Throughout my years as a Childcare Business Owner and Provider, I have been approached on numerous occasions by many parents who have asked for suggestions to many different issues they have faced with their little ones – needless to say, one of the issues of concern has been children’s bedtime battles. Whether your child is wired and does not want to go to sleep, or just not tired, what do you do if you feel like you’re struggling with your child on their nighttime routine and going to bed Every.Single.Night becomes an epic battle? Guess what, you are definitely not alone. Patience is tested, frustrations are high, and you KNOW your child is tired (and so are you!).
Many parents deal with bedtime battles but rest assured, you’ll make it through! Here are some great ways to overcome bedtime battles and get everyone tucked in and asleep in a much calmer and controlled manner.
1. Routine, Routine, Routine
Routine is your child’s best friend. Kids thrive on routine. Order brings peace. We’ve probably all heard this a million times, but it is so true, especially when it comes to bedtime routines. When Little Johnny is allowed to pretty much set his own bedtime night after night because you don’t want to start another fight or because you’re trying to get your million other to-do’s finished up around the house, bedtime suffers. If your kids know what to expect at bedtime, they are more likely to go along with the routine that is consistently upheld night after night. You’ll be surprised when they don’t put up as much of a fight once they have settled into a new routine and know that mom and dad are going to stick to the rules.
Also, set clear guidelines on what time bedtime truly is. Let your child know that this is when you expect them to be in bed. From there, make sure routines are set for ending the day’s activities, getting washed up or taking a bath, and getting ready for bed. I get it, some may say that this may be difficult, especially since we lead such busy lives. We do lead busy lives, however, we also have to schedule routines into our busy lives and be consistent for our children. It can also really help a child if you give them warnings on how much longer they have until it’s lights out. 30 minutes until they have to be in bed? 15 minutes until the lights are out? Whatever you set, don’t deviate from it unless there is a good reason why. And again… be consistent!
2. Create the Mood with a Comforting Atmosphere
Start quieting down after dinner and work on getting your little one to wind down after a busy day. Dim the lights after bath time, play music in the background, and create a soothing environment. This will help your child to check out from the chaos of their day and will also give you some much needed calm time, as well! When kids expect a little calm at the end of their day, you’ll be surprised how much they will come to enjoy this time to unwind!
3. Bedtime Stories
Nothing can create an environment to overcome bedtime battles like having a little one-on-one fun with your child before they go to sleep. Let them pick out some books, cuddle up in their bed with them, and take turns reading to each other if your child is old enough to read or is learning. What a great way to work on their skills while spending some quiet time together! It’s also a great time to expand your child’s imagination through story-telling! Start a story and take turns adding onto the story with your child and let them lead. Ask open ended questions also, this will help stretch their imagination. They will have a great time and this will promote self-confidence and help build their language skills, as well!
This is another great time to lay with your child and talk about their day. You’ll be surprised how much you might learn about what is going on in their life if you take the time every night to give them special one-on-one time with you. You can also prepare them for the for tomorrow. Give them a little tid bit on what they can expect to happen tomorrow. For example, you will be going to school tomorrow, or tomorrow will be the day that you stay home with mommy. Let them know what to expect, especially if you will be doing something together.
4. Provide Options
Providing options during their nightly bedtime routines helps them feel more involved and like they have a “say” in what is going on. Children like to know that their opinion counts and that their voice is heard. Have them help to pick out which pajamas they would like to wear that night. Do they have a special blanket that they’d like to bring to bed with them? Then take it in the room. A specific stuffed animal? Make sure it’s there. Would they like a glass of water on their nightstand? Because once the door is closed, there is no more chances for finding any of these things. Do they want a nightlight in their room or would they prefer the bedroom door was kept open a crack? All of these things will help them feel like they are making decisions on how to best say good night.
Another great option is to occasionally provide a special treat, such as watching a special show that is kid-friendly that they love before going to bed. How do they earn it? By going to bed and listening for a specific number of nights in a row. After the show? It’s lights out! Be consistent and stick to the rules. If they don’t follow the bedtime rules, than there is no special treat. But it’s their choice and they have the option to possibly earn occasional rewards based on their habits on the other nights.
5. Be Present
It can be a difficult time of the day. You want to wrap up all of the daily chores and kick your feet up and relax a little before going to bed yourself. You still have some emails to send out for work, or you have a couple calls to make for the PTO. However,… this is NOT a time to multi-task. Keep the energy positive. Join your children during this nightly routine and enjoy them during this time, for it will be gone all too soon. This is an incredible time to bond and interact with your kids, who you may not have had a lot of time with throughout the day. Snuggle. By being present in this daily routine, you’ll help to calm the kids and you will build wonderful memories for everyone!
After a long day of working, parenting, and whatever else you may have had thrown on your multi-tasking plate, many look forward to that time that they can recharge and prepare for the next day. And how is that ever going to happen when there are nightly bedtime battles? Hopefully these tips will make bedtime fun and enjoyable again for the whole family. Good luck!