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The Bed Time Battles
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Anyone who has ever tried to put a child to bed knows that it can be one of the most infuriating tasks associated with child rearing.
The requests for drinks, cuddles, stories, re-arranging of blankets and teddies, searches for monsters under the bed and urgent need for 1 more trip to the toilet can seem never ending.
I’m not sure that there’s just 1 tried and true method for getting kids to go to bed on time AND getting them to stay there, but there are plenty of different methods that are worth a try.
We reached out to our parenting contributors to find out what works for them. Routine seemed to be the most popular strategy used by parents, but there were some other handy tips that came through too:
Dona from Nurtured Mama
A life coach, writer and artist, passionate about mindful parenting, creativity, self-care and creating a peaceful home shared a new ritual that helps her her daughter get to sleep:
The struggle with my daughter has always been getting her wound down enough to sleep. She’s been resisting rest since she was a newborn – she gave up all naps by 18 months!
A solid bedtime routine has always been a necessity, but a new thing we’ve recently implemented that has been magical is that we recite lovingkindness together once she’s tucked in.
She chooses people to send blessings to – someone she loves, someone she doesn’t know well, someone who irritated her today, herself, and to the world – and then we say together,
"May they be well, may they be safe, may they be loved, may they be at peace."
As we are not a praying family, having a prayer ritual was not something I knew we were missing until we found it.
Jill from www.jillceder.com
Therapist and parent coach working with women, children, adolescents and families in Brooklyn, New York, specialising in maternal mental health, parent education and support, relationship issues and life transitions shared with us the “ticket system” she found can help little ones stay in bed:
How do you get your kids to go to bed on time?
Routine, routine, routine! We started a bedtime routine at a young age and stuck with it. My almost 4 year old son knows all the steps and knows that bath time happens when the clock strikes 7:30pm.
Kids thrive on routine; it makes them feel safe and they know what to expect. Each night we take a bath, read 2 books of his choice and tell one story (lately it has to be a NYC subway story), brush teeth and get into bed.
Since all the nighttime activities are the same each day they take the same amount of time. The only problem with the routine is when there is a late night because we were out to dinner or at a holiday and he refuses to remove any parts of the routine.
How do you get them to stay there?
This is a tricky question! As a therapist, one suggestion I gave a parent whose child kept coming out of the bed was to give her 2 “come out of the bed” tickets to their child and tell them they are allowed to come out 2 times a night.
For my own child, we try very hard to be firm, patient, empathetic and consistent. If he asks for water or to go to the bathroom, we comply. If he says he isn’t tired, we let him bring a book in bed. We do not let him linger or hangout with us because that is setting us up for disaster. Acknowledging his request, finding a quick solution and getting him back in his room as soon as possible is the goal. If he keeps coming out, we firmly telling him that is not allowed and there will be a consequence if it continues.
Brandy from Everyone and Then Some
A curriculum developer, blogger and single mother to 3 children including one with special needs who spends her days filled with music, therapy, homeschool and more… shared how she set up a checklist system as part of the bed time routine to help her little ones go to bed on time, and stay there:
Consistency is key to bedtimes in our house.
My children require very little sleep. Even as infants their idea of sleeping through the night was only 5-6 hours.
In fact, my middle child, who has ASD and ADHD takes medication to help him get the short amount of sleep he does. Even then he has to be in bed ready to sleep when the medication kicks in otherwise it won’t work at all.
Therefore I make sure to minimize any reason they could have to get up after the lights are off. I have a drinking cut off time to eliminate the 40 trips to the bathroom and a standard before bed checklist every night.
Whatever time it happens to be (because of our schedule, it can vary) all of my children know when I say “time for bed” I’m not changing my mind.
Lastly, I dug out a a couple of strategies from the Oh Beehave! library to share with you:
For example, make sure homework is completed in the study or in a quiet area in the house, play and technology can be in the games room, lounge room or other appropriate area of the house.
Using this strategy will help your child associate the bedroom with sleep only, rather than associating the bedroom with a variety of things such as playing, watching TV, studying etc. Which may in turn help them find it easier to go to sleep at bed time.
Children who have difficulty falling to sleep may benefit from using some relaxation strategies before bed.
Relaxation can include listening to relaxation music or audio, completing some breathing exercises or you may even read an excerpt to assist with visualisation (as an example, these usually sound something like… “Imagine you are on a beach. Think about what you can see. What colour is the ocean, what colour is the water? How do you feel? Is there a breeze or is it calm? Is the sun out? Are you warm or cool? What can you hear?” etc).
There are many relaxation scripts available for free on-line. Inner Health Studio has a heap of scripts that you may find handy, or alternatively, if you are the creative type, you may like to improvise by creating your own script.
You may also want to try a meditation app such as Headspace or Smiling Mind. If you do decide to use an app, make sure you control the app so your child doesn’t start getting distracted by social media or other apps!
Relaxation strategies such as those listed above can make it easier for your child to fall asleep, and may also help improve the quality of their sleep.
How do you get your little one’s to go to bed on time? How do you get them to stay there?? Let us know in the comments below (if you have a website, feel free to include the link)!
If you have a topic you would like us to include, a tip you want to share, or you would like to feature as a contributor on “Who’s The Expert” get in touch (let us know if you would like to receive email alerts!) or join our facebook group!
Gradisar, M. Wolfson, A., Harvey, A., Hale, L., Rosenberg, R. & Czeisler, A. (2013). The Sleep and Technology Use of Americans: Findings from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in America Poll. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 9(12)
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