If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “I don’t want to go to bed yet!” I would be a rich woman. Many families experience frustration with getting the kids to bed on time. And it gets worse as the days get longer when it doesn’t get dark until after 8:30 pm.
Just the Facts, Ma’am
Fact: Children love to be active.
Fact: Children hate to miss out on anything.
Combined they spell a recipe for disaster when it comes to bedtime.
Fact: Children need sleep.
Fact: Children need routines.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to set up a schedule – and enforce it – so that they are well rested in the morning and able to function.
If routines are non-existent in your house, now is the time to start. Your children will be better off, and it will eliminate some stress from your daily life. Here are some tips on how to establish a bedtime routine with the least amount of resistance.
Establishing a schedule allows children to anticipate what is going to happen; what is expected of them. For example, a bedtime routine could include:
1. Brush teeth
2. Go potty
3. Wash hands
4. Put on pajamas
5. Lay out tomorrow’s clothes
6. Read a story
7. Kiss goodnight and say ‘I love you’
8. Lights out
Timing is Everything
According to the National Sleep Foundation, based on age, children need between 10 and 14 hours of sleep. For example, if your 6-year-old wakes up for school at 7 a.m., bedtime should be between 8 and 9 p.m. to allow for 10-11 hours of sleep. If their bedtime routine takes 30 minutes, allow for that time in your schedule. Sticking to the routine – even on weekends – is critical to establishing healthy sleep patterns.
Sleep requirements by age are described on the National Sleep Foundation’s website.
Make it Fun
Increasing the ‘fun factor’ will increase the chances of your kids going along with you rather than fighting you every step of the way. Buy multiple toothbrushes (less expensive if you purchase multi-packs), and let them choose which one they want to use each night. If you have more than one child, let them each have their own toothpaste. They will want to use it if it seems ‘special’ to them.
It’s All About Control, Give Them Some
Let your child lay out their clothes for the next day. If they are too small to do this on their own, provide two choices and let them pick. If they are old enough, let them select. Even if they pick a blue striped shirt with green polka dot pants, let them wear it. It will instill in them a sense of pride and make them feel like they have some control over their life.
If reading a bedtime story is part of your routine, let them choose the book. If possible, let them read to you, or alternate reading pages with them.
Stick to the Plan
Remember, having a bedtime routine in place is one of the best things you can do for your kids – and your own sanity. The will get enough sleep, and you may even have some time for yourself in the evening.
The key is to set up a routine and stick to it. After a few days, your children will catch on and you won’t have to remind them as often. They will go into ‘bedtime mode’ and get everything done all by themselves.
Now, doesn’t that sound nice? Sweet dreams!
“Children and Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation website.