Better Parenting: Bedtime Do’s and Don’ts for Kids and Parents

It is inevitable that every parent will engage in their own fair share of bedtime battles. So let’s explore suggestions for some DO’s and DON’T’s for your infants, toddlers or preschool kids that might help lessen the conflicts.

START EARLY

DON’T wait too long to begin routines; it is much better to set your baby up for successful sleep from the very beginning than to introduce new sleep habits to a stubborn toddler.

DO start placing your infant in the crib when your infant is awake but drowsy so he learns to fall asleep on his own.

EXPLORE CLUES

DON’T have a strict schedule. You can’t know for sure in the early months what the best bedtime is for your baby. Many times they regulate their own sleep schedules.

DO give your baby clues such as a bedtime bath and lullaby that it is time to go to sleep.

DO try to follow the same routine before sleep. This regularity will build a sense of security and predictability that will help your infant – and then as a growing toddler have good sleep habits.

DO help a fussy infant to sleep simply by stroking the baby’s back for a while.

REPEAT THE PROCESS

DON’T lie down with your child when he wakes up crying and will not stay in bed.

DON’T take your child to your bed.

DO make sure your child is not seriously frightened or sick and doesn’t need a diaper change or isn’t really thirsty.

DO put your child back in bed and leave the room. Do it firmly, kindly, and patiently.

DO repeat this process as many times a necessary. You will need to do it fewer and fewer times each night.

MUSIC

DON’T forget that you can have CD’s playing in your preschooler’s room that play lullaby’s on endless repeat until they are asleep. You help your child build a selection of favorites. The surprising benefit is after a while the first few notes on the first song make them drowsy.

DO remember that this familiarity can become a comfort like a blanket or teddy bear. Playing it loud enough to quiet the sounds in the rest of the house may prove helpful.

TRANSITION AS THEY GET OLDER

DON’T forget to start a transition to a new bedtime routine as your kids get past the toddler stage. You may want to begin the routine with a warm bath, dressing for bed, a snack, brushing teeth, drink, reading a story, going potty, nightly prayers and hugs and kisses when the lights go out. Have all or a few of these ideas or different ones for a routine that is best for your household.

DO prepare ahead during the day. Tell your child that you know your child is old enough to sleep alone. Explain that you will not be staying up with your child at bedtime any longer.

DON’T be available. Put your child to bed. Then don’t respond to any additional calls for attention before your child goes to sleep.

DO tell your child in advance that this story or this song is the last one and that you will be leaving the room when it is over.

DO plan ahead. Try to figure out what your child’s bedtime wants are going to be and provide them before the child asks. Then tell the child kindly and firmly that this is the final good night and DO follow through.

REWARDS AND CONSEQUENCES

DON’T threaten children if they do not go to bed with taking away allowances, privileges, or affection. This will only make bedtime a negative event for the children

DON’T use reward systems for bedtime, offering tokens, or prizes for going to bed without a hassle. This could end up as a failure for some kids and teach them that bedtime is a bad thing that needs a reward.

DON’T encourage television, video games or computer time right before bed, as this can stimulate the brain and affect sleep.

DO set routines that meet your child’s needs.

DO teach them how to calm and prepare themselves for sleep.

TIMING

DON’T wait until bedtime to get the kids’ bedtime routine started.

DO begin the bedtime routine at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

NIGHT LIGHT

DON’T be surprised if your child that has never complained about the dark hits a period where she wakes up in the night and goes into your bedroom because of bad dream or wakes up in the dark feeling disoriented or afraid.

DO provide a small lamp or night-light to see if that helps.

NAPS

DON’T let your child take a nap longer than an hour and half, especially at the end of the day.

DO keep your children busy during the day. Make sure they get enough exercise and start naps early in the afternoon. These activities will help prepare a child’s body for the needed sleep and make falling asleep easier.

OVERTIRED

DON’T let kids get over-tired and cranky; it is harder for them to fall asleep. One mom said that keeping her kids awake during the day and up late backfires.

DO see that the kids have a healthy dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime. Bedtime should be a calm, quiet, safe time of the day for children.

CHECK-INS

DON’T allow your kids to stay awake for hours when they are not able to go to sleep calling out for a drink, a hug, to go potty, or they heard a noise. Tell them to lie in bed and relax and not to call out to you for anything and you will be back in 15 minutes to check if they need anything.

DO follow up for a couple of 15-minute checks. The mother that tried this said it just takes a couple of nights and they just go to sleep.

TEACH FREEDOM AND 

RESPONSIBILITY

DON’T pass up an opportunity to teach your child over four years old a valuable lesson in personal freedom and responsibility.

DO tell him that you trust him to figure out how much sleep he needs and that you are willing to allow him to stay up as late as he wants if he can agree to three little rules.

1.  If he agrees to be in his room, at 8:00 PM, door closed.

2.  If he agrees to stay in his room disturbing no one until morning.

3.  If he agrees to get up when it is time to get up in the morning, go to school and do his duties without being cranky or too tired.

DO allow your child to have the lights on in his room to read, draw or play quietly with toys.

DON’T remind your child more than once to brush teeth, get drinks and go to the bathroom before 8:00 PM.

DON’T allow the rules to be broken without the consequences of going to bed a couple of nights with the lights out.

DO try it again in two days.

 

Sleep is one of the most important needs for a healthy growing child, so I hope you found something that will help end some of your bedtime hassles.

 

Resources, STEP, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Children Under Six, Catherine Kent@kidglue, theblissfulparent.com, Charles Murry, Parenting Coach, William Glasser, Choice Theory, Parenting with Love & Logic, Jim Fay, Foster Cline.