By Amy Morin
Every night, millions of parents around the world experience a similar struggle – their kids whine, argue and insist they’re not sleepy. If this sounds familiar, there are a few thing you can do to reduce bedtime arguments. Here are the top five ways to curb bedtime protests:
1. Allow for Wind-Down Time
It’s hard for anyone to go from an energizing romp outside directly to bed, so don’t expect your kids to go easily from playtime to sleepy-time. Instead, create a bedtime routine that involves 30 to 60 minutes of wind-down time; you choose whether it’s best to do it before or after baths or other bedtime rituals.
Generally speaking, wind-down time should be free from TV, video games, computers and loud noises potentially made by siblings or parents. The lights should be dimmed, and kids can read, draw or softly talk to their parents or siblings about their days. The purpose is to allow the child to transition between the excitement of the day and the calmness of going to sleep.
2. Stick to a Set Bedtime
It’s tempting to allow a whining child to stay up for just a few more minutes, just to avoid an argument. However, doing so sets the stage for future squabbles. Establish a standard bedtime for your child, and be firm sticking to it. This rings true for summer and weekends, unless there’s a special occasion.
However, if that bedtime is too late, you might be increasing the chance of arguments from your child. An overtired kid might take longer to fall asleep and wake up more during the night, which will cause him to be more tired the next day. And sleep deprivation causes increased behavior problems, which can set up a cycle that is difficult to break.
Move up his bedtime a half an hour by incrementally changing the time. If he currently goes to bed at 9 p.m. and you want to make it 8:30, change the bedtime to 8:50 the first time, 8:40 the second night and 8:30 the third night. This gradual change is less likely to result in a child’s meltdown.
3. Offer Small Rewards
A bedtime sticker chart can serve as an excellent motivator for preschool-age children. Create a chart with a row for every day of the week. In the perpendicular axis, create small tasks such as “Brush your teeth the first time you’re told,” “Change into PJs without a fight,” and so on. Each time your child completes a task without an argument, he earns a sticker.
For young children, a sticker may be reward enough. Other children may benefit from exchanging stickers for other rewards. Token economy systems can also be effective motivators for older children. Rewards don’t need to be extravagant – there are plenty offree and low cost rewards that can serve as helpful motivators.
4. Make the Routine Predictable
Create structure around bedtime activities. Implement “The Four Bs” – bath, brushing, book and bed. Do the same things in the same order, and your child will naturally start to get sleepy as his body adjusts to the routine.
5. Let the Child Fall Asleep Alone
Anyone who “sleep-trained” their infant knows the deal here – if you’re around when your child falls asleep, he might panic if you’re gone when he wakes up in the middle of the night. That could lead to fear of falling asleep initially – and arguments to go to bed because of it. Snuggle with your child for a few minutes before bed, but then leave to allow him to go to sleep on his own.
Your child needs sleep, he just doesn’t know it quite yet. As an adult, he’ll rue the day he fought getting enough sleep, but for now—do what you can to make the bedtime battle cease to exist.