The eternal headache of many parents is children's sleep and bedtime battles.
Plus, each age has its own challenges: tiny babies suffer from colic and don’t sleep, then they are teething and don’t sleep, then monsters under the bed scare kids (so they don’t sleep), then they discover the wonderful world of books and it is hard to convince them to put the book down and switch off the light (so they don’t sleep), and let’s not even attempt to talk about teenagers and their sleeping patterns…So, yes, bedtime and sleeping can be very painful… but they don’t have to be…
The Key to Avoiding Bedtime Battles: A Bedtime Routine
Over the years I’ve come to understand that there are two main things that are very important in avoiding bedtime battles: calmness and consistency. And to establish those, a “bedtime routine” is the most important solution.
Here are some general guidelines for creating a bedtime routine using positive parenting tools.
Give Your Children Individual Quality Time
One of the reasons children resist going to bed is to get mom and dad’s attention. One of the key things to do in establishing a lasting routine is to give each of your children individual quality time. Time when you can chat about something privately, watch tv sitting next to each other or simply share a hug. Just make it between two of you.
Choose a Bedtime, and Stick to It!
Choose a specific bedtime (for example 8 pm) and stick to it plus or minus half an hour. Show them the clock if they are young and explain which digits on the dial mean “bedtime”. It is much easier for a child to exist within a framework of certain rules and habits, and having the same bedtime every evening is a great way to start.
Say Goodnight and Leave the Room
After your child is in bed and all the bedtime rituals are complete (teeth are brushed; pyjamas are on; stories are read), it is time to calmly kiss your child, say "good night" and leave the room. If your child follows you out of the room, calmly take him by the hand and, without saying anything, walk him to bed. The only caveat here is that you have to be honest with yourself: how important is it for you that your kids fall asleep on their own? I personally love lying next to my sons, talking to them, and then humming lullabies and listening to their sleepy breathing (not every day though, of course), so this technique was not always used in my family.
Create a Bedtime Routine CHART
Last but most importantly, brainstorm together and make a list of things to do before going to bed: wash your face, put on your pyjamas, brush your teeth, choose your clothes for tomorrow, go to the toilet, listen to or read a story, hug, kiss, and listen to a lullaby. Write down everyone’s ideas even if they include things like watching TV for an hour before bed or eating lots of chocolate. Then, together, filter the suggested actions as decide which won’t make it into the plan (we watch TV in the evening only on weekends, remember? Chocolate is very tasty, let's eat a piece together after dinner sometimes, but not before bed).
Then help your child to roughly calculate how long the agreed actions in the plan will take to complete and so when it is necessary to start in order to have time to do everything. "What time do we go to the bath - at 7 pm or 7.15? Do you need one minute to put on your pyjamas or two?" Write it all down to jointly create your child’s bedroom routine. Kids can draw it as a chart, perhaps even on the computer. You could take photos of them completing each step and put the sequence of steps in order. Now you have a plan – in part drawn up by your child himself – and as rules are to be followed – you will find that your child is far more inclined, even excited, to follow it.
Do you have a bedtime routine already? Or maybe your bedtime routine has been disrupted lately? I hope that by calmly and consistently implementing some of these ideas at home, bedtimes will become less stressful for you.