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Bedtime Tips & Tricks

Just about every parent has nightmare-ish stories to tell about bedtime struggles. Babies who wake several times during the night, and toddlers who won't stay in their beds through the night are a shared problem for many of us. Now, St. Eve Kids and TwitterMoms are giving us the opportunity to share the tips and tricks we've learned from our bedtime struggles.

I cannot deny that my husband and I were spoiled by our oldest daughter, Emma (now 7). She started sleeping through the night at 7 weeks. At 7:15 every night, she'd ask to be put to bed. We'd have dinner parties complete with laughter and loud music, and Emma would sleep through all of it. I have to admit, it was a sweet situation for me and my husband.

I was delusional to think it would continue with our second daughter, Harper (now 3). Every night was a struggle, beginning with her first night home from the hospital. She didn't start sleeping through the night until she was 4 monthsold. She'd climb out of her crib as soon as she started walking. It was so exhausting. I was losing so much sleep each night as I tried to intercept her every time she 'd leave her room. Finally, we had to set some ground rules.

Here's what we learned:
1) Set limitations and be firm.
This is very difficult in the beginning, but it's important not to waiver. Children need consistency, and it's the responsibility of the parents to provide it. We have a rule that the kids cannot sleep in our bed. The rule is that they can hop into bed with us on weekend mornings, but that's where we draw the line.

2) Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it.
Through the years, the timeframes have changed a bit as the girls have started school, but the basic routine has stayed the same. After school activities, homework, dinner, bath, brush teeth, storytime and into bed.

3) Adapt to growth.
What worked when Emma was 2, no longer works. Sometimes she likes to read before she turns off the lights. We allow her to do so but we attach boundaries to her reading time. For example, we allow her to read for an extra 15 minutes during the week and 30 on the weekends. It's important to be flexible to your growing children and their needs.

4) Offer incentives.
If both children stick to the routine and the timeframes, I allow them to choose an additional book at night or I'll read an extra chapter. I know how much they enjoy our reading time, so it's an appropriate reward. Offering a lollipop or some other special treat may work better for you.

5) Give the ultimate reward
Every so often, I allow the girls to sleep in the family room on the sofabed. They get to stay up a little later than usual and eat popcorn while watching TV. For them, this reward is worth all the effort they put into to staying on track with their bedtime routines!

To share in the drama of real parents with real stories, visit www.DramaU.net to read more.