• Guiding Light Project

    02/02/2020 at 09:40 0 comments

    Guiding Light (WiFi-enabled lights)

    Waking up four tired kids and getting them out of the house is a herculean task. After one such morning that left me wanting to pull my hair out, I decided that this could not continue.

    Step one, wake-up: Just getting the kids out of bed is possibly the hardest part of the morning. Here are some things we tried:

    Good old rabbit in the bed trick
    Early morning hikes (worked, but unsustainable)

    First Attempt

    Based on the success of the early morning hikes, I hypothesized that what the kids needed to motivate them out of bed was a bit of excitement. I decided to hook up a Bluetooth speaker and some WiFi-connected lights to bring them an early morning dance party.

    Not the first time I’ve been wrong 😁

    Second Attempt

    After the abysmal failure at my first attempt, I came to the conclusion that before handling wake-up, I needed to deal with bedtime. It would be easier to wake the kids if they were well-rested.

    The challenge: The problem was that no matter how early my wife and I set bedtime, the kids always found ways to extend it. They remembered urgent things they needed to do, begged me to read another chapter, and continued reading on their own well into the night.

    Hypothesis: It seemed to me that the primary issue was that the kids knew that my wife and I could change our minds. If they annoyed me enough, I might give in and read the extra chapter.

    Solution: Take us out of the equation, make it impossible for us to give them what they want (i.e., more reading).

    Implementation: I set up their bedroom light to gradually dim over a half-hour reaching total darkness at the target bedtime. My hope was that in that way:

    • It would not be an option for them to plead for me to read more and more. It would be too dark.
    • It would become increasingly difficult for them to read and, at the same time, become increasingly conducive to sleep. Maybe the kids would decide to put aside their books and fall asleep without even realizing it.
    • If they did perceive the dimming lights, it would be seen as a "fact of life" and not as a decision that we made on a whim and could easily change.

    Result: Success! (kind of). While this method was a significant improvement and was usually successful in getting two out of three to sleep on time without any issues, it wasn't perfect. 

    They began putting stuff off until after their room got too dark to read and then "remembering" that they were hungry and needed hot chocolate and needed the bathroom...

    Small Tweak: At that point, I instituted a new family rule. I would only begin reading after all the kids were packed for school, had eaten dinner, and drank whatever beverages they "needed."

    Now my plan really took off. It was probably more subconscious than conscious, but the kids realized that the earlier they were done their tasks, the earlier I would begin reading, and the more time they would have before it became too dark for me to read.

    At this point, bedtime was as smooth as could be expected. 

    Cascading Effect: As I had hoped, more relaxed and earlier bedtimes led to significantly easier wake-ups. I was even able to replace all the alarm techniques by reversing the bedtime light dimming procedure. I set the lights to slowly brighten over a half hour period. Usually, the kids were all out of bed before the light reached it's brightest. I was able to greet them with a big smile and not start off the day as the evil enemy who had woken them up.

    Second Challenge

    Having the kids out of bed at a reasonable hour was a great start, but it wasn't enough. I'm not going to get into all the details of why it wasn't enough, but as a primer, you can watch this documentary:

    Basically, it was common for the kids to spend the first forty minutes after getting up, walking around the house getting distracted by things. Ten minutes before their bus, they would still not be dressed and be coloring something. My wife and I would...

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