Some children are experts at stretching bedtime out through procrastination and persistent cries of ‘ just five more minutes’. This battle at the end of the day is draining for parents and makes parenting life hard work.
You need a plan. It may not always work, but a bed-time plan really helps you win the behavioural battles at the end of the day. It should look something like this:
- Reduce stimulation. Signal the end of the day with a set routine of quiet time, drink, toilet and story so kids know what’s expected. Children are more likely to protest when there is no set routine or bedtime. Boisterous games are out at least thirty minutes before bedtime. Reading to children in bed, is a great way to get them there, particularly if you make sure it’s a fun time.
- Remove distractions. Be willing to temporarily remove any distractions that keep kids out of bed, if this becomes a problem. Turn off the TV, remove computers if necessary, and place mobile phones in the kitchen. Sounds drastic, but sometimes you have to remove the reasons for kids wanting to stay up.
- Distinguish between being in bed and being in the bedroom. Kids vary in the amount of sleep time they need. It’s pointless to expect kids to be in bed at a certain time each night and sleep. It’s more realistic to expect kids to be in their bedrooms at a set time. They can regulate their own behaviour once they are there. Once away from the adult world children generally fall asleep fairly quickly.
Make sure you wake them and get them up and the same time each day. Avoid allowing late sleepers to compensate with a sleep-in, which delays the sleep cycle.
- Be firm with procrastinators. Resist children’s efforts to involve you with calls for drinks, last minute arrangements of teddies, one more story or assistance with forgotten homework. Many children learn that parents are willing to remain involved if enough pressure of brought to bear. Once kids are in their bedrooms then the best trick is to ignore their calling out and demonstrate you are unwilling to get involved in their games. This is your time now!
- Ignore or return boomerangs. Children who continually reappear after bedtime need to learn that this is not the right time to get your attention. Be unwilling to enter their games, quietly returning them without speaking, or arguing with them. Be persistent with this approach. Kids generally tire of this when they receive no feedback.
Experiment with what works for you. But look at altering your approach if bed-time is becoming a battle.
And be prepared for kids’ behaviour to get worse before it gets better. That’s why you’ve got to hang in there and be just as determined as they are.
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