“Go to bed and stay there!” “Ah, mom, please can I stay of a little longer tonight, I’m not tired.” “Are you out of bed again, you had a drink, you’ve gone to the bathroom, I’ve kissed you good-nite, now just go in and go to sleep, you are going to be exhausted tomorrow.”
If these phrases are familiar to you, well you are not alone. Every night, around the world parents end their evenings with similar words. Bedtime is one of the most frustrating times for parents because too often the kids are calling the shots.
If bedtime is difficult in your house perhaps the following seven suggestions can be of help. Remember that your children need your help during this major transition of their day. Remain calm, sensitive and loving. Remain in charge. Follow through. Be positive.
Tips for a Better Bedtime Routine
1. Establish a definite bedtime. With younger children inform them of your decision and stick to it. Children can feel empowered if given a choice from which they can choose. “You can choose either 7:15pm or 7:30pm as your bedtime.” With older kids, give them the opportunity to stay up later on Fridays and Saturdays. Also it is important that children recognize that adults need time alone together. Teens, for example, may set their own time to go to sleep, but they need to go to their rooms to read or study after 9:00pm in order for parents to have some “adult-time.”
2. Develop a consistent routine. Children who have a set of bedtime activities adapt better. From getting bedclothes on, to washing face and teeth, to having water by the bed, to that all-important bedtime story. Try to set up a routine that you and the kids follow every night.
3. Prepare for bedtime by giving notice. “It’s 7 o’clock, bed time is in an hour.” By announcing in advance their bedtime, children begin to mentally prepare for the change and are more receptive to shifting their focus from other activities.
4. Younger children often feel having a doll, stuffed animal or special blanket helps them to transition to sleep time more securely. Such an object for the child symbolically reminds them of their parents and helps that time alone to feel safer and more secure.
5. Don’t force kids to go to sleep. It is better to help children to listen to their own internal clock, to recognize their own feelings of fatigue. Rather, define bedtime as the time of night you go to your room and prepare for sleep with a story or reading to yourself. Some children relax if there is a radio playing soothing music. After a full day, most children will fall asleep naturally as soon as they slow things down.
6. Avoid power struggles and manipulations. As parents we forget that our attention is often what keeps problems occurring. If children act-out to keep us involved at bedtime, take charge of what you choose to give your attention to and ignore behaviors that are inappropriate or just attention getting. Stay calm, give clear and concise directions and while being sensitive remain firm and consistent.
7. Finally, plan your time around the children’s bedtime. Don’t count on watching your favorite TV program during the bedtime routine. The kid’s bedtime is not the time to do the dishes or work on that unfinished project. Focus on the children, help them to get ready and give them a few minutes of quality time. Bedtime can be one of the few times in the day when a parent can really connect emotionally with their child and a child can feel close to the parents.