It's that time again, you have finished dinner, cleaned up the dishes, spent a little time playing with your child, and now it's time for bed.
There are very few parents that don't have trouble getting their child to go to sleep willingly. Those that claim to have it easy are most likely an urban myth.
Once a child becomes old enough to understand the world around them, they have this realization that things happen after they go to sleep. Basically, they think that they are missing out on all the fun. Children imagine that once they go to sleep, mom and dad run downstairs to play with all of their toys, bring out secret new toys, eat lots of ice cream and dance the night away.
What kids won't realize until they are much older is that after they go sleep, most parents end up sitting on the couch for two seconds of quiet and end up falling asleep with their mouths open to the news. The remote control is still stuck in their totally exhausted hands.
Although it's easy for adults to fall asleep and even look forward to the idea of a pillow waiting for them at the end of a long day, kids don't know yet how great that time is. So that's what we need to do. We need to make bedtime something to look forward too. We also need to demystify what happens after our child heads off to dreamland.
1. Pop Some Bubbly -- Bubbly bath that is!
Asking a child to head to bed right after they have been riled up by an exciting television show, round of tickles with dad, or an hour of outdoor playtime can be really difficult. As adults, we need a little time to transition from one activity to the next and kids need that same down time. Giving your child a nice warm bubble bath right before bed, will calm them down, give them a little extra playtime and settle them down for the night. There is something calming about a warm bath right before bed that relaxes the muscles and the brain to create a nice calming transition to bedtime.
2. Bring out the Books!
After bath time, take a few minutes for story time each night. Have a big basket of story time books that your child can choose from. This sets the expectation that story time is part of the bedtime ritual. This process continues the calm transition. Fill the story time basket with books that have themes you feel you can talk about with your child to create a nice dialogue before bed. Don't put books in the basket that center around stories or themes that could be troubling or too exciting. For example, you may not want to have a story about a superhero saving the world or a team of ghost hunters.
3. Add Some Noise!
What? Adding some noise when you want your child to sleep through the night seems like the most counterintuitive thing you can do. However, it's all about adding the "right" noise. Sometimes having a room "too quiet" will do more to keep your little one awake than help them sleep. Having a little white noise in the bedroom can be helpful to drown out other noises in the house like the little creaks that all houses make or the sound of your television. White noise will give your child just enough soothing background sound to help them drift right off to sleep. A sound machine can be found in almost any home store or online retailer and for many parents it's absolutely music to their ears!
4. Invite them to the Party!
When you've tried everything above and you are still having trouble keeping your little one in bed, let them in on the secret. Let them know that you are going to let them stay up late one night so that they can see all of the magical, exciting things that happen after they go to sleep. The most important part of this technique is to make sure that this amazing evening, is as un-magical and unexciting as possible. Step one, turn on CSPAN or another channel that's boring and uneventful. Step two, make sure every toy is put away. Step three, stress how once your child goes to sleep, all of the toys go to sleep too and they don't get played with again until the morning.
Let your little one sit next to you on the couch and invite them to join you in this wonderful viewing experience. If your child doesn't fall asleep within the first few minutes of this mind-numbing entertainment they will most likely ask you to put them back to bed. You might also ask your child after a few minutes of CSPAN misery if they would like you to read them one more story and tuck them back in.
Once a child realizes that they are straining to keep their eyes open for the non-existent party they thought they were missing, bedtime is sure to get a little easier for everyone. Also, remember as with all things child related, consistency is key. Keep those bedtime routines consistent and stick with them, so your child becomes accustomed to and excited about the bedtime routine.
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