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Bed training

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We’re teaching Gareth to sleep in a big boy bed. He had been sleeping in his crib in the basement while we worked on the (still not quite finished) bathroom, so when we moved him upstairs we had a natural transition. We left his crib in the basement and brought a twin mattress up to his room instead.

Here are ten things I’ve learned from bed training Emmeline and Gareth.

1. Mattress on the floor

Emmeline had a bed for a while, but we got rid of it because she’d roll out of bed, or she’d get out of bed and couldn’t get back in. We now prefer just to put the mattress right on the floor for a while. That way they don’t have far to fall, and it’s less scary than having to climb in and out of a bed. I don’t like the idea of toddler beds because I dislike the thought of spending money on something they’ll outgrow so quickly.

2. Take the toys away ahead of time.

I’m still working on being consistent with this, but if their room is littered with fun reminders of everything they’d rather be doing, they will have a very hard time staying in bed. Put the toys away, so it’s clear that playtime is over.

3. “Success” doesn’t always feel successful

With Emmeline, my biggest mistake was wanting a quick fix. I thought I could find some magic cure that would make her want to stay in her bed and fall asleep willingly. Bed training is one of the hardest things to deal with when you have toddlers. It takes a lot of time and a lot of consistency.

4. It will get worse before it gets better–probably a lot worse. 

The first night usually goes pretty smoothly because it’s a new experience. Then the second and third days are much worse because they realize their new beds give them more independence. Also, after the newness wears off, their newfound freedom sometimes scares them, so you have a double whammy that makes them really really not want to be in their new beds. Plus, if you have a social butterfly they will be convinced you’re out there having the world’s greatest party while she’s stuck in her scary new big kid bed.

5. Punish bad behavior

Again, with Emmeline, we just weren’t harsh enough, so she learned quickly how to bend the rules. Gareth has the blessing and curse of being the second child, so we’re stricter with him. With Gareth, we punish anything short of laying in bed with his head on his pillow. It may seem harsh, but if I let him play with toys on his bed or look out his window or run around his room, he won’t fall asleep. He would probably wear himself out eventually and crash (what we let Emmeline do), but I don’t want him to crash when he’s so overtired he can’t hold his head up. I want him to fall asleep when I say it’s time for bed.

6. Decide ahead of time what punishments work for your child.

Different punishments work for different kids. In our house, sitting up in bed or getting out of bed altogether gets Gareth and Emmeline a little pop on the hiney (just enough to remind them where their hineys are supposed to be). If they scream, we close their doors. Emmeline has a favorite blankie, so when she was little we’d take it away from her anytime she got out of bed. Whatever punishment you choose, it needs to happen quickly and be over quickly, or they’ll forget why they’re being punished.

7. Steel yourself for the tears.

Parenting philosophies vary greatly on the topic of how much to let your children cry. Some people think it’s cruel to get used to the sound of your child crying. I can only speak to the decisions Josh and I have made for our children. As someone who has struggled off and on with depression, one of the best choices I’ve made as a mom is the choice not to let my children’s tantrums break my heart. I’ve lost a lot of sleep and emotional energy by being upset every time they cry, and it’s not healthy for me. I still don’t like hearing my kids cry, but it doesn’t get to me like it used to, and I’m in a really good place emotionally because of that.

I also don’t want to set a precedent for my kids where they expect to be cuddled and rocked for hours every night. Josh and I have decided we want them to learn the responsibility of putting themselves to sleep, and we want to keep our evenings free to spend time as a husband and wife. Because I’ve chosen to serve my husband in this way and because we’ve chosen to train them to sleep by themselves, our kids are going to cry at bedtime. I’m OK with that.

8. Camp out in the hallway for a while.

Not forever. But when the bed is new, I’ve found that the best way to teach my kids to stay in their beds is to be right there to reinforce the rules immediately. The second they disobey, I can correct the behavior. Emmeline was so stubborn, she could last for 2-3 hours. It was very discouraging and hard to outlast her. Gareth usually lasts an hour before giving up and going to sleep. After a few (albeit miserable) days, they learn that they can’t beat you, and they start giving up sooner. But until that happens, just sit on the floor of the hallway. Whether you sit where they can see you or not is up to you–I like to be just out of their sight but close enough to hear the pitter patter of disobedient little feet. Bring some paperwork, grab a book to read, or play candy crush–just be prepared for it to take a while. You want them to learn that they can’t wear you down.

