I talk to mom friends all the time that have trouble getting their kids to bed. There will be times I’m chatting on the phone with them well after my kids are tucked in and then I hear it. Their little one is still up! Really?! It’s like 10:30 and your child isn’t sleeping?!?! I’ve been told I was blessed with good kids that like to go to bed, but believe me, they don’t just come out that way. It takes work. It also takes persistence. Here’s my 5 tricks that get your kids to bed on time and stay there.
1) Routine, Routine, Routine: This is probably the biggest factor. Kids need routine. They thrive in a steady routine. Sure it’s fun to mix things up, but for a child having a routine is reassuring. Decide on a bedtime routine that works for you and STICK WITH IT! Dinner, play, bath, PJ’s, story and devotions, bed. Maybe you don’t do that same thing, maybe you have other important bedtime routines that need to be added to my list. Find what works, and do it every time. Your child will get used to this routine and even come to expect it. Once the bedtime routine is initiated, your child will be able to prepare herself for the inevitable bedtime. It’s also important to share your bedtime routine with care takers who have to put your kids to bed. Just because you are not around is no reason to drastically change their ROUTINE. That’s why its called ROUTINE!
2)Pick a bedtime and BE FIRM! Believe it or not, according to the National Sleep Foundation, kids 5-12 need 10-11 hours of sleep to be at their best, toddlers need 12-14 (really!). Don’t have a bedtime yet? Work backwards. What time do they need to be out the door for school or daycare? If you are home with the kids, what time are they up in the morning? Then subtract the time for getting dressed and eating before school or daycare. Back it up 10 hours and you should have a reasonable bed time.
It’s important to BE FIRM with this bed time on a regular basis. Sure, there are special nights, we have them. Friday is movie night at our house, that is the ONE night our kids are allowed to stay up later. The rest of the week the kids are in bed within 30 minutes of their set bedtime. Yes, things come up like late dinner, extra homework, visitors etc., but try your hardest! Knowing that they are expected to be in bed by a certain time will decrease the attempts to delay bedtime. They need to know that you mean business!
3) Quite Time My BFF’s husband has this habit of getting the kids riled up right before bedtime. When we stay there it always drives me nuts because the rough and tumble play usually ends up with one child crying and the rest too squirrelly to read a story. Absolutely, your kids need play time, time to run off excess energy, but 15 minutes before bed is not the time. Along the same lines…what’s with caffeine and kids? There is absolutely NO reason a child should have anything with caffeine in it, ESPECIALLY anywhere near dinner time. Take that stuff away, parents, and help get into a good quite time routine!
30 minutes to bedtime is our count off. It starts with picking up (ha ha! when it happens I’m happy!) and closing down games, TV, and all the other distractions. After PJ’s is teeth, faces, diapers and various grooming requirements. From here on out, the TV is off (I know, your show is on, record it or watch it on Hulu.com, it’s a life saver!). Pick out books, devotional materials, or whatever quiet time materials you need to chill out for a while. Talk to your child. This is going to sound terribly basic, but some parents need reminders: make eye contact, and make physical contact, too. Your child need affection and reassurance, hugs and talks go a long way. Take a few minutes of your night for it!!
4) “Guys” and other comfort items My kids don’t have pacifiers, thumbs or blankies, but I understand their worth (correction, they HAVE thumbs, just not in their mouths!!). I had a blankey well past the age I needed one. For whatever reason, none of my kids took to the pacifier or (thankfully) their thumbs, but these are all comfort items. The one thing we DO have at our home are “guys”. Each child has a few stuffed animals that accompany them to bed at night. I have no problem at all with comfort items. BUT, if you are travelling or your child isn’t staying at home these items can be essential to their sleep routine. If you expect your child to sleep well away from home, don’t forget these items! Even their own blankets and pillows are important.
The AAP doesn’t recommend co-sleeping for good sleep habits. I have to admit we’re closet co-sleepers. I am not as comfortable sleeping with my infants, they usually have slept nearby but not in my bed. However, all of our older kids take turns in our bed. We have a king bed, so we have the room, and the kids love taking their turn. I don’t go to sleep at the same time they do (mama needs her quiet time, too!), but they know I’m on my way. Wherever you child sleeps, make sure they’re comfortable and that they have the items that are theirs. This will not only get them to bed on time, but help keep them there.
5) For crying out loud TURN THE TV OFF! This one is a big deal at our house. The kids know there is a rule… they will NOT have a television in their rooms. Ever. There are plenty of TV’s in our home that they don’t need one in their room. They especially do not need one to fall asleep. My cousin (who will probably call me as soon as she reads this) knows all too well how fast this becomes a bad habit. Being a young and single mom, she found the TV a great way to put her boy to bed. Every night he fell asleep to the television. When the second boy came along, this routine was well established. To this day she cannot get those boys to bed without the TV. When we stayed at my grandparents one time, I remember her hauling a television downstairs to the room they slept in just so her boys could sleep. This is a tough habit to break, and my cousin will tell you that first hand. To this day neither boy can sleep without a TV on.
As far as I’m concerned, using a television is a lazy way to appease your kid into sleep. It is also detrimental to their sleep patterns and causes them to get poor quality sleep. TURN IT OFF!! It is your responsibility as a parent to do this. Take the time to put them to bed, read to them, have them read to you, look at pictures, talk about their day. Put some time into your children, you won’t regret the investment, I promise!
On staying IN bed:
Get your “guys”, blankets and pillows. One last kiss, one last sip of water. Once your child is in bed, leave them there. Of course, you know your child best, and if the cry you hear is a true cry for help you should go to them. But in babies especially, they need a wind-down, and for many the only way they get it is to cry a bit before sleep. Putting your child to bed awake and letting them find a way to self-soothe is important in developing good sleep habits. They can’t rely on you to put them asleep forever. Don’t go to your toddlers room and rock them six times a night. When they get up, don’t even turn on the lights. This is part of the “being firm”. The only thing you should do is place them back in bed, say goodnight, and leave. If you have a child that is getting up persistently, you must be more persistent. The sooner they learn that the only result will be back to bed, the faster they’ll learn to stay there. Don’t give in!!!
Time is the key. If you establish good bed time habits and stick with them, it WILL GET EASIER!!
What are your bed time habits? Are they working for you?
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