If you ask parents what time of day they dread the most, a lot of them would tell you bedtime. Bedtime with children can be stressful, especially when you have let them sleep in your bed in the past, or when you want to transition from a crib to a “big kid” bed. Fortunately, bedtime was never something that gave us much trouble in our house, so I thought I would share a few of the tips we used to make sure that bedtime went smoothly when the boys were little and now as well.
1. Start Preparing 30 Minutes Before
If your child’s bedtime is at 8:00 pm, then start your bedtime routine around 7:30. Make sure they understand that if there is anything they need to do before bed, it is to get done during this time. All drinks, bathroom breaks, storybook reading and other tasks should be done during this time so there are no excuses at bedtime.
2. Don’t Scream or Yell
Some children will try and get their way at bedtime. They may be looking for a reaction from you and if you scream or yell, you are giving it to them. They may figure that if they continue to get a rise out of you, then you will eventually give in and let them stay up. It can also cause stress in the environment and actually make them stay up longer.
3. Do Not Bribe Them
Do not bribe the kids to get in bed or stay in bed. No matter how enticing this option may sound, if you bribe them, then you are reinforcing the negative behavior. It may seem like you are really enforcing a positive behavior, but the positive behavior would be you never having to tell them to stay in bed in the first place. If they get out several times and then you offer them a reward if they stay in, you are teaching them that if they disobey a few times, they can get a reward. This will run into other parts of your day as well.
4. Be Consistent
Do not sit where your children can see you, do not stay in the bed or room with them. Go about your normal business and each time they come out, calmly walk them back to their bed and tell them it is time for them to go to sleep. Do not be deterred by requests for drinks, hugs or anything else. You don’t have to be mean, just firm in the fact that they must go back to bed. It may take hours several nights in a row, but eventually they will learn that the outcome will never change and they will go to bed without a hassle. It is important to understand that if you fail to be consistent even one time during this period, they will keep getting out of bed hoping for that one chance again.
5. Make the Environment Comfortable and Inviting
If you are having trouble getting your child to sleep in their own room or are moving to a “big kid” bed. Be sure that the environment is comfortable and inviting. A comfortable double mattress can go a long way towards making a bed more cozy and inviting to a small child. Let them help pick out items to redecorate their room a bit and make it their own. The more inviting their room is, the more willing they will be to sleep in it. They want to stay with you out of comfort and familiarity, so the goal is to turn their room into their new safe haven.
What are your tips for a stress-free bedtime?
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