Getting Your Kids To Bed

At the end of a long, busy day you want to be able to kick back, relax and have some fun with your family before calling it a day. The last thing you want to do is fight with your kids about bedtime. If getting your kids to bed is something you’re struggling with, take heart. There are some simple steps you can take that should help.

Sleep problems in children under the age of ten are quite common. One study reports that 69% of parents said their children experienced sleep problems at least a few times each week. Sleep problems in children affect the child’s mood, attention span, memory, problem solving, and behavior as well as disrupting the lives of other family members.

So, what can you do to improve your child’s sleep habits?

• Establish a routine: bedtime should be the same time each night and children should wake up the same time each morning.
• Room conditions: your child’s bedroom should be cool, dark, quiet and comfortable.
• Bedtime routines should take no more than 30-45 minutes and should consist of the same activities each night. The goal should be to gradually calm children down, not wind them up.
• Some bedtime routine do’s:
o Bath
o Cuddle time
o A trip to the bathroom
o Talk about their day
o Reading (not only is it proven that kids who read or are read to at bedtime sleep better, but there are also the added educational benefits of better reading ability and school performance)
• Some bedtime routine don’ts:
o Anything that could be considered “wild time”. No running around, jumping, wrestling or anything that raises their level of physical activity and gets them pumped up. Remember, the goal at bedtime is to calm children down, not wind them up.
o No electronics. This includes TV, video games or computers.
o No drinks with caffeine
• Be consistent: once you have established a routine for your children, it is critical that you are totally consistent in following the routine. Even when the plan doesn’t seem to be working and you’re tired and tempted to give in to your child’s bedtime demands, don’t do it. Be consistent and stick with the plan you have established.

Once the bedtime routine is established, here are a few other tips and ideas to help make the bedtime routine easier:

• Create a chart with your bedtime routine elements. For younger children you may want pictures or drawings to illustrate the steps in the routine. For older children, a checklist may work best.
• Create a pass system your child may use for “one more thing”. You can decide how many of these passes they can use each night, but you should follow two principles. First, if you start out allowing three passes per night, for example, your goal should be to gradually reduce the number allowed per night until they are no longer used at all. Second, once your child has used their quota of passes, that’s it. No bargaining or pleading. It’s time to go to bed.
• If your child doesn’t go right to sleep or wakes up in the night, calmly and quietly walk them back to their room and remind them that it’s nighttime and they should go back to sleep. The less attention you give them, the better. Attention from you in a situation like this only encourages them to repeat the unwanted behavior.
• Good morning light: use a nightlight connected to a timer in your child’s room to help them understand when it’s time to get up in the morning. If the light is still on, it’s still time to sleep. When it goes off, it’s okay to get up.
• Sticker charts work well for many children. They earn stickers for following their bedtime routine, not getting up in the night, staying in bed until their wake-up time, etc. Children may then get a reward once they have earned a certain number of stickers. Just be sure the rewards are ones your child would enjoy.

With a bedtime routine, and some patience and consistency, bedtime for your kids can be transformed from something you dread into something you’ll look forward to.