In many households, it’s time to go to bed are some of the least-loved words. Kids don’t like to hear it, and parents dread the chaos that often ensues after saying it. Getting kids to go to bed and stay there throughout the night is a challenge for so many families. Since sleep is so important for both children and adults, bedtime struggles can’t be overlooked.
Tips for Overcoming Bedtime Battles
Laying down new bedtime rules or attempting new techniques can be incredibly difficult. When you’re living off of little sleep, your new bedtime strategy may seem impossible to execute. It can feel a lot easier to just give in to your child’s requests to sleep in your bed, watch TV, or have one more glass of water. Everything is more challenging when you’re exhausted! However, the sooner your child can begin a healthy bedtime routine, the better it’ll be for the whole family.
Here are some helpful tips for managing bedtime power struggles:
Have a consistent bedtime routine.
Having a clear and consistent bedtime routine is the foundation for healthy sleep patterns. Bedtime routines should include steps towards sleep. Asking a preschooler to go from playing with siblings or watching TV to heading straight to bed can easily spark the first power struggle. Bath time, brushing their teeth, getting into bed, talking about their favorite part of their day, and story time are all great steps that can ease them into bedtime.
Give them a little control.
For many young children, avoiding bedtime isn’t about scary monsters under the bed; it’s about control. Allowing them to be more independent and assertive at bedtime can make them feel like they have a greater sense of control. Giving them choices can give them a boost of kid power. For instance, you can allow your child to choose between two books, pick what pajamas they’re going to wear, or if they’re going to brush their teeth first or have a bath.
Talk about fears during the day.
For children who are afraid at bedtime, it can be helpful to discuss these fears during the day. Things can be a lot less scary when the sun is out! You can talk about what frightens them and find solutions together. It’s also important to remember that simply telling a young child that “there’s nothing to be afraid of” isn’t the best approach, because their fears feel very real to them.
Sometimes you have to get creative, especially with preschool-age kids. For instance, an extra-special magic flashlight can be helpful for those who are afraid of the dark. If there’s a monster under the bed, giving them a protective teddy bear or sprinkling invisible anti-monster dust around the bed each night can help combat these fears.
Stay calm and be consistent when a power struggle arises.
Staying calm and being consistent may be the most difficult things to achieve at bedtime. Exhaustion can make simple things, like making kids brush their teeth, appear unattainable. However, consistency is key when establishing bedtime rules and routines. When your child just wants to hear one more story, and you’ve already read two, try not to give in. Setting these boundaries is challenging, but being calm and consistent helps them adapt to bedtime routines.
Consider using a bedtime pass.
Back in October of 1999, a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine showcased the power of a “bedtime pass” to get kids to stay in their beds. Since then, many more studies have been conducted on this method with similar successful results.
The concept is simple: every night at the end of the bedtime routine, children are given one “pass,” which allows them to leave their room once. It can be for a trip to the potty, a glass of water, or just to get one more goodnight hug. Parents in the study made a pass out of an index card, but you can use any item. Both pediatricians and parents promote the bedtime pass technique because it gives kids a sense of control and sets clear limits.
While bedtime battles won’t be resolved overnight, having a plan in place can help you be proactive instead of reactive.