When are children are new born, getting them to sleep is not usually a problem. If something has interrupted their sleeping just sort it out and they’re back to the land of nod again. Change the nappy zzzzzz. Feed them zzzzzzz. Change next nappy zzzzzzzz. You get the picture. So why does this state of being deteriorate so very badly by the time they reach the terrible twos and what can be done about it?
The endless battle to get them to bed is often the result of inconsistency. Lack of routine at night time is the number one problem when it comes to children getting their heads down. If your children are going to bed at different times, worst of all at times that they choose, they will never learn to mentally prepare themselves for bed. If you leave it too late to put your child to bed you can also be making a rod for your own back. When children are over tired they become irritable and emotional, hardly the start you need for a good nights kip at any age.
Before weaning it is all too tempting to rock baby to sleep whilst you are feeding them. This can set a difficult precedent, when baby wakes up in the middle of the night for no other reason than they’ve woken up you’ve already created the expectation that Mum or Dad are there to rock them back to sleep. Habits like this can be the forerunner of difficult sleeping patterns.
So a clearly defined bedroom routine is the best tool to have in your good sleeping practices toolkit. The first thing is to start with an appropriate time. Remember children need on average ten hours sleep a night. If your children have got into bad habits (sorry, you’ve allowed them to get into bad habits) don’t fix this one all at once, moving the bedtime goalposts by a significant amount will make bedtime into a battlefield. Start by making it 15 minutes earlier and don’t refer to the fact at all, then when they are used to the earlier time move it back another 15 minutes.
Bedtime, whatever time should always be announced by a familiar routine. Firstly, all computer games, MP3 players, sports games and other similar activities should be stopped a good 30 minutes before bed time. You should encourage your children to do something more reflective in that final 30 minutes, perhaps reading or writing a diary? While you are running them a bath you should let them know it will be time for bed soon.
After bath time it’s off to bed immediately with a suitable story. You need to create a bedroom environment that is conducive to winding down and dropping off to sleep. Soft lighting and lots of comfortable pillows and bedding will usually work a treat. When it comes to bedtime stories you should try to avoid the action stories and read things that are more appropriate and peaceful.
However you do your bed time routine the most important part is that it is routine but remember it’s your job to create the routine and your child’s job to find reasons to break it. No matter what excuses or reasons they come up with you do need to stick to your routine. Gentle, firm insistence is the key to your routine becoming their routine.