We entertain our children all day, giving them educational and fun activities. The dish cupboards become a play area and the backyard is full of brightly colored plastic play structures to keep them exercised and happy. It often seems that our little ones will never run out of energy and busy movement.
But the moment comes inevitably when our sons and daughters need rest and sleep. The most obvious sign of their need for rest of course, is when they just stop and fall asleep in their chair or while playing on the floor.
The tough situations arise when the sign of tiredness is crankiness and an inability to be comforted. When our kids get to this place it is difficult to help them stop and rest. Everything in them fights their body’s need for rest. The more we try to hold and soothe them, the harder they wriggle and fight the entire idea of sleeping.
This brings us to the bedtime battle stage. It is so easy to become impatient during this face off. Unfortunately, if bedtime becomes a battle too often, we are establishing a negative habit that is very hard to break. What can we do to protect ourselves and our children from making bedtime a power struggle?
Routine and ritual are very important to little ones. You do not want the battle to become the ritual or habit in your family, so consider being very intentional about setting up a pleasant bedtime routine.
Does your child have a favorite book or toy? Use them to create an end-of-the-day ritual. You may need to begin the routine early in the evening by using a timer. Tell your son or daughter that you are setting the timer for pajama time in thirty minutes. Then when the timer goes off they know it is time to get their PJ’s on and this prepares them for thinking about bedtime. Set the timer for another thirty minutes and tell him or her that when the timer dings it will time to get in bed and have a story read or sing a song or whatever your family enjoys.
The timer routine helps them to mentally prepare for a change in activity. If your child was busy building a leggo city and is abruptly told it is time to get in bed, the automatic reaction is one of surprise and of course a negative response.
Many bedtime battles are due to the child having no sense of time as an adult does. They are not thinking about how the day is almost over, they are totally involved in the moment as they are playing or watching television. A little preparation can ease the transition from playtime to bedtime.