For many parents the nightly bedtime routine can be described as a bedtime battle. Finding the way to get your child to bed and more importantly to sleep is probably one of the most important lessons for any parent to learn. Medical research tells how good quality sleep is important to recharge the body so that it can carry on growing tomorrow. It is also the time when the brain processes experiences into learning and memory so without the right amount of sleep your child may not be developing as well as they should.
Despite all of the acquired knowledge about how good a great night’s sleep is some children seem to want to turn bed time into World War III night after night. Why do we, as adults, let the children rule the roost on this one because that is what they are doing. Before bedtime becomes a battle it’s a good idea to sidestep the issues by making bedtime routine completely normal. There are some simple steps that you can take that will reinforce the normality of your bed time routine but remember that whatever steps you choose, stick with them as they are the new normal. Some good steps are:
· Bed time – between 1800 and 1830 for four or five year olds and then gradually increase bed time as they get older. Increase it when you think they can still be rested with half an hour less of sleep.
· Give out early warnings – gently remind your child that it’s bed in five minutes (or maybe 15 for an older child). Use gentle encouraging tones so as to avoid creating resentment.
· Bath time – start your bedtime routine with a warm, relaxing bath. Older children can help by bathing with younger brothers and sisters. Use the opportunity to introduce phrases such as “after you have cleaned your teeth it’s jim jam time” or “You can brush your teeth in two minutes once we’ve done here”. Be gentle in your tone so these simple reminders become an all important part of the routine.
· Bed time story – lights low and cherish to moment of reading to your child, It’s so good for them and really is one of the joys of parenting. Just make sure you guide them away from the exciting stories that are action, action, action and if they insist just don’t do the voices.
· Chat over the day – if you don’t want to read a story a few minutes reflecting on the day can be a good idea. Remember to keep any questions simple, this is probably a time when closed questions would be a good thing.
· A mug of warm milk – one of nature’s great sleeping draughts. Think about it, what does Mother Nature make them do after they taken a fill of milk? Sleep of course. Just one thing, avoid the temptation to add a teaspoon of sugar – sugar, children, bedtime are not natural companions!
Decide what your routine is and then stick to it rigidly until you see that it has become an accepted part of your child’s life. The day they start to edge towards the wooden hill themselves is they day the message has got across, normality has been established and it is safe to introduce exceptions into their lives.