9. Reward good behavior

Temper tantrums get kids wound up, and tense kids can’t fall asleep. Once they’ve started obeying, reward and encourage their good behavior with something that will calm them back down. Most kids have certain activities that relax them, so pick something familiar. Gareth likes to cuddle, and he likes to have lotion rubbed on him. Emmeline likes to read stories. They both like me to sing to them. I try to reward my kids enough to motivate them to obey and to help them calm down, but I don’t reward them every single time. We learned this lesson the hard way. With Emmeline, she learned that she just had to disobey, so that she could obey again, so that she’d get rewarded. I was just a Mommy version of a trained dog. Oops.

10. Pray

We can make a plan of action, we can stick with it faithfully and consistently, but the scary part of parenting is not knowing if the choice we made is actually the “right” choice. Thankfully, God has grace in abundance, and ultimately He doesn’t need our help in raising our kids. Thank goodness for these little blessings He gives us, and thank goodness He’s there to help us not screw them up. I just pray that my children grow up into responsible, emotionally healthy, Christ-following adults in spite of their Mommy and Daddy. Remember, one of the godliest kings in Israel’s history (Josiah) had one of the wickedest fathers, and David was described as a man after God’s own heart, yet one of his sons tried to murder him. It’s not necessarily good parenting in=good kids out. Sometimes at the end of the day, all we can do is pray that God would use us for our children’s good in spite of our mistakes.

(shout out to all the friends, mentors, doctors, counselors, books, and videos whose advice I’ve probably stolen in writing this blog post.)



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Emmie walks up to Josh looking for a snack. “Daddy, can I have a chiwi?”

“A what?”

“A chiwi, Daddy.”

“Oh, a kiwi?”

“Yeah, Daddy,” (rolling her eyes) “a chiwi.”

“Well I think Mommy was gonna make something with the chiwis.”

“Yeah…” (processing) “Mommy was going to make chiwi-strawberry popsicles.”

“Well, if Mommy was going to make something with them, I don’t want to let you eat one because I don’t want to get in trouble.”

“Daddy! You’re in charge; you can’t get in trouble!” (more eye-rolling)

“Well what did Mommy say?”

(long pause)

“Mommy said no.” (le sigh)

“Well, if Mommy said no, then Daddy says no.”

(Emmie puts her hands on Josh and uses her most charming voice) “But, Daddy, you’re the boss. If you say yes, then Mommy says yes.”

“Well, if I’m the boss, then I say you have to ask Mommy.”

“Aww! But Mommy will say no!”

“Probably so. And that probably means no chiwis.”

I Am Not Mom Enough

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The nation is in uproar.

About breastfeeding.

Ridiculous, much?

Now, I could write an essay about why no one should be surprised Time’s latest cover has sparked such fierce debate. I could say that basic critical thinking tells us that the cover blurb, “Are You Mom Enough?” would, combined with the cover image, imply that those who do breastfeed their preschoolers are “mom enough” and if that is the case then the moms who don’t do that, logically, are not “mom enough.” And we know that Time did that on purpose, because we understand sensationalism in media sells. Do you remember what was on the cover of Time last week? I rest my case.

But we already know all that because we all took logic and rhetoric in school. Oh, wait, we didn’t? OK, well I did, so trust me.

No, instead of joining the ranting masses, I thought I’d just come clean about all the things I am not mom enough to do.

