As parents, you and I know that our sweeties need sleep – lots of it. Without enough, they wake up cranky and groggy (your morning routine will be rougher), have a hard time concentrating at school and are more prone to negative behaviour. Plus, getting enough Zzzs is important for their memory and overall health and development. Despite the benefits, many of our cuties fiercely fight going to bed. My daughter used to be a master staller and I had to be on my A-game not to give into all her requests and dawdling (seriously, she does not need to line up her 20 stuffed animals for 20 minutes!). For whatever reason kiddos are so resistant to getting ready for and going to bed, it’s our jobs as parents to make the process positive so they develop healthy sleep habits.
Over the last year, I’ve become more diligent about bedtime rituals. My husband and I stay firm with our rules – consistency is so important – and fill the routine with love and affirmations. The result: My sweetie doesn’t put on her boxing gloves to fight bedtime like she used to. She looks forward to story time and snuggles and she sleeps more soundly. If you want Timmy’s tuck-in time to go more smoothly, too, follow these tips. Promise that your evenings will be a lot calmer and easier.
1. Stick to a routine
At my house, the bedtime sequence is always predictable: Bath, PJs, brush teeth, climb into bed, read a book, talk about the day, snuggle, good night and lights out. We stick to the schedule, even on weekends. It’s valuable for you to do the same: The repetition and structure make kiddos feel safe and relaxed, which helps them sleep more soundly. As well, bedtime routines foster independence skills such as how to settle down after a busy and stressful day.
2. Use a visual schedule
Lay out the steps of Tammy’s bedtime ritual on a visual schedule. She’ll be more compliant, calmer and faster when she can see what she has to do. Plus, visual schedules help build independence and executive functioning skills. During the day, I like to use the Choiceworks app at home and work, but it’s better to be screen-free at night. As such, print out little pictures that illustrate each step and fasten them to a small board or paper.
TIP: If Tammy has trouble brushing her teeth properly by herself, create a second visual schedule to show her exactly what to do. Guide her through the process the first few times, pointing to the pictures for each step, then gradually fade back your involvement until she’s brushing independently.
3. Be consistent with bedtime
My daughter sometimes begs to stay up later on the weekends. But there are no negotiations: Bedtime is roughly at the same time every night of the week. That’s because being consistent with lights-out helps ensure our sweeties get the sleep they need. Well-rested kiddos move faster in the morning and are more alert, attentive and better behaved at school (and home). 3-6 year olds need 10-12 hours of sleep a night and 7-12 year olds need 10-11 hours.
TIP: If you’re having a hard time getting Timmy tucked in earlier, take a systematic approach: Start his bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier, so lights out is 15 minutes before the typical time. Once this has been successful for three consecutive nights, continue to push bedtime back in 15-minute increments until he’s snoozing at a desirable, healthier hour.
4. Turn off screens
One of the nighttime rules for my daughter is that all screens – TV, computer, tablet – are turned off at least 1 hour before bed. You might want to implement the same for Timmy. According to the National Sleep Foundation, zoning out in front of the TV before bed has been linked with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep and anxiety. That extra episode of Paw Patrol might be enticing, but it’s definitely not worth it!
5. Deter dawdling
Does Timmy brush his teeth and put on his jammies slower than a snail? My daughter does, too – it’s one of her stalling tactics. To encourage a more efficient pace without riling Timmy up, invite him to a subdued game of beat the timer (the alarm should be quiet) and or music. His mission is to complete the task before the soothing songs – go for lullabies or calming classical music – are over. Most nights, we have parents vs. kids pajama races. The prize for winning: one extra book before bed or a token worth 5 bonus minutes of screen-time after school the next day.
6. Be chill
The last thing you want to do is rile Tammy up before she goes to sleep. So keep your interactions and her bedroom environment calm and quiet. Snuggle with her in bed, dim or turn off the lights, turn on a Sleep Sheep or quiet lullabies and talk in a soothing whisper. Just be careful not to engage in too much conversation at this point, as doing so will wake her up and encourage more stalling.
Image by Theeradech Sanin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net