Turning Around the Bedtime Battle

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The clock strikes eight o’clock and a small shiver goes down the spines of the mom and dad. Shortly the bedtime battle will begin. It is something that both parents dread.  There is always something that delays the kids from going to bed. Either a favorite blanket can’t be found or an overwhelming thirst overtakes one of them just as she gets tucked in. The whole bedtime battle can take up to two hours before everyone is tucked in.

The bedtime battle does not have to continue. There are several steps parents can take to make the process a more enjoyable part of the day. The first step is to have a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine. A consistent bedtime gives children the expectation of when it is time to go to bed. It also avoids children from bargaining to stay up later as the bedtime has already been set. This means that bedtime should occur the same time every night, including the weekends.

A second step is to plan ahead for bedtime. If the children’s bedtime is eight o’clock then the bedtime routines should start earlier. How early depends on what goes into a bedtime routine. Most routines for children include brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and reading a short story.

Some children will need help with the bedtime routine. This is where posting visual schedules which give a reminder to the child of what she should be doing comes in handy. Make sure to post the visual schedules where children can easily see them such as on the bathroom mirror or by their dresser drawer.

A third step is to make bedtime an enjoyable activity for all members of the family. Reading to children can be a great way to end a day. Children’s literature can even give parents a small smile as they read the rhymes of Dr. Seuss. Other activities that could be incorporated into a bedtime routine include singing a few songs together or having the child snuggle in bed with one of her favorite stuffed animals. The enjoyable activities should be done as consistently as possible so children will look forward to the activity every night.

A fourth step is to be positive. Children will pick up on the fact that their parents groan and mumble about how much they hate bedtime. Keeping parent frustrations in check and presenting a positive mindset will lower the stress levels and make everything go smoother.

These four steps will make a huge difference in the bedtime routine. Remember to be consistent with bedtime even when schedules change. The greater the consistency of bedtime, the less hassle it becomes. Also, a good bedtime routine helps everyone in the family. It gives the children a consistent sleep schedule and lowers the stress level for the whole family. It may take a while to get used to doing all four steps for bedtime but the payoff will be an end to the bedtime battles.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on October 19, 2014.

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