We should all adopt a regular bedtime routine, whether it’s taking a warm bath, dimming the lights, or just staying away from the portable blue light we keep on our person at all times. Of course, even getting to a regular schedule is a challenge in and of itself. Do you have a vacation coming up? Are you expecting a new baby? Maybe you are in the middle of potty training. Wherever you are on your family journey, planning a bedtime routine is the number one thing you can do to prevent pre-bedtime meltdowns or neverending requests for water.
Getting your kid to go to bed and stay there is probably a little more complicated than making sure they’re sleeping on a comfortable mattress - although, that’s probably a good place to start. Here are a few tips and tricks that can help your little love bug stay in bed.
Set An Inflexible Bed Time
Being consistent is critical. However, make sure your kid has a functional block of sleep based on his or her age. For example, an adult needs about eight hours whereas a toddler should have around ten hours.
Further, if you want to change a bedtime, you should start by shifting lights out by 15 minutes earlier or later every few nights until they are adjusted to the new schedule. This helpful sleeping technique is known as bedtime fading.
Be aware of what is an age-appropriate bedtime. To prevent frustration, consult with your medical provider about what seems okay. Your child may stay up later than you think, and eventually fall asleep earlier as they grow closer to school age through the fading method.
Create Quiet Time
After you determine what hour is bedtime, you need to prepare for an hour of quiet time before you actually tuck in your children and kiss them goodnight.
Some good quiet time activities might include the following:
- Listening to soft music
- Reading a book in dim light
- Drinking a glass of milk with a small snack
- Drawing or coloring a picture
The activity should be somewhat fun for your son or daughter. However, avoid doing any activities that are too stimulating such as playing computer or video games, watching TV, or completing difficult homework.
Some doctors suggest that last several minutes of quiet time should be completed in your child’s bedroom so that he or she transitions right into slumber.
If you want to have a bathroom routine during quiet time such as relaxing in the tub, brushing teeth, using the toilet, washing hands, or putting on pajamas, you should do those things within the hour before the final minutes before bedtime.
What if they still won’t stay in bed?
Now, if it were that simple, you would not be searching for help. Maybe you have already tried all those things, and your defiant child will not stay in bed at night. Now you are faced with one of those moments where it will hurt you more than them.
You can give them 15 more minutes, more water, and make excuses like 'he had a long day' or you can try these parenting hacks when your child cries:
- Calmly reassure your kid he or she is fine, and it’s time to go to sleep
- Make your visit brief, and leave the room
- Space out the time you return for another even quicker visit
- Do not argue, discuss, or make deals
- Maintain a quiet, dark, calm room
- Close the door, but do not lock it
After its lights out, do not let your child get back up for water or other things since you addressed that during quiet hour. It might be difficult, but it will be better if you as a parent can have patience. Your kid can complain or argue about the new bedtime rules, but ignore the protests.
If you desire, you can explain how it is dark, everyone has a bedtime including mom, dad, animals, the sun, and so on, but keep things brief to one or two minutes during a room visit.
The Reward System
Keep in mind that it will take several nights to achieve a bedtime routine successfully. Praise your toddler with rewards if he or she stays in bed throughout the night, or is getting better over time. Breakfast treats, stickers, small toys, and other special prizes can encourage good behavior along with positive phrases.
Likewise, if your kid is not adhering to the new bedtime routine very well, you should avoid giving them rewards. In fact, you might even want to establish a punishment such as no snacks, fewer activities, or timeouts.
It’s funny how children seem to take a comfy bed and a great night’s sleep completely for granted, especially when you have a comfy and cozy mattress. The silver lining is that after a few years of sleep-deprived nights, you’ll finally be able to enjoy bedtime like you used to, pre-kids.
Godspeed, parents! You’re doing an amazing job!