We’ve all been there. You’ve had a long day, and as bedtime is approaching, your attempts at an easy transition to sleep for your child are met with sharp resistance, outbursts and tears. Rest assured you are not alone. Bedtime battles are a common occurrence for parents of preschoolers.
For children, bedtime is a time of separation from the parent and having to transition away from their beloved toys and books. For some children, nighttime elicits feelings of fear of the dark or of being alone. The best way to counteract your child’s resistance to bedtime is to be proactive. It’s very helpful to discuss with children how important sleep is for their health and growth. At school, we focus on the importance of sleep in the Wellness component of Links to Learning. Explaining at home that sleep is one of the most important ingredients to growing big and strong will help motivate your child.
Here are some additional tips to make bedtime easier:
Establish a bedtime routine. Decide on a firm bedtime schedule (i.e. water/snack time, bath time, story time, bedtime) and discuss it with all caregivers. Follow the same sequence of events at the same time every night. Consistency is the key to success.
Limit pre-bedtime activity and excitement. Keep noise low, and limit computer and television time for at least an hour before bedtime. This approach allows your child to wind down more easily. Story time is one of the best ways to share a special quiet moment with your child and build warm associations with the pleasure of books and reading.
Provide reassurance. If your child is hesitant to fall asleep alone, try giving him a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. If that does not suffice, promise your child that you will return every few minutes to check on him. Return to your child’s room at the promised time, but gradually extend your absences. He will grow tired waiting for your return and independently fall asleep.
Don’t give in to power struggles. If your child refuses to stay in bed, lie him down, tell him goodnight, and leave the room. If you keep returning to the room, you are actually reinforcing your child to get up more often. Leaving the room shows you are not going to participate in the struggle.
Remain calm. Don’t show your child your frustration. Follow the routine and then leave the room. If tears ensue, wait a few minutes before returning to calm your child and lay him back down.
By teaching your child the importance of a bedtime routine and getting enough sleep, you will help establish a lifetime of healthy habits that will help him succeed in later years.