10 Tips for Getting Kids to Bed
“Why aren’t you sleeping yet?” “I’m not tired, mom, and I’m scared.” If this conversation sounds familiar to you then you’re not alone. Every night parents around the world struggle to get their kids to bed on time. Some children are easier and are more independent, while others have learned how to manipulate their parents in getting their way.
- Set a specific bedtime. Decide what time is appropriate for your children to go to sleep and be consistent with it. If children sense that they can manipulate your decision, they will. You can be more flexible with older children if you want to give them different bedtimes for school and non-school nights. However, stay consistent and follow through by enforcing the time you set for them. This means turning off the lights and not lying down with them.
- 15-30 Minute Warning. Give them time to start their “getting ready for bed routine.” This prepares them mentally for winding down and closing up any unfinished projects they may have.
- Establish a routine. Get them in the habit of going to the bathroom, washing up, brushing their teeth, getting into pajamas, preparing their clothes for the next day, reading a bedtime story, etc. Having a routine is comforting for them and will help them wind down.
- Let them know that getting enough sleep will help to keep them healthy. Talk to them about how it promotes a good mood, learning ability, and helps fend off illnesses by strengthening their immune system. This lets them be involved in the process and may prevent them from worrying about fun they might miss if they fall asleep.
- Give them Props. Some children need certain personal items to comfort them and help them fall asleep. Its okay to give them a doll, a special blanket, to listen to soft music, or things that may sooth them. However, make sure it’s not watching TV or anything stimulating, which will peak their interest and cause them to stay up.
- Teach them relaxation techniques. Kids can use a variety of relaxation techniques depending on what works for them. This can range from listening to music, exercising, counting backwards from a hundred, deep breathing, and relaxation imagery. Practice with them so they can learn to use on their own.
- They’re going to test you. Especially if you haven’t followed through in the past and are trying to undo bad habits. Don’t be discouraged or get into a power struggle with them. Be firm, consistent, and repeat instructions as needed. Give them consequences for not listening and they will eventually realize that you’re serious and will be consistent.
- Everyone has responsibilities. Teach them to define and respect the various roles in the family. There’s adult-time and then there’s kid-time. Making this clear distinction for them will help with future discipline, respect, and enforcing rules.
- Don’t get them worked up. Just before bedtime, try to avoid giving them any caffeinated beverages or engaging in rough horse-play. At least one-hour prior to their bed time, don’t have them engage in activities which will cause them to be frightened or increase their heart-rate.
- Reward good listening. The behaviors you reward are the one’s they’re going to repeat. Don’t reward defiance by giving them attention if they are not following the rules. This will send mixed signals. Acknowledge and reward good behaviors correctly and let them know, with consequences, which behaviors needs improvement.