You love your kiddos and spending time with them is priceless. However, the looming bedtime may cause you to lose out on quality family time because you are dreading the impending fight. Putting your kids to bed every night can be a battle and can even go on throughout the night, leaving everyone sleep deprived and ornery. This can become a vicious cycle, but luckily it does not have to be permanent. Try these suggestions to come out victorious from the bedtime war and enjoy a little down time before bedtime hits!
Ages 12 to 18 Months
These youngsters may wake frequently and find trouble self soothing their way back to sleep. The older they get, the more you will want to help create a bedtime routine they can do on their own, such as looking through a soft picture book or cuddling a teddy bear. That way if they wake up, they can do that routine on their own to self soothe.
If you find your child wakes easily at every little noise, making bedtime a continual event throughout the night, consider buying them a fan or noise machine to drown out noises outside of their room.
When you child wakes up, they likely start crying and/or calling for you. Help them to adjust by not running to them every time they call. If you do go check on them, be sure not to stay too long. This will help them to learn it is not worth their while to call for you.
Ages 18 Months to 3 Years
Your child has now fully entered the toddler stage and they like to control everything – including bedtime. They also start to develop vivid imaginations, which can lead to talk of monsters in the room.
If your child has become the master of delaying bedtime, here are a few pointers that may help you to outsmart your toddler:
Anticipate their usual requests – Have a glass of water ready, let them choose a set number of stories for the night and be nice, but firm when setting limits.
Give them two reasonable options – When your child starts to fight you and wants to negotiate, give them two options you are comfortable with but do not delay bedtime. You may ask “do you want to go to bed now or in five minutes?” and “Do you want three hugs or four?”. This way your child makes the decision, but the outcome is still suitable for you.
Be firm in enforcing rules and requests throughout the day – If your child has been getting away with doing as they please throughout the day, why would they think bedtime would be any different? Don’t set yourself up for a losing battle.
One of the best ways to handle the fear of monsters in the room is to acknowledge the fear and then reason it out with your child. Try taking time to turn off the lights and then examine each potentially scary shadow and figure out where it could be coming from with your child.
Ages 3-6 Years
These kids are now old enough to know how to play the game. Here are some great ways to establish a good bedtime situation for both you and your child.
One tactic children of this age use is to keep calling you back to their room after they’ve been put to bed. One reason they do this is because they truly crave your attention. So when you put your child to bed, promise them if they stay quiet and in bed, you will come back in five minutes or after you have loaded the dishwasher. Then keep your promise but don’t stay long. Be sure to validate the fact they stayed in bed and didn’t call for you.
You can also be straightforward with your child and tell them mommy or daddy will be much happier in the morning if they are able to sleep. Then in the morning, show them how much a good night’s sleep made this true. Be sure to also show your child plenty of attention throughout the day and talk to them about their day before they go to bed.
If you find your child is still having trouble staying in bed, consider putting up a baby gate to their room to encourage them to stay. You can also look for motivations, such as a new book or a sleepover with cousins at Grandma’s if they stay in bed for one week.
Regardless of their age, there are a few things you can do to help your child better adjust to bedtime.
- Be consistent on when they go to bed and persistent in getting them there on time.
- Make sure their bedroom is conducive to good sleep. Remove electronics, clean up clutter, and install blinds such as these to block out any outside lights.
- Get them to bed earlier, before they are tired. This helps prevent them getting overtired and then not sleeping well that night.
- Give them a chance to wind down. This is a great time for books or chatting.
- Establish a routine: picking out jammies, brushing teeth, telling everyone good night, and reading a book. Start it at least 30 minutes before you want them asleep.
- Give them a transitional object such as a teddy they can cuddle when mommy has to go to her own bed.
Sleep training can be difficult at any age, but with these tools in your arsenal, you will come through bedtime the victor, with restful sleep to prove it.
Author: Alyssa Craig