Losing Battles… Winning Wars – Bedtime

Guest Post From Nelson,  Dad of two and Head of ASA United Soccer.

My son suffers from a syndrome not yet recognized by the American Medial Association which I call BTB. It stands for “belligerent time bomb” and goes like this:

The instant my son wakes up in the morning around 6:30am, he is the most even tempered kid you’ll meet. Patient, kind, well mannered, he’ll even obey our instructions from the Friday night before and play quietly in his room while mom and Dad sleep in a bit. On school days, he rolls out of his bottom bunk (top bunk is currently subleased to thirteen stuffed animals and 3 pillow/light projector things) with a smile and doesn’t even fuss if the first words he hears from me are “clean your room and meet me downstairs for breakfast”… 90% of the time I’ll get a “Yes Dad” and he’ll spring into action. Boy do I love that kid.

The afternoon is a different story. He arrives from school with a deceptively similar smile to the morning but if you look closely there’s a twinkle missing from his eyes.His back pack gets dropped on the floor so fast that it blocks front door from closing. His shoes, if he bothers to remove them, land somewhere in the hallway next to the scuff marked wall which he kicked them into. Manners disappear as he grunts with hunger and demands a snack from the nearest parent. My wife and I are too familiar with the routine and carefully tiptoe around his every grunt for fear of agitating his volatile mood. We overcompensate with too much sweetness in our tone and almost sound like June Cleaver asking if he “would like some more milk with your cookies” and “how was your day”.

We don’t recognize this boy who appears at our door every day at 3:10pm but we know it’s our son. We know because I used a marker to put a dot on his arm once before he left for school and I verified the dot was still there when he returned. So its not different kid and I don’t believe in aliens so what is going on? We ruled out school being the cause because he pulls the same crap on the weekends. Mornings are fantastic, afternoons are progressively worse and bedtime is terrible. He’s irritable, aggressive, rude, sassy and mean. If we forget to tiptoe perfectly avoiding confrontation then he’ll go toe to toe yelling at us and we end up sending him to his room out of frustration. He stomps upstairs in his rage and he’ll throw toys while we try to regain our composure.

Through trial and error I pinpointed the source of the issue. Sleep deprivation/exhaustion. If we don’t get him to bed on time… – scratch that – …if he doesn’t fall asleep on time then he wakes up with half a tank of gas. Sure, he’s fully functional in the morning but after noon his energy starts to taper down with his mood tracking down with it on a perfect slope approaching zero (where zero = head spinning, knife wielding psychopath kid which I’m required by law to love and protect).

Getting a 6 year old more sleep is easier said than done. I have developed some strategies which have helped us combat accomplish just that. This series presents my strategies to cure BTB and hopefully stop the spread from reaching your household. Check back later in the week and I will go through some strategies on what we do!…. in the meantime… what do you do? What are your strategies?