  1.  Breastfeed my children until they are in preschool. I didn’t even last a year. Emmeline bit me, so that was the end of her. And Gareth, well, I just wanted to be able to go on a date without having to perfectly time the movie between feeding sessions.
  2. Cut all sugar out of my children’s diet. We here in the Krebs house are big fans of fruit snacks. And cookies. And candy. So no, my children will not ever confuse fruit with candy. I will never get to brag about that.
  3. Share my Girl Scout cookies. I deliberately hide them from Emmeline every year so I won’t have to share. I’ve made it my goal to keep her from finding out about Girl Scout cookies for as long as I can. This could also fall under, “I am not wife enough” because I order separate boxes for me and Josh and then label them so no one accidentally eats the other’s cookies.
  4. Potty train with patience, love, and consistency–or even just potty train at all. She’s almost to the point where she can change her own diaper though, so then I figure she can just take over for me, and that’s almost the same thing as being toilet trained.
  5. Practice good daily hygiene on my kids. I can’t seem to remember to brush those little teeth twice a day. Don’t worry though, I usually remember either the morning or the evening brush. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to bathe them. But again, no worries–when they’re sticky to the touch, I at least wipe them down with a wet rag. And I give them baths and brush their teeth before church on Sunday, so we’re just on the medieval bathing schedule.
  6. Use a diaper change as an opportunity to bond with my child. All those commercials and magazines that show moms lovingly giggling and playing with their child while they wipe the kid’s stinky behind? Not me. But hey! Maybe I can turn our wrestling matches into a game. We can call it, “Gareth! Just. Be. Still!”
  7. Prevent my neuroses from rubbing off on my children. Last week, Emmeline, thanks to me, was convinced that the grass was “Danger! Scary! Can bite you!” And wouldn’t go outside barefoot. That night Josh stepped in–he is dad enough–and convinced Emmeline and me both that the grass was perfectly safe.
  8. Come up with fun, wholesome activities so we don’t have to resort to watching tons of TV. Yes. I let the TV babysit my kids in the morning so I can take a shower. I like my shower toddler-free. Call me selfish.
  9. Wear Gareth in my baby carrier for hours each day–even though he loves it–so we can bond. It is wonderful. It is the best baby carrier I’ve ever owned. But darnit, the kid weighs 22 lbs. After a while, he starts to hurt.
  10. Wake up at 5 am so I can read my Bible, shower, pray, eat breakfast, and exercise before my family wakes up. I actually tried to wake up at 6 once, but Emmeline just started waking up earlier too. Most mornings I just get up when they wake up and hope for the best.

So there you have it. A list of all the things that I guilt myself about. Judge away! But you know what, if you ask Emmeline, “Who does Mommy love the mostest?” She’ll answer, “Emmie and Gareth.” So I must be doing something right.

Preaching the gospel to a toddler

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This week at community group, the discussion centered around missions. We talked about crossing cultural boundaries to engage with the people around us. It got me thinking about the two most important people God has called me to witness to: my children. We have two very cute little heathens in our home. Gareth is a bit young for anything more than prayers, which usually go, “Please God, let him sleep tonight.” Emmeline still lacks abstract reasoning, which makes discussion about sin and salvation difficult. We can read Bible stories to her and give her Bible story coloring pages, but most of it goes over her head. When I try to delve deeper, the conversations usually go like this:

Conversation A:
“Emmeline, we don’t hit/squash/sit on/yell at/steal toys from our brother. We need to be kind and sweet and love everybody.”
“I can’t love everybody!”
“I know you can’t. Nobody can. That’s why we need Jesus to help us…. (I trail off in a caffeine-deprived stupor)”
“I can watch a show now?”

Conversation B:
(Yelling) “Emmeline! Just. Stop. Whining!”
(Yelling back) “OK!”
“Emmeline, we all need to learn to stop yelling. Even Mommy. We need Jesus to help us stop yelling.”
“I can watch a show now?”

The Holy Spirit has His work cut out for Him in this household–Mommy and little heathens alike.

Poll the Audience

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Because it’s hump day, because I have a to-do list a mile long, and because Gareth is probably growing (again!) and wants to spend the day snuggling and eating, let’s keep it simple today. What did people do before Google, Facebook, and WordPress if they had a question? Did they ask real people, face to face? Do you remember what it was like to have face to face conversations? I digress. Here is today’s question:

We’re approaching that point of no return where we’re going to have to potty train Emmeline. She’s getting more and more frustrated with diapers, and I think she’s ready to learn. What is your best potty training advice? Do you have any no-fail tricks that worked for your kid? Was there a particular method that worked for you? Or do you have a potty training horror story to share?