Can this really be possible? Bedtime seems to be a common difficulty for many parents. Everyone is usually tired and stressed out by the end of the day, which only makes matters worse. For some of us, bedtime can even be a harrowing experience including screaming, forcing, and crying.
Parent are often eager to get their child in bed as soon as possible so they can have some quiet time. This can cause the child to feel his parents are trying to "get rid of him." Frequently our child’s needs go unmet. What do our children need?
To declare his independence.
To feel close or connected with his parent.
To feel a sense of control over what happens to him.
To feel respected and heard.
When our child’s needs go unmet, they often misbehave by whining, resisting, wanting a drink and needing to potty for the umpteenth time!
Bedtime can be a special time between parents and children. How can you give your child what he needs and still have him go to bed in a timely manner? Here are some tips:
Respect your own needs. Take care of yourself during the day so that you are not feeling hassled and frazzled at your child's bedtime. The more tired and uptight you are, the more likely your efforts will be met with resistance. Set your child's bedtime at an hour that allows you some solitude and/or "couple time" after your child goes to bed.
Screen time is sometimes the culprit. Research says that children should not be using screen time an hour before bed. The study concluded that children who participated in screen time before bed take longer to go to sleep due to excitement levels. It’s lighting suppresses the hormone melatonin that tells your child’s brain it is time to go to sleep. Not having phones, computers and TV’s in your child’s room is highly recommended.
Whenever possible, have both parents be a part of the bedtime ritual. Bedtime is more fun and less of a burden when both parents participate.
Start your bedtime ritual early. Get it started forty-five minutes to one hour before your child's actual bedtime to avoid unnecessary stress and struggle. Make the snack and drink part of the ritual to avoid after bedtime requests. This process should be a winding down time. Eliminate activities that would excite your child such as roughhousing, chasing or tickling.
Avoid the bewitching hour. You may have noticed that your child seems to have an internal clock that designates what time is best for him to be in bed. If you go past that time, things can go into a veritable mayhem. Getting out of your routine can also cause children to meltdown.
Respect his time by giving him notice that bedtime is in 10 minutes, allowing him to complete his activity before his bedtime.
Offer choices instead of orders. Your child will have a feeling of control over what happens to him when given choices. For example, you might ask, "Do you want your Dad to help you with your bath or me?" or "Do you want to sleep with your gorilla or your kitty?"
Create a bedtime ritual with your child's help and advice. For example, the ritual might include a protein snack, a non-sugar drink, a bath, brushing teeth, reading two books, prayers, a hug and three kisses. It helps if the routine has a quality of sameness in order to provide a sense of security.
Take pictures of your child doing these activities. Together with your child, put them in order in which they should happen. Hang them on a ribbon and put them in a place where your child can see them easily. Instead of telling your child what to do (which can cause resistance), ask your child, “What’s next?’ This puts him in charge of his bedtime routine so you don’t have to nag or remind.
Create closeness. Most children like to feel close and connected especially before going to sleep. Here are some closeness building rituals.
Talk about "Remember When," such as "Remember when we went camping and that raccoon got into our food stash?" or "I remember when you were a
You can make bedtime a time of nurturing, closeness, shared communication, and fun.
Or say three things that you love about each other. Start each statement with, "What I love about you is..." and complete it with a specific thing you love. For instance, "What I love about you is the way your singing lifts my spirits."
Or ask connection building questions like: "What was the best thing that happened to you today?" "What was the silliest thing that happened today?" “What is one thing you would like me to know about your day?” Older children may talk more freely with the lights out.
If you are starting a new bedtime routine, tell your child ahead of time. You may want to say something like this, “I get cranky when I don’t get some time for myself and/or couple time. When I get cranky, I say and do things I don’t like. So from now on this will be our new bedtime routine so I can get my time after you go to sleep.
Then go on to say, "If you come out of your room for any reason other than an emergency after our bedtime routine, I will lovingly guide or carry you back to your room. I will not talk to you. This does not mean I don’t love you. It means it is time for bed not talking.”
It is important that you do not talk to your child after the routine is complete. If talk, you are more likely to give your child undo attention or get into a verbal power struggle. You may have to guide your child back to his room several times, particularly at the beginning because your child may test you. It you have a partner, take turns so you don’t get frustrated. It is a good idea to start this during the weekend. As the week progresses, your child will learn that you won’t give in and bedtime will become more pleasant for all of you.
You can make bedtime a time of nurturing, closeness, shared communication, and fun. By involving your children in the decision-making process and spending this special time with them, they will feel valued and respected.
When you have order and routine, it creates a sense of security in your child because he learns he can depend you.
Kathryn Kvols has dedicated her life to creating more satisfying and peaceful family interactions. Her book, “Redirecting Children’s Behavior” and parenting course have transformed the lives of thousands of families world wide. You can get more helpful tips at www.incaf.com.