”But I’m not tired!”
“I don’t want to go to bed!”
“Just one more show, please...”
“It’s too early!
“No one else in my class goes to bed this early! They don’t even HAVE bedtimes!”
Sound familiar? Kids put up such a fight when it comes to bedtimes, it might be tempting to simply throw in the towel and give up altogether. All right then ― just STAY up!
Fighting over bedtime is exhausting and stressful and ultimately, no one ends up winning. How can this be remedied?
First of all, bedtimes must be planned. It might be helpful for parents to sit down and talk about bedtimes and plan for them.
Work backward. What time does your child need to get up? Refer to sleep guidelines to figure out the appropriate number of hours, and then count back to the time that your child really needs to be asleep. Don’t forget to build in time for bedtime routines and winding down.
Let’s say your child needs to wake up at 7 am. She is 10 years old, thus she needs to get 10 hours of sleep each night. She should be dozing off by 9 pm, so a reasonable time for her to be starting her bedtime routine is 8 pm.
ROUTINE is key. Bedtime should be the same time every night, and children should learn to expect each night to look and feel similar. The evening routine should be consistent and hopefully calm.
Minimize any kind of media or stimulation during the hours leading up to bed. The blue light emitted from screens has been shown to interfere with sleep. Keep all screens and devices away from bedrooms and power them down an hour or two before bedtime.
Bed time is not a time for negotiations. Children can be encouraged to negotiate bedtimes and routine changes during the day. Hold tight to the “no negotiating on the spot” policy.
Make the routine and the responsibilities involved clear to the child in advance. If a bath is required before sleeping, build in time for that. Be clear in expectations: brush teeth, wash face, put dirty clothes in the hamper, pack the school bag for the morning, etc.
Allow for time for reading in bed. Read aloud together or allow older children to read on their own. Clearly establish the time (or number of books) allotted ahead of time, and again, do not become sucked into the negotiation challenge at bedtime. It’s always better to say, “Let’s talk about changing this routine/expectation tomorrow, but not right before you go to sleep.”
Spend at LEAST a few minutes alone with the child, talking and snuggling before turning off the light.
Lighting may vary, but it should be dim. Some children prefer a night light and others like to sleep in complete darkness. Consider leaving a door cracked, with light emitting from another source, but make sure that other noises in the house are not disturbing and distracting the child from sleep.
Model calming behavior both before and after the child’s bedtime.
Maintain consistency with regards to trips out of bed. If the child has a pattern of getting up for a drink of water, prevent that need by offering water before bed, or leaving a water bottle within reach of the bed.
Keep in mind:
What are your bedtime challenges? How do you (or don’t you) deal with them?