Ahhh.. The kettle is boiled, the TV is switched on YOUR station and you’re settling in for the night.
Then you hear it… the pitter-patter of little feet out of bed – AGAIN. There’s always a reason, of course.
“I just need a drink”
“I just want to give you ONE MORE kiss and cuddle”
“I heard a funny noise”
“There a spider in my room”
And on goes the list. It’s a frustration to parents all over the world! Why do they want to string out the evening and avoid the land of the nod, when we would do anything to get some more Z’s?
I’ve learnt some lessons in getting my kids to settle down at night, mostly through trial and error. However here are 3 ways I have improved the *quality* of their sleep time and my chill out time.
Never underestimate the power of routine. I recognize there are external factors that can influence routine in a household, such as late work schedules, after school/extra-curricular activities and childcare arrangements. However, the more you can keep the lead up to bed the same, the more your children will come to recognize ‘this is bed time’. I know this sounds obvious, but starting the ‘calm down’ after dinner is one way children get the message it’s time to get sleepy. When pillow fights and running around is quickly followed by ‘go to sleep’ it’s almost impossible for them to be ready to relax! A bath, followed by a story, some music or a similar night time routine triggers the message in their brain ‘we are winding down’.
Be prepared for a few days of pain, for a long time of gain. By this I mean, sacrificing a few nights of our ‘chill out’ time will be worth it when you’ve broken the habit of the constant getting up. Anticipate potential problems (ie. Thirsty? Get a water bottle. Toilet? Go before you get into bed) and stay close by to reassure and send the message – there are no excuses! It’s time for sleep. If there are underlying issues for not sleeping, such as stress or anxiety, listen to their concerns and acknowledge their feelings. Give helpful information to keep a rational voice in their worries (eg. Monsters are in books and movies. Monsters are not in real life). Our physical presence is reassuring; however we don’t want it to become relied upon. Keep a distance that lets them know you’re there but not at their command.
Praise. Often we focus so much on the negative (“they ALWAYS do this…. EVERY NIGHT they get up…”) however the solution is often in the positive. Think of one positive thing every morning, even if it’s a struggle, and describe it. “Last night you stayed in your bed for 10 minutes when lights went out.That’s 5 more minutes than the night before! I wonder if we could stretch it out even longer tonight?”
Making things fun, or turning them into a game is much more engaging for children than having us yell and punish.
Yes, it’s painful when your kids won’t go to bed and/or stay there. Yes, it’s an effort to get these results. HOWEVER, our time and effort is well invested if it means everyone is calmer and happier and our children are getting a better-quality sleep.
They say it takes 3 days to break a habit. If you are constantly feeling frustrated by your kids at bed time I reckon its worth a shot.