Bedtime Blues

Ah, to have some quiet time. A couple of hours to relax in peace and quiet once the children are tucked snugly into bed. That is, unless your children make a game of getting back up time after time.

You know the routine. You help your child brush his teeth and get ready for bed. You tuck him in, kiss him goodnight and let out a deep sigh. By the time you plop down in your favorite chair, your child is either calling you or he is standing in front of you.

You take him back to bed. You go through the whole routine again, but it isn’t ten minutes before your little darling is yelling for you or popping up in front of you again. The excuses are endless. He needs another drink of water. He has to go to the bathroom again.

Or, maybe your daughter insists that she can’t sleep or she doesn’t like her room. Soon, she’s coming down the hall asking if she can stay up for just a little while. Next, she’s asking if she can sleep with you. You swear you see a little smirk each time you give in.

How many times do these little scenarios play out each night? You don’t want to be “mean” but you know that you and your child both need some rest. What is a parent to do?

Here are some tips to help make those bedtime blues go away:

1. Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. Make sure the nightly routine allows your child enough time to wind down from the day. Establish “quiet time” one half hour before bedtime. Have your child brush his teeth, use the restroom, and get into his pajamas. Then, turn off the TV and allow only relaxed, quiet activities. Set a timer and let your child know that when the timer rings, it’s time for bed. Your child can’t argue with the timer. Of course, he may try to argue with you but you must firmly tell him that when the timer rings, time is up. Stop talking, take his hand, and take him to bed.

2. Give your child plenty of attention and affection before bedtime. Sometimes with all the stress we are under, we hurry our children off to bed so we can relax. The child feels it and decides that she will not be ignored. Even “bad” attention, or reprimands for getting back up, is better than no attention at all. Take your child to bed instead of sending her to bed. Hug her, kiss her, tell her you can’t wait to see her again… in the morning.

3. Choose a special book for bedtime, and read at least a few pages each night. A customized book that has been personalized with your child’s name, her friends’ names, the name of her pet, and other details, is perfect. Or, you can pick a special song to sing. Don’t claim you don’t have time, because you are spending more time chasing your child back to bed than it would take to read a story or sing a song. It will be well worth the time spent when your child actually goes to sleep.

4. If your child continues to get up, stop interacting with her. Take your child back to bed and leave the room. Do not engage in any conversation. She may throw a fit or cry the first few times, but once she learns that she will not get your attention this way, she will stop.

5. For a child who is especially stubborn, you may have to employ disciplinary measures. Explain to your child that such behavior is not acceptable. Calmly but firmly make your child understand that this behavior will not continue. If your child gets out of bed, gently remind him that for every time he gets up, he will go to bed five minutes early the next night. The key is to follow through. A few nights of going to bed early will show him that you mean business.

Sometimes it is difficult for parents to be firm and remain consistent, but when we allow our children to get their way through temper tantrums and manipulation, we don’t do them -or ourselves- any favors.

Employing a specific routine will help your child learn to go to bed without the recurring bedtime battles. Soon, these rituals will become second nature, like any other daily routine.

It just takes a little creativity and patience until you discover what works best for your child. When you find something that works, be sure to follow through.

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