to finish up, and then it’s lights out for the night. My older one doesn’t cry, she pretty much just rolls over and goes to sleep. Quinn, however, will cry at the door for a minute or two before crawling back into bed and going to sleep.
Be strong. You can create a routine that will work for your family. Be firm, be consistent, and whatever you do, don't let them stay up for “five more minutes” because those five minutes are NEVER just five more minutes!