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“If You Get Out of That Bed One More Time…”

…well, chances are you might have ADHD. And if you have ADHD, you might want a cup of water. Or a Kleenex. Or to talk about what Ava did at lunch. Here is how we limit the stalling tactics, practice patience, and even get a little sleep at our house.

It’s after 9pm on a school night. Bedtime was over an hour ago, but Jasmine has just gotten out of her bed for the infinity-th time. “If you get out of that bed one more time, you’re gonna be in trouble,” I say. I’m not angry, just firm. Nevertheless, she starts to cry.

“But I can’t find my bathrobe!” she says.

I know this child: this has nothing to do with any bathrobe, just like the time before when it had nothing to do with being thirsty, or the time before when she wanted to know what the school cafeteria was serving for lunch tomorrow, or the time before…She just can’t settle down. So I take her hand and walk her back to her bed. “But I don’t want to go to bed,” she sobs.

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I place her in the bed, and when I move the sheets to tuck her in I see her bathrobe at the foot of the bed. “Your robe is right here,” I tell her. But she continues to sob. Rather than soothe her, which I’ve learned only prolongs bedtime, I kiss her forehead, tell her “Good night,” and walk out. Then I sit down on the living room couch where I can hear her faintly calm down, and I wait to see if she’ll go to sleep or come back out and fixate on some other stall tactic.

Laurie showed me a meme one time that said, “I tucked my kids in last night and said ‘See you in the morning.’ And then we laughed and laughed. We saw them ten more times before sunrise.” This is a perfect example of bedtime for my two hyperactive ones. Settling them down at night is a Process with a Capital “P.” Through some trial and error, we’ve come up with a few family rules that make bedtime run a bit more smoothly:

  1. No TV one hour before bedtime. This rule has been a life saver. They pitch holy heck when we turn off the TV regardless, so why not do it in the evening rather than at night when we then have to settle them down to sleep?
  2. Spend that hour before bed doing soothing activities like reading, playing games, or just talking.
  3. Listen to music and audiobooks. Each of my kids has his or her own boombox in their room, as well as a stack of CDs and audiobooks.
  4. Practice patience and understanding around ADHD. The kids don’t choose to be hyperactive, mostly. We’ve learned that their inability to calm down isn’t necessarily defiance. When they get out of their bed several times with something on their minds, sometimes it’s best to just hear them out. They’re not going to get over it, so telling them to do so doesn’t help them settle down and go to sleep.

As I sit on the couch and contemplate what’s worked in the past, Jasmine comes back out of her room. She has a smirk on her face.

“Yes?” I say.

“Um,” she says. She thinks for a moment, then she starts biting a fingernail, which means she hadn’t thought up an excuse ahead of time.

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I kiss her forehead again. “Go get in your bed,” I say, “And I will come check on you in a few minutes.”

“Um, ok,” she says.

A few minutes later, I go into her room and find her fast asleep. I look at my phone, and the clock reads 9:30 pm. I cover her with a blanket, sit back down on the couch, and restart my show. I need some downtime to recharge, because 6 am will be here shortly and this child always, always hits the ground running

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