To be healthy, children need sleep; unfortunately, they don’t know that. They want to play and learn as much as they can. Every second they close their eyes feels like a missed opportunity, which is why getting your children to bed on time is such a monumental task. If you know the struggle of putting your children to bed, you’ll definitely appreciate a dad’s or mom’s guide to a no-scream bedtime.
Yes, you read that right. With just a few helpful hints, you will learn how to get your kids to sleep on time.
Get rid of the gadgets
With all of the gadgets and games young people can have fun with today, it’s no wonder getting your children to bed has become a nightly struggle. How many times have you pleaded with your little one to shut down their tablets? To avoid the hassle of these nightly negotiations, just make sure they don’t have these gadgets at least an hour before bedtime. Soften the emotional blow by giving them something in exchange, like a big hug or some treats they’re allowed to eat. It may be tempting to just let your kids play with their devices until they tire themselves out, but that’s a mistake. If they get overtired, they can actually have more trouble sleeping. So there’s no way around it: actively disciplining your children is the only way to make sure that they get really healthy sleep.
Don’t disregard their diet
What and when your kids eat can affect how well they sleep. There’s not much scientific evidence linking refined sugar to hyperactivity, but a lot of parents claim they can’t get their kids to sleep easily after they’ve gorged on candy, ice cream, and other sinfully sweet treats. Chocolate also has caffeine, a stimulant that can keep both kids and adults awake. Also, if your kids are picky eaters, they may refuse to eat lunch or dinner and wake up hungry in the middle of the night. So meal management is also key to getting your children to sleep. Try not to feed them sugary or chocolatey snacks right before bed, and make sure they get their minimum of three square meals a day.
Make sleep feel safe
One reason why some children won’t go to bed is separation anxiety. They may not want you to leave because they feel scared of monsters, ghosts, or any one of several other things that their overactive imaginations may conjure up. If this is the case, then you’ve got to give them tools to help them deal with their fear. You can give them a warm fleece blanket or a stuffed toy they can hug at night. Consider getting a night light, but make sure it’s not too bright. Make sure they understand that you can’t pay attention to them all the time, but you’re giving them these things so they feel safe. If they get up in the middle of the night and go to your bedroom, just carry them back to bed and kiss them without a word; they’ll get the hint, but they’ll still feel loved.
Help them own their bedtime
You can get your children the best bed mattress, a bathtub, and the comfiest pajamas in the world, but it won’t matter if they’re being forced into it. Think about it: if they don’t get to decide what time they sleep, where they sleep or what they sleep in, then of course they would resent it. Try taking them with you when it’s time to shop for a new bed or mattress; convince the salespeople to address your kids like grownups. Let them choose which parent they prefer to bathe them. Buy them several sets of jammies so they can choose the ones that fit their mood. Giving them little choices can actually make them want to tuck themselves in.
Establish a wind-down routine
It may not be obvious, but children need structure. Having a routine that they stick to every day gives them a sense of security and reassurance, and it can be a good bonding ritual too. For this reason, you want to establish a set of activities that you and your child can go through every night. This can include reminding them 30 minutes before they have to go to bed, singing them a lullaby, asking them how their day was, and helping them brush their teeth. For young children, you want to stick to this routine even on weekends to help their bodies get used to it. One good trick to get them to stick to this routine is to set up a star chart, and give them a star for things like following the routine without making a fuss, starting the routine without having to be reminded, and so on. The more rewarded they feel, the more likely it is that they’ll behave.
Focus on being kind rather than being right
It may be really tempting to shout at your children, especially when they’re misbehaving and breaking the rules. But remember that when you scream at your kids, they shut down and can’t understand what you’re actually saying. So instead of trying to get your way by yelling at them constantly, consider other strategies that take their needs into account. Calmly remind them why they have to sleep at a certain time, and explain the advantages of a good night’s sleep. You can explain that sleep can help them grow bigger, do better in school, and play better. If your children are really young and they feel tense or uncomfortable, do something to ease the tension, like making funny faces or doing a silly dance.
Add a dash of comfort
Of course, comfort is key in getting kids to sleep. They might keep tossing and turning for any number of reasons: the mattress may be too hard or too soft, or perhaps the room’s too hot, or maybe their feet are too cold. If your kids have trouble falling asleep once in bed, ask them why and find solutions with them. Consider getting a memory foam mattress if their current one doesn’t feel right. Work with them to figure out the right temperature setting of the air conditioner, or give them a pair of socks they can sleep in. Aside from helping them sleep better, this process lets your children know how much you care about them.
Like all decent parents, you probably love your children very much, so some of the tips above may feel like dishonest schemes or ploys. It certainly can feel that way when you disregard their immediate desires. But you just have to accept that loving your kids is about giving them what they need, which isn’t always what they want. Of course, you just want what’s best for your kids. Behind every bedtime battle is the sense of care and nurturing that one can only expect from a parent.