Does Your Child Need A Bedtime Routine? - Yes!
Do you struggle to get your child to bed at night? We sure did with our daughter. She would refuse to go to sleep in her bed and wanted to hang out with us until we were ready for bed and of course then she would want to sleep in Mama's and Daddy's bed.
That all changed when we finally sat down and established a bedtime routine. It helped our daughter establish healthy sleeping habits and got us back into ours. On top of it, we now have a little time to ourselves at night.
Maybe you have heard on TV or read in a parenting magazine that your child needs a bedtime routine. Or you are just plain tired of having to run to her room 20 times before she finally dozes off. For whatever reason you decided it's time to start setting up a bedtime routine. Where do you go from here? Obviously you are not going to change your child's habits from one day to the next. Consistency is going to be key, which is why we started by drawing up a basic little plan.
Take out a pen and a piece of paper and jot down the following:
How much sleep does your child need
What time does he/ she need to get up in the morning
What are his/her favorite calm activities (reading a book, taking a bath, cuddling with you, talking about your day, going for a stroll through the yard, putting on pj's)
From this list, come up with an action plan. Figure out when you need to put your child to bed to make sure she gets enough sleep. This will be your final goal. What time does she go to bed now? Plan on moving her bedtime back about 30 minutes every few days to give her some time to adjust in between.
Pick a few of her favorite calm activities and spend about 30 to 40 minutes on those while also getting her in her pj's, teeth brushed and off to bed.
Expect some initial resistance to the new routine. Kids can be pretty creative when it comes to excuses why they can't possibly go to sleep just yet. My little sister once insisted that her doll just had to blow her nose. Try to anticipate those excuses and last minute requests and make them part of the bedtime routine. If you know your child is going to ask for a sip of water, keep a glass on her night table. Make other requests part of your bedtime routine. If she usually asks to say goodnight to the family pet, have her do that before you put her in her PJ's and tuck her in.
Another good tip is to give her choices in the routine. It is usually best to limit those choices to 2 or 3. Ask her if she would like to take a bath or a shower, if she wants Mom or Dad to tuck her in, if she wants you to read "Goodnight Moon" or "The hungry little caterpillar". Let her pick the red or yellow pj's. Only give her options that you can live with. That way you both win. She feels like she is having some control over her life and you get her to do what needs done.
Above all stay calm and patient. Getting to sleep is a hard task to master for a child. She needs your help to establish healthy sleeping patters. If she keeps getting up for the next few nights, put her gently but firmly back to bed and tell her that it is time to sleep. Offer to come back and check on her in a few minutes and follow through. It will make her feel more secure and chances are she'll be sound asleep by the time you walk back in there.
Susanne Myers is the founder of http://www.kinderinfo.com, the one-stop online children's resource center. Here you will find all kinds of answers to help you with your family, including information on child care options and locations, educational resources, sports and recreation, home-based activities, party and event planning, even quick and easy recipes. We seek to answer all kid-related questions!
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