Sounds like an oxymoron, huh?
After listening to three hours of Gordon Neufeld speaking on Counterwill (read my recent article about Counterwill here) plus more in my previous class, I think I have it figured out!
My bedtime routine tonight was truly unbelievable. If I hadn't been there, I wouldn't believe it myself!
There is a simple two-fold solution to Counterwill: 1) DON'T let your child know your agenda (ie, don't tell them it's bedtime or time to brush or go pee or get in bed or get pjs on!); 2) incorporate play whenever possible - children are emotional beings, not logical. If you tell them to shoot the pee in the toilet because it makes the bathroom smell to get pee on the floor and wall, you will continue to get pee on the floor and wall; add some blue food coloring to the water and tell them to shoot the pee at the blue (Neufeld's idea) and your bathroom will no longer reek of urine :)
This is how I incorporated these strategies into my bedtime routine tonight:
After dinner, I used an example from Neufeld that I've been using for the past few days: "Are you going to use elephant steps or bunny steps upstairs tonight?" Both kids dropped what they were doing and discussed how they were going upstairs. Elie decided to use bunny steps and Yoav chose elephant steps. So Yoav ran upstairs, three steps at a time and Elie slowly "hopped" up.
Once upstairs, I asked Yoav if he was going to use his new green soap that he got as part of a Purim gift or the regular soap. He ran to the bathroom to use his new green soap. (And Elie followed, also asking for the green soap.)
For toothbrushing, I simply prepped the toothbrushes and handed them to the kids. My kids like brushing their teeth, but if not, you could make a game out of the brushing.
Next I announced that there was a bus for ten shekel to a local toilet and first gave Elie a ride on my back and then Yoav.
Then I turned to Yoav and asked him which hotel he planned to stay at tonight - Hotel Minerva, which offers soft organic red pajamas complimentary with every room; water service - all you have to do is say, "Water!" and a bottle of water appears for you to drink; plus it's the only hotel in town with three blankets. I said there was another hotel nearby with pajama service, but they only have green pajamas. Yoav said he wanted to go Hotel Minerva, so I crouched down and asked for another ten shekel for bus service to Hotel Minerva. He happily gave me the pretend money and hopped onto my back for a ride to the bed, where he laid down for me to undress him and put on the pajamas (you might be thinking that a 7-year-old "should" be dressing himself - read here about the need to invite dependence.)
Then Elie said he wanted to go to the hotel too and I gave him a ride to his spot in the bed.
Lest you think my kids usually go to sleep easily, I'll let you know that this is the point when they usually play cars in the bed - they each use a pillow as a car and will drive around for as looooooonnnnnng as I allow.
Today, though, they were so involved in the game, they weren't thinking about playing cars at all. I said: "Automatic blanket service will begin in five minutes." (Both boys laid down in their spots waiting for the blanket service!) I made a beeping noise and pretended to be a machine that laid out the blankets on the bed, one by one.
Then I turned off the light, got in bed and "bridged" (focus on the re-connection rather than the impending separation of sleep): "Good night. I'll see you in the morning when the sun comes up."
Within ten minutes, they were both sleeping soundly. You might be thinking this sounds tiring or impractical, but it was no more than ten minutes from being downstairs to lights out and there was no break in connection. Bedtime is the hardest time of the day for many parents and often includes anxiety, threats, consequences and other emotional separations.
Ten minutes AND fully connected?!?! I'll take that!
If you try something similar, please